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Cable industry urges FCC to include teleco, satellite in set top box review

As the Federal Communications Commission probes a lack of innovation and competition in the television set top box market, the cable industry is urging the agency to also look at how telecom and satellite service providers are part of the puzzle.

Kyle McSlarrow
, CEO of cable trade group National Cable and Telecommunications Association, told the agency last week that he supports the review.

However, McSlarrow said, “the burdens” imposed on current set top box rules held by the FCC are not imposed on competitors like AT&T and Verizon who have entered the video market in recent years, as well as satellite service providers. Set top boxes are the devices on televisions that control video programming.

“As an initial matter, we agree that a fully-competitive retail navigation device market has not yet developed,” McSlarrow said in a letter (McSlarrow_letter_to_FCC_120409[1].pdf). “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 ten largest multichannel video programming distributors are Direct Broadcast Satellite providers and telephone companies who collectively serve more than 37 million customers.”

The NCTA's letter echoes comments by the trade group Consumer Electronics Assocation in a previous post.

The FCC put out a general notice that it was looking into competition and innovation in set top boxes. It sees the box as integral to the adoption of high-speed Internet – an idea that is currently hampered by a lack of technological innovations in that device that could fuse together Internet access and television programming, according to the agency.

Nearly every home in the U.S. has a television. Why can’t the box in the living room also bring high-speed Internet into American homes, a cornerstone of President Obama’s technology agenda and a key to some education, energy and economic policies? One answer is that the set top box has been so slow to integrate the Web onto television sets, according to the FCC.

image: Roku set top box, combines Internet and video

By Cecilia Kang  |  December 7, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Online Video  
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