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FCC Seeks More Answers on NCTA's Box-Ditching Effort

FCC staffers had some follow-up questions for cable operators and other backers of the "ditch the box" app-based alternative to creating a retail market in video navigation devices. Those include what search info will be available via the app, whether data caps will apply, and whether the app will be available to non-MVPD subs.

That is according to a copy of an FCC document obtained by B&C. The questions were under the heading of "clarifications" of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's framework.

FCC staffers had already submitted a raft of questions. Those were sent out before the stakeholder meetings to help frame those discussions. With those meetings over, these are the questions still outstanding from FCC staffers, an FCC official confirmed on background.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said last week that he thought the proposal was more press release than plan and that the FCC was trying to get more info on it to be able to vet it.

The FCC official said the follow-up questions had been sent out last Friday and the FCC was looking for answers by Thursday.

Here is what more the FCC wants to know, under the heading of "Clarifications Regarding the NCTA Framework":

1. "Because consumers will continue to pay their subscription fee to an MVPD, will MVPD apps be free to consumers, and will they be usable without additional equipment provided by an MVPD?

2.  "Since the app will replace a consumer’s set-top box, will it also provide the same video service available in the MVPD’s set top box, i.e. all the channels a consumer subscribes to, all the video on demand a consumer has access to, and all the video service functionality provided by the set top box?

3.  "Since press reports indicate Comcast is currently installing 40,000 X1 set-top-boxes per day (Bloomberg Business Week June 23) and quote the company that 'the set-top box will eventually get ditched, but that’s not going to happen soon' (Fierce Cable July 14), will the functions of an MVPD set-top box be the same as those described for apps in your proposal?

4. "The framework speaks of fully integrated search. Will the MVPD app provide the following data to the search function using a standardized API:

  a. "Which content is included in a consumer’s subscription

  b. "Program title, season, episode information, channel number, start and stop times for linear content

  c. "Price

  d. "Accessibility information

  e. "Resolution

  f. "Authenticated link to the content for non-linear content

5. "Will the app be available and fully functional (including integrated search) to consumers who choose a different internet service provider than their pay-TV provider?

6. "Since many programmers are exploring their own app, will the license terms allow a device’s universal search to include the apps of programmers on an equal and non-discriminatory basis with the apps of MVPDs? Will data caps apply to content provider apps?

7. "Does the framework anticipate that standard terms and conditions of the license between an MVPD and a device will be disclosed or remain confidential? Should the license be filed with the FCC?

8. "Will the terms and conditions of the license include non-discrimination provisions to ensure that consumers can select any device they wish?

9. "Will programmers have a fully participatory role in the licensing body to ensure the final terms and conditions and any enforcement of the license adequately protect content?

10. "Do the license terms envision sharing access to permitted usage information with content providers?

11. "Since Section 629 of the Act provides that consumers should be able to use whatever device they want to access their MVPD subscription, will the MVPD apps be available to platforms or devices that use:

  a. HTML5

  b. Android

  c. iOS

  d. Widely deployed web browsers

  e. Any other widely deployed operating system or platform"

12. "Does the framework envision that inclusion of content or a channel in an app should not result in a charge to the programmer?"