In something of a quandary about the future of touted-but-tentative interactive TV, the FCC is fending off pressure from consumer groups while taking comments on whether or not to regulate the fledgling service. But by acting now to ensure the future industry stays "open," observers say it could actually prevent development by regulating it too quickly. The comment period results from the AOL-Time Warner merger and its potential for using its cable pipes to control interactive services reaching consumers.
Such groups as Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America and Center for Media Education predict ITV will be available within five years and are urging the FCC to act to ensure open access. Nonaction, they point out, would establish a system similar to the current closed multichannel cable one, and permit only the services chosen by a few companies, thus edging out smaller producers.
Cable groups, however, point out that regulation before there's even an industry could severely inhibit investment, development and growth of ITV.