CEA to FCC: Expedite Two-Way Products

The Consumer Electronics Association, which represents more than 2,100 companies in the consumer-technology industry, filed a proposal with the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday asking the agency to allow consumer-electronics makers to build products compatible "with all cable operator services" in order to "end the stalemate over bringing full-line 'plug-and-play' competition to the market for digital consumer devices that work on cable systems."

The CEA, in a press release, said its members want the ability to deliver products "equivalent to those so called lower-end, operator-supplied interactive set-top boxes and, equally important, offering a way forward toward licensing and assuring support for competitive devices that are fully interactive with all cable operator services."

In a statement, CEA CEO Gary Shapiro said, "Today we are offering a solution that would give consumers the widest choices in both equipment and services. We hope this will be a breakthrough toward a win-win plug-and-play environment that meets all consumer needs."

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association issued a response Wednesday in which general counsel Neal Goldberg said the CEA's new proposal "should be discussed at the continuing interindustry discussions that have been underway since 2003."

"The cable industry has encouraged CE companies to manufacture digital TVs and other devices so that consumers can access cable's advanced services without a set-top box," he said in the statement. "The more cable-ready products available to consumers, the more consumers will choose cable over our video competitors."

The NCTA noted that Cable Television Laboratories published technical specifications, the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP), which lets consumer-electronics manufacturers develop two-way digital-cable-ready TV sets and set-top boxes. The association added that several manufacturers have signed agreements with CableLabs to deliver OCAP-enabled TV sets.

"Cable will continue to support a minimal regulatory approach that leverages existing marketplace solutions rather than looking to the government to micromanage and potentially harm the evolution of a thriving retail environment," Goldberg's statement said.