FCC opens inquiry into competitive video gear


It has not gone unnoticed at the Federal Communications Commission that Americans are getting their video programming from a variety of sources these days, include over-the-air broadcast, various types of MVPDs, the internet, DVDs and other recording media, among others. It wants to open the field for manufacturers of navigation devices that can access all of these sources.

The approach now, using the CableCARD system, has mostly kept the regime in place under which most consumers simply lease a set-top box from their MVPD. This FCC action, which encompasses both a Notice of Inquiry and a Fourth Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, is to find a standard that opens the field to competition.

As the FCC described it, “The NOI seeks input on ways to foster a more competitive marketplace for navigation devices and in particular calls for comment on a standardized interface that enables smart video devices to bring video from all of these sources together for ease of selection, recording, and viewing. The standardized interface could be implemented through an “AllVid” adapter that would act as an intermediary between the consumer’s device and the MVPD’s service.”

The FCC also wants the billing for existing CableCARD service made more transparent to the consumers paying for it.

FCC Chairman Julius Genacxhowski commented, “Today the Commission acts to increase video choices for consumers, and unleash competition and innovation in the retail market for smart video devices.  These are devices that consumers can use to select and enjoy video programming, not only from pay TV services but increasingly also from the Internet or over-the-air broadcasts.  Consumers want devices that can navigate the universe of video programming from all of these sources and present the choices to them in a simple, integrated way.  They also want to know that they can buy a device and not have to replace it if they change video providers.”

All five commissioners approved the proceeding.