Washington —As the Federal Communications Commission
contemplates whether and how to spur the creation
of a universal gateway for traditional and Web video content
— per its open AllVid proceeding — as well as create a more
robust retail set-top market, cable operators argue that the
marketplace is already resolving both issues.
In a letter to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski last
Thursday (July 7), National Cable & Telecommunications
Association president Michael Powell pointed to
the recent Cable Show in Chicago, and Genachowski’s
witnessing of innovations there, to argue that “Congress
and the commission’s video device goals are already being
achieved in the marketplace.”
Powell said he shares the chairman’s goal of “a fully competitive”
retail set-top marketplace.
Powell said cable is committed to open Web standards
and technologies driven by innovation and user preferences
that are managed to protect content and customer privacy.
All that, he suggested, is achievable and being done “without
regulation or the need for technology mandates.”
He pointed to examples of set-top boxes already combining
TV and Web content. One of the reasons the FCC launched
the proceeding, in addition to trying to goose the retail market
in set-tops, was to drive broadband adoption by more
seamlessly wedding online and traditional content in the TV
set, since 99% of the population already has a TV, compared
to only 80%-85% with computers.
He also noted the TV Everywhere expansion to smart
phones and tablets; cloud-based interfaces from Comcast
enabling new applications, social networking and searchable
guides; home networking; and more.
“The problem that remains in this marketplace is not the need
for a single guiding regulatory prescription,” like the FCC’s
proposed AllVid solution, Powell wrote. “The marketplace
is at a critical juncture, inviting participants to make major
bets and even more major investments in technology to meet
rapidly developing consumer demand with rapidly changing
NCTA has argued that an AllVid device is a means of forced
unbundling of programming at the set-top and turning cable
operators into “wholesalers of programming for reuse and
repackaging by retail equipment providers,” threatening the
business model of an industry built on aggregating and delivering
a bundled service.