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INCOMPAS: Cable Has Made Set-Top Ditching Pledges Before

INCOMPAS, the trade group that now encompasses internet companies, found some things to like in a new set-top compromise proposal from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and other critics of the FCC's approach, or at least it had some good things to say about its interpretation of that proposal. But it was hardly breaking out the champagne.

Following the news that NCTA and others this week had pitched FCC chairman Tom Wheeler and other FCC officials on their "ditch the box" proposal, INCOMPAS CEO Chip Pickering, also a member of the Consumer Video Choice Coalition, said it was "encouraging" that the cable industry "had agreed" to the following, which he said were critical points: "First, consumers should be free from rental boxes and have the power to choose their own devices. Second, consumers should have integrated search capabilities so they can find the Internet streaming content they crave. Third, cable induced fears over privacy, copyright, and licensing in an open, competitive device market are false."

It is a bit of a stretch to conclude that cable operators were conceding that last point. NCTA et al. said that their proposal would "would protect the copyrights, contracts, advertising, presentation and promotional terms," which they have made clear they think the FCC proposal does not do.

"We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the cable industry," Pickering said. "Their current proposal presents both some positive movement and some familiar limitations that could fall short of delivering an open, competitive marketplace.

"[T]he cable industry is proposing competitive choice for streaming devices, but still seeks to retain a controlling grip on DVRs and recordable devices," he said. "The cable industry has made promises before about ditching the set-top box, that have not materialized. So, it is important for the FCC’s unlock the box proposal to include enforceable standards that will create a thriving market for competition, congruent with the law."

Wheeler and the Democratic majority have voted to propose requiring MVPDs to make their program and data streams available to third parties, like Google, as a way to promote a retail market in navigation devices given that 99% are still rented from MVPDs.

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.