Comcast tells FCC it's not "feasible" to run its network code on third-party set-tops

Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) this week met with the FCC to spell out its various objections to the agency's proposed new set-top rules. The MSO told FCC officials that it's not "feasible" for Comcast's network code to run on third-party devices without its applications.

Comcast said the code facilitates communication between the set-top or app and where programming is cached on the network, and minimizes the risks of degradation to the service due to bandwidth shortages and congestion. The MSO said its network code would not work on a third-party box because different MVPDs deploy different network infrastructures so that the code that one MVPD develops for interacting with its network differs from the code that other MVPDs would develop. Comcast added that MVPD network code is regularly updated to accommodate network and service changes, and corresponding changes would be required in the third-party device (or app).

"Programmers and content owners require a trusted execution environment as a key element of a strong content security and content presentation regimen," Comcast wrote in an ex parte filing.

Comcast said the proposal could also negatively impact network bandwidth by not allowing for network management tools that the MSO currently runs within its network code.

Comcast also warned against the FCC's plans to standardize MVPD entitlements, saying that a switch would require "significant changes to entitlement servers and other parts of MVPD networks." The MSO said the current non-standard approach provides the flexibility to accommodate experimentation and changes in business models, usage patterns, and delivery methods and allows industry stakeholders to respond to emerging security and piracy threats.

"In contrast, mandated standardization would have the effect of 'freezing' business models and delaying consumers' ability to access content in new ways until standards could be updated or new standards developed," Comcast wrote.

As the debate has raged on over the merits of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's "Unlock the Box" proposal, Comcast has launched a new initiative geared toward enabling third-party boxes to access the MSO's video services without the need of a Comcast set-top. The "Xfinity TV Partners Program," promising native access to linear, on-demand and cloud DVR programming, already counts Samsung and Roku among its partners.

The FCC's responded to Comcast's announcement with some skepticism.

"While we do not know all of the details of this announcement, it appears to offer only a proprietary, Comcast-controlled user interface and seems to allow only Comcast content on different devices, rather than allowing those devices to integrate or search across Comcast content as well as other content consumers subscribe to," the FCC said in a statement.

For more:
- see this filing

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