Tech Giants Reissue Cry for ‘AllVid’

A coalition of powerful technology companies and retailers
is still pushing the FCC to compel all pay TV operators
to provide video services in a government-mandated, standard
Internet-protocol format.

That’s even though the Federal Communications Commission
hasn’t acted on its proposed AllVid rule change
after almost two and half years — and sources indicate it
won’t anytime soon.

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance, whose members
are Best Buy, Intel, Google, Mitsubishi Digital Electronics
America, Nagra, RadioShack, Sony Electronics and TiVo,
last week urged the FCC to enact rules establishing a nationwide
specification for third-party IP devices to tap into
subscription-TV services.

The FCC issued the AllVid proposed rulemaking in
April 2010 as a successor to CableCard, which all parties
agree has failed to achieve its objectives of fostering a market
for retail cable-ready TV devices. Unlike CableCard,
AllVid would apply to satellite and telco TV operators, as
well as MSOs.

Last month, the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association submitted a proposal to the FCC under
which third-party devices would be able to access
encrypted basic-tier programming provided by the six
largest U.S. MSOs, as the industry tries to convince the
agency to lift the ban on encrypting basic-cable tiers.

But the AllVid supporters said such a short-term, cablespecific “fix” would be inadequate.

“Without action by the commission, the days for any
standard and direct connection to [multichannel video
programming distributors] programming and services,
encrypted or otherwise, are numbered,” the AllVid companies
said in a filing. The only viable answer is “a nationally-
portable common IP-based interface from MVPD
services to consumer devices.”

While the AllVid proceeding remains technically open,
several sources told Multichannel News the idea is all but
dead in terms of FCC action after opposition voiced by the
NCTA and satellite operators. Pay TV providers have said
the regulation would impose significant costs and that
they are already — without any government mandates —
opening up their services to an array of IP-based devices.
The FCC declined to comment on what actions it may take
in the AllVid proceeding.

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance argued that IP
video specifications from the Digital Living Network
Alliance can serve as a basis for a “clearly feasible … nationally
portable interface for any MVPD to support the
operation of consumer devices.” They added, “The transition
to more efficient digital techniques should value
effi ciency for consumers and competitors — not just for
cable operators.”