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DirecTV asks FCC not to include its boxes in retail

Mon, 12/21/2009 - 7:30am
Mike Robuck

Earlier this month, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow asked the Federal Communications Commission to start a notice of inquiry on how to create a retail market for set-top boxes, but last week DirecTV said in its FCC filing that it should be exempt from such an endeavor.

On Dec. 4, McSlarrow wrote a letter to FCC Media Bureau Chief William Lake and Carlos Kirjner, senior advisor to the chairman on broadband, that was in response to the FCC’s “Comment sought on video device innovation” that appeared on the Commission’s Web site earlier that same week.

The main point of the FCC’s document was that Section 629 hadn’t met its stated goals, including a retail environment for set-top boxes, since it was adopted in 1996.

With over-the-top providers like Hulu, the landscape has significantly changed since Section 629 was implemented, which the FCC acknowledged by seeking comments on how to create a retail market for set-top boxes that deliver both linear and broadband video feeds to TVs, while also helping to spur the national growth of broadband.

“We agree that a fully competitive retail navigation device market has not yet developed – despite the persistent efforts of the Commission, the cable industry, and consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers,” McSlarrow wrote. “Perhaps more important, even if a retail market had developed, it would have been based on a video landscape that no longer resembles the highly competitive marketplace of today – a world in which four of the 10 largest multichannel video programming distributors are direct broadcast satellite and telephone companies who collectively serve more than 37 million customers.”

The NCTA has previously asked for a set-top box solution that would work across all multichannel video programming distribution (MVPD) offerings in order to help consumer electronics manufacturers come up with devices that work with several sources of video.

DirecTV said in its Dec. 15 filing that such a solution was too expensive, and that customers would rather lease set-top boxes instead of buy them.

More Broadband Direct 12/21/09:
•  MPEGIF launches '3-D over MPEG' campaign
•  DirecTV asks FCC not to include its boxes in retail
•  Verizon Wireless to FCC: Smartphones more costly
•  Limelight Networks buys EyeWonder for $110M
•  Netflix sued for violating privacy laws
•  Future TV the focus of Master Class at CES
•  Maine to consider cell phone cancer warning
•  Broadband Briefs for 12/21/09
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