By Rich Nesin, General Manager and Resident Philosopher, HomePNA
If you follow TVs and set-top boxes (and who doesn’t) you’ve probably seen articles about AllVid, the latest brainchild of the FCC. The articles often refer to an April 29 report from IMS Research “FCC Likely to Ban the Pay-TV Set-top Box in Favor of DLNA & DTCP-IP-Powered “AllVid” Devices”. Wow, should I be worried? Why does the FCC want to take away my set-top box?
Well this isn’t the first time the FCC has tried to increase competition by opening up the set-top. As Stephen Froehlich, senior analyst for IMS and author of the report writes, “The FCC views the new effort as a revision to its previously-failed efforts to create an open market for set-top boxes as mandated in Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996”.
So what’s going on? The FCC announced April 21 , that it has issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) and a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM), as recommended in the National Broadband Plan, with the stated purpose of increasing innovation and consumer choice in the video device marketplace. Sound familiar? The FNPRM attempts to “streamline” (their words) the less than wildly successful CableCARD. This is a short term solution and not all that interesting, at least to me. The NOI is all about AllVid and a different story altogether. From a HomePNA perspective, making “them” more like “us” is a good thing.
If you are wondering what an NOI (such as AllVid) is, and why the FCC feels the need to use so many acronyms, read on. When the FCC intends to make a rule they may issue an NOI - essentially a trial balloon - to collect input from potential stakeholders. The NOI specifies a deadline which usually 60 days from publication in the public registry. An additional 30 days are usually allowed for reply comments. If the FCC decides to move forward it issues a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) which, according to Wikipedia, is “a public notice issued by law when one of the independent agencies of the United States government wishes to add, remove, or change a rule or regulation as part of the rulemaking process”. The NPRM may result in the FCC issuing a Report and Order (R&O). An R&O may be amended using the same process.
AllVid is seeking a new path to opening up the pay TV set-top box. According to IMS’s Froehlich, however, unlike the original CableCARD “this time instead of fighting an uphill battle, the commission is in the much better position of riding a wave that was already forming. DLNA & DTCP-IP have proven to be attractive to US pay-TV operators as a way to inexpensively roll out multi-room DVR services”. I see AllVid bringing a bunch of significant benefits to competitive home networking technologies such as HomePNA, service providers and others. What are those benefits. I would love to discuss them and get further into the AllVid proposal but my typing finger is getting tired and the hour is much too late so it will have to wait for another day.