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CEA, Telcos Ink IP-Device Pact

Seeking to avoid consumer product chaos, the Consumer Electronics Association, AT&T Inc., BellSouth Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. struck an agreement outlining guidelines for how the growing array of consumer devices available at retail link into the telcos’ Internet-protocol-enabled video networks.

The agreement -- announced at the CEA’s Entertainment Technology Policy Summit in Washington, D.C., Wednesday -- echoes what cable operators and the CEA have been trying to accomplish through the one-way and two-way agreements for retail set-top boxes and cable-ready television sets.

The telco-CEA pact spells out goals including nationwide compatibility, so that consumer-electronics manufacturers can create and offer devices that can connect to IP-video networks run by telcos anywhere in the nation.

That includes the creation of attachment standards for devices consumers could connect to their home networks and, by extension, to telco operators’ content-delivery networks.

Unless there is a threat of electronic or physical harm to the telco network or a threat of service theft, the telcos also agreed not to limit consumers’ ability to use these devices to access services, according to the agreement.

The telcos and the CEA also agreed to use open standards fielded by organizations such as the American National Standards Institute as a basis for the attachment standards, although that may not result in a single national attachment standard -- instead, it could be a set of standards tailored for different devices.

"This is a key step toward assuring consumers that the electronic devices they buy will work seamlessly with advanced, IP-enabled services now being designed and deployed,” Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory affairs Susanne Guyer said in a release. "Consumers' interests are better served by voluntary marketplace efforts such as these rather than by government regulation."