The federal docket: FCC gets busy on gateways

As expected, the FCC has taken the first steps in a long term effort to create (mandate?) network-agnostic gateways for cable systems. In the short term the Commission is looking to see what can be done about the CableCARD--a device that was put into the retail market in 2007 and has yet to generate any excitement.

The busy commissioners also said they would approve a proposal to let cable operators buy and deploy inexpensive HD digital boxes with integrated security, a move that was being sought by mostly small- and medium-sized rural cable operators who want to move from analog to digital as inexpensively as possible.

Meanwhile, what the commissioners did not do was as significant as what they did. The Commission did not tip its hand on whether it will move to classify broadband traffic as a traditional telecommunications service and therefore regain control that was apparently taken away when Comcast won a so-called net neutrality court case. While net neutrality is an important element in the FCC's national broadband plan, it's also an extraordinary hot button with opposition ranging across the different telecommunications providers who say any federal intervention could stifle Internet connectivity.

For now, the Commission apparently is willing to let that dog lie while it concentrates on ways to make cable more accessible to the masses.

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