CVCC Prods Cable's Box Ditch Pitch

The Consumer Video Choice Coalition (CVCC) took aim at the cable industry's "ditch the box" compromise proposal in meetings at the FCC last week.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and others have pitched the FCC on their app-based approach as an alternative to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's "unlock the box" proposal of making set-top data and channels available to third parties.

Related: Rosenworcel Says FCC Needs 'Another Way Forward' on Set-Tops

Ditch the Box fans say their way "combines enforceable obligations and open standards, which are centerpieces of the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, with the market-driven apps solutions preferred by critics of the FCC’s proposed mandate."

In meetings with top FCC officials, the CVCC, comprising computer companies and others pushing for access to cable box info for their own navigation devices, did find some upside to the cable proposal, saying it now acknowledged the need for "(1) open standards, (2) user interface competition (to some degree), (3) integrated search, and (4) commercial freedom for device makers."

But CVCC found a big problem in the degree of user interface competition.

Third party navigators want to be able to re-aggregate the set-top information in their own user interfaces (UIs) rather than simply have an app with the cable offerings available alongside apps offering access to over-the-top.

"[T]he goal of an interoperable, competitive, and secure IP-based solution requires a fully independent UI, through which sufficient information passes to enable manufacturers and app developers to create competitive products that provide their own Electronic Program Guide and grid of programs to which the subscriber has rights — features that the MVPD Proposal appears to lack.  As described in general terms in the MVPD Proposal (and assuming comparable content delivery and resolution) the part inconsistent with this goal is the encapsulation of the delivery into an app that is available only in the context of the MVPD’s own UI," CVCC told the FCC. "In its present form, to the extent implementable, the MVPD Proposal would appear to deny subscribers the present and future benefit of competition in the offer, choice, recording, and presentation of programming.  It would, moreover, obstruct and complicate the path for potential competitive entrants." 

CVCC is backed by Google, TiVo, Vizio, Public Knowledge, and the Writers Guild of America.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.