In response to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for comments on how to boost the retail market for set-top boxes, National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow asked the FCC to start a notice of inquiry on the matter.

McSlarrow’s Friday request, which came in the form of a letter to FCC Media Bureau Chief William Lake and Carlos Kirjner, senior advisor to the chairman on broadband, was in response to the FCC’s “Comment sought on video device innovation” that appeared on the Commission’s Web site early last week.

The gist 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.

While consumer electronics companies have long contended that the cable industry has drug its feet on getting devices into subscribers’ hands via retail stores, McSlarrow pointed out in his letter that the cable industry has deployed more than 17 million set-top boxes with CableCards since the FCC’s separable security mandate went into effect in July 2007.

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 retail markets for set-top boxes that deliver both linear and broadband video feeds to TVs.

“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.

“Therefore, a notice of inquiry working to develop fresh approaches – especially approaches that cross multiple industry lines – should be pursued in concert with Commission policies that promote competition, innovation and other pro-consumer benefits.”

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