FCC Broadband Plan: NCTA Critiques Set-Top Statements

Says "gateway" set-top device worth studying, not mandating, CableCard fixes "misplaced"

National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Kyle McSlarrow suggested Tuesday that the national broadband plan's focus on a "gateway" set-top device is worth studying, but not mandating, or at least only mandating as a last resort. And he suggested the plan's CableCARD recommendations were misplaced.

In a blog posting Tuesday, he reiterated the association's position, which has been registered in comments at the FCC, that multichannel video providers need the freedom to innovate to meet different consumer demands and needs. He said proposals to "disaggregate" a service purchased by a customer "would undercut the very premise of innovation we should want, and are likely to fail."

The also said that the plan's cable-centric focus on a series of CableCARD fixes is "at odds" with the effort to encourage an all-MVPD solution, and seems at odds with the plan's recognition that the CableCARD "does not appear to be on the path to success."

CableCARDS are how the industry separates the security and channel surfing functions in set-tops after the FCC mandated those functions be disaggregated in its effort, which has been less than a rousing success, to spur a retail market in the boxes.

"We'll make the case to the FCC that it is far better to focus on improving the marketplace for consumers in light of the exciting changes taking place before our eyes than to dwell on issues that are increasingly stale and, more important, increasingly irrelevant to the marketplace of today, let alone tomorrow," said McSlarrow of the CableCARD-centric recommendations in the plan.

The cable industry argued for years for more time to develop a software solution that would be more elegant and cheaper than the CableCARD hardware.