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Free State: AllVid Has Speech Problem

There is a major First Amendment problem with the FCC’s AllVid proposal, according to free market think tank Free State Foundation Research Fellow Seth Cooper.

In a study assessing the FCC’s proposal to promote a universal navigation device that would unite traditional and online content on home video screens, Cooper says that mandating multichannel video providers to make their content available for others to “manipulate” raises serious concerns about compelled access.

Cable operators have argued that the result could be a technological a la carte mandate that would result in the forced unbundling of their service.

The FCC is looking to create a gateway device that weds over-the-air, over-the-wire and over-the-top video as a way to drive broadband adoption, for one thing, but it could also potentially be used to disaggregate content and threaten the business model of those whose business is to aggregate and deliver, which prominently includes cable operators.

Cooper agrees. By disaggregating MVPD content and allowing other, nonaffiliated electronic equipment manufacturers to “rearrange, edit and supplement” it, he says, the FCC would be “undermine the speech selection and presentation choices of MVPDs.”

Cooper minces no words, calling the proposal “a flawed attempt to prop up and protect a narrow view of how the video navigation device market and a segment of the MVPD services market should operate.”

The FCC solicited comment in a notice last April. It is looking to come up with a gateway device by the end of 2012. The commission sees it as a successor to the CableCARD regime, which it is simultaneously trying to preserve in the interim.

Cooper is former Telecommunications & Information Technology Task Force Director for the American Legislative Exchange Council (state legislators for limited government), and was staff counsel for the Senate Republican Caucus of the Washington State Senate.