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Comcast, TWC: AllVid NPRM Still Not Necessary

Media companies represented at a Sept. 28 FCC workshop on the FCC's AllVid proposal have sent the commission a letter making it clear they do not support a tech company proposal for a government-issued national, portable interface that would wed various forms of video in a universal set-top.

That came after the AllVid Tech Company Alliance characterized the workshop in its own letter as exhibiting "little controversy" about its Sept. 20 proposal for the interface.

In a joint letter, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Disney, DirecTV, HBO, AT&T and Verizon -- all of whom had representatives at the workshop -- said that they do not believe the alliance proposal is clearly feasible or that it could or should be the basis of any FCC rulemaking.

They said their panelists were "unequivocal" in asserting that marketplace was already diverse and that a government mandated solution would chill investment and innovation.

It countered that the way they saw it, even some of the alliance's own members were at best ambivalent in their comments on AllVid regs and indicated that "things are moving in the right direction" already without AllVid.

Comcast et al said there is no need for a "single guiding regulatory prescription" and that the "heavy lifting" on the issue of interoperability and home networking is being done already behind the scenes through negotiations, app development and standards organizations.

Cable operators have argued that the regulatory initiative, launched in a notice of inquiry in April 2010, is not only unnecessary but threatens its business model by forced disaggregation of MVPD services.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has touted the initiative as a way to not only promote a retail market in set-tops but to boost broadband deployment by making it easier to access broadband through the TV set given that 99% of homes already have TV, while only 75%-80% have a computer.

In their letter, the companies also argue that rather than add new requirements to the FCC's rules promoting the commercial availability of navigation devices (cable set-tops), a "strong case" could be made for sunsetting the rules (Sec. 629 of the Communications Act) altogether.

It pointed out the Obama Administration's call for regulatory reform based in costs and burdens on consumers and business. By contrast, a notice of proposed rulemaking on AllVid would "signal that yet another regulatory 'solution' may be imposed on what is the most competitive device, programming, and services marketplace this nation has ever enjoyed....We respectfully request that the Commission allow such entrepreneurial activity to continue without the specter that it will ultimately be undermined by yet another ill-fated government-imposed technology mandate."