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FCC Patches CableCARD; Doubles Down on AllVid

October 14, 2010 DVR , Innovation , MVPD , Plug and Play , Set-Top Box

It’s great to see the FCC issuing orders and moving its agenda forward. The National Broadband Plan called for the Commission to increase video device competition–that is, to create the conditions that allow for third-party devices to as easily interoperate with cable or satellite video as they can with Internet-delivered content. The Commission just took an important step in the right direction by issuing an order designed to fix some of the most egregious consumer issues that have made using CableCARD devices such a challenge. CableCARD is far from an ideal solution (for example, you can’t use it with satellite), but with AllVid (the proposed successor) still on the drawing board, it’s all we’ve got for the next few years.

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A Two-Step Plan to Get the First Screen Out of Third Place

October 12, 2010 MVPD , Set-Top Box

“The third screen” in the trinity of personal multimedia is on your mobile device–the first screen is the TV and the second screen is the PC. But in terms of innovation, the first screen is third. An explosion in mobile innovations has put “the Internet in your pants” (as John Gruber puts it), but most people leave the subscription TV content they pay big bucks for where they find it: in a dingy, rented set-top box. While there has been a ton of innovation designed to bring Internet video to the TV, there are relatively few options if you want to do Neat Stuff with your pay TV content.

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PK and New America Encourage FCC to Create a Competitive Video Device Market

July 13, 2010 Competition , FCC , MVPD , Set-Top Box

There have been laws on the books for many years directing the FCC to bring about better competition in “video devices”—consumer electronics that can display and interact with pay TV content. You’ve never had to rent your computer from your ISP, and—thanks to the FCC—you don’t have to rent your phone from the phone company. Every other market shows that people want a choice among different devices running different software, and every other market shows that progress is driven by third-party innovation.

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Revamping Retransmission Consent: Cable Customers as Company Collateral

June 9, 2010 FCC , MVPD , Regulation

The broadcast “retransmission consent” regulatory structure isn’t exactly the hottest topic of the moment, so you might wonder why PK recently filed Reply Comments (and joined the Petition for Rulemaking) urging the FCC to revamp its rules governing negotiations between over-the-air broadcasters and cable companies.

Getting the retransmission consent rules right is important if the FCC wants to protect consumer choice by ensuring a vibrant marketplace for multichannel video programming distributors (including cable companies, digital broadcast satellite, incumbent local exchange carriers, and online video distributors).  Right now consumers are caught in the middle, and are being used as pawns in the negotiations for cable companies’ rights to offer broadcast programming to their customers.  In recent years, these negotiations have consistently resulted in either higher cable rates for consumers or loss of programming.  PK’s reply comments urge the FCC to stop letting consumers get trampled in a system that was intended to benefit the public by preserving “free” over-the-air broadcasting.

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Bad News For Over-The-Top Video Providers Last Week.

April 25, 2010 Broadband , Comcast , FCC , MVPD , TV Everywhere

Last Wednesday, those trying to use broadband to compete with cable video offerings (aka “over-the-top” video providers) lost the first round in a small but important case: Sky Angel v. Discovery Channel. Happily, it’s only the first round. But the preliminary ruling by the FCC’s Media Bureau (“MB”) highlights why either Congress or the full Commission needs to focus on the question of whether the rules that protect cable competition (or, as we in the field say, “multichannel video programming distributors” or “MVPDs” — which includes everything from traditional cable to FIOS to satellite) will also protect competition for online providers.

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