NCTA, CEA at Odds Over Interactivity

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The cable industry told the FCC lat Monday that it continues to work with the consumer electronics industry on interactive cable-ready equipment and on a software-based security system.

The consumer electronics industry, for its part, argues that they are talking with cable out of necessity but don't like what they are hearing.

That cable industry effort at reassurance came in an update on its regular status report to the commission. The FCC requires the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) to file such reports periodically--the last one was Nov. 30--on their progress toward developing interactive equipment from vendors not associated with multichannel video providers.

The commission also required cable to unbundle its channel security function from the navigation function of its digital set-tops---and come up with a software-based solution--to drive a competitive retail market in the boxes.

Both stem from the FCC's effort to increase competition in the multichannel video market.

NCTA filed the update on its Nov. 30 status report in an effort to address CEA's critical assessment.

In its own Nov. 30 report, CEA said that the cable industry's idea of so-called interactive "plug-and-play" technology "does not fulfill the requirements of either law or regulation."

CEA said the technological solutions cable was offering primarily supported cable's proprietary leased devices and "impose constraints on competitive features and functions that go well beyond protecting against electronic harm to the network or theft of cable services."

NCTA countered Tuesday that progress has been made and "despite animated rhetoric of pleadings filed in this docket on Nov. 30, the cable and consumer electronics industries continue to meet and work with each other."

But CEA and several tech companies independently argue that the reason they continue to "work together" is because "at present, any potential entrant must choose between signing on to this technology and these agreements, or forgoing access to the cable television market, a market that serves 70% of all American households."

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