FCC moves to open television set-top box for Internet, competition
The Federal Communications Commission took a tiny step forward on Wednesday toward updating the television set-top box, a move that Chairman Julius Genachowski hopes will eventually stir more competition between providers of paid television and Internet services.
“Consumers want devices that can navigate the universe of video programming from all of these sources and present the choices to them in a simple, integrated way,” Genachowski said in the commission’s meeting Wednesday. “They also want to know that they can buy a device and not have to replace it if they change video providers.”
The FCC voted Wednesday to begin studying ways to achieve that goal, which was part of the agency's national broadband plan. One proposal would require paid television service providers to deliver their signals to a small adapter that could serve as a standard interface for broadband and paid television content. That adapter would connect to a television, computer or other device.
Motorola and Cisco make the vast majority of set-top boxes currently on the market. Cable and satellite providers control those devices by renting them to consumers. Mandating a standardized gateway device would allow consumers to switch pay TV providers without getting a new set top box. And it would permit integrated television service and Internet service on a TV set.
“We think the FCC wants to lay the groundwork for over-the-top video to potentially impose some competitive pressure on pay TV providers in the future,” said analyst Paul Gallant of the Concept Capital research firm. That policy could help Internet TV providers like Netflex, Apple, Google and Amazon, he said.
But the proposal is sure to be met with resistance.
“Cable/telecos/satellite providers are capable of bringing a fair amount of political opposition to the table if they decide this is sufficiently problematic for their pay TV business,” Gallant said.
During Wednesday's FCC meeting, Republican member Robert McDowell cautioned against rules that could hamper progress already seen in the market.
“The idea of accessing the Internet through the TV screen is certainly attractive – so attractive, in fact, that the marketplace already appears to be delivering on that vision without any help from the government,” McDowell said. “A quick Internet search revealed more than a dozen different devices available to consumers who wish to bring some or all of the Internet to their television screens, ranging from specialized web video products and software applications to elaborate home theater PCs and even online gaming consoles.”
April 22, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: Broadband , FCC
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