As part of its National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of inquiry (NOI) in regard to a network-agnostic “AllVid” adapter that would bridge the gap between Internet and pay-TV video services.
The FCC said the NOI seeks to better serve the goals of Congress in creating a competitive retail market for navigation devices for use with multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).
The FCC also issued a Fourth Further Notice of Rulemaking (FNPRM). The FNPRM proposed changes to the current CableCard system to make it more consumer-friendly while a new technology approach is being developed.
The FCC mandated that CableCards be installed in all new set-top boxes in July 2007 with the hope that they would spur set-top box purchases in retail markets, but that hasn’t been the case to date. Instead, the CableCards have been an increased cost to cable operators with no additional benefits.
Until the AllVid adapters are in place, the FCC is trying to “remove the disparity between consumers who chose to use a retail CableCard-equipped video device and those who lease a cable providers' video navigation box by three measurers.”
The FCC’s measures included:
- Ensure that retail devices have comparable access to video programming that is prescheduled by the programming provider.
- Make CableCard pricing and billing more transparent.
- Streamline CableCard installations and clarify certification requirements.
Both the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the American Cable Association issued press releases that supported the proposals.
“ACA applauds the Federal Communications Commission for tentatively concluding in a notice of proposed rulemaking that small cable operators can provide better service to their customers, including faster broadband speeds, by having greater flexibility under existing set-top box rules to offer low-cost, high-definition boxes,” ACA President and CEO Matt Polka said.
“We applaud the Commission for adopting a notice of inquiry that will explore how best to achieve a competitive retail marketplace for devices that can access the video services of all multichannel providers,” NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow said. “We are very pleased that the notice appears to be consistent with the series of consumer principles governing video devices, which we have submitted to the Commission, especially in its recognition that the appropriate solution must involve all multichannel video providers.
“We also welcome and applaud the Commission’s targeted examination of the current CableCard regime, particularly the proposal to increase our industry’s ability to deploy low-cost, high-definition digital terminal adapters. Low-cost digital adapters are a vital tool for all cable systems to recapture bandwidth that can be used to provide consumers with faster broadband speeds, more HD channels and other interactive services.”
With the AllVid adapters, cable, telco, satellite and other video providers would be able to send their signals to a standard interface for all consumer devices, which would include TVs, computers or other devices that show multichannel video programming and Internet content.
The end goal of the NOI and AllVid adapters is to allow the video service providers to innovate within their networks without requiring consumers to replace equipment in their homes. In theory, the consumers would also be able to migrate from one video service provider to another without changing equipment, but the FCC has a long way to go in regard to finalizing the AllVid adapter.