Google is testing new 'AllVid-style TV set-top' in cahoots with FCC, new pay-TV coalition says

The new coalition of pay-TV companies banded together to fight a new FCC set-top proposal says Google is showing off a new set-top based on the agency's new rules.

According to the Future of TV Coalition, whose 47 members include Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications and Dish Network, just to name a few pay-TV companies, Google has invited Congressional staffers to visit its Washington, D.C., offices to have a look at the new device. 

"Amazingly, Google plans to demonstrate its new AllVid-style TV set top box, presumably in order to build support for the new rules being considered by the FCC on video competition announced to much fanfare just this week," a coalition press release said.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced vague details this week of a proposal to "unlock" pay-TV set-tops so that devices from third-party manufacturers, sold at retail, can work with cable and satellite services. Consumers, Wheeler said, are chained to expensive lease requirements by operators, which are making too much money off this business.

Wheeler on Thursday insisted the scheme he's proposing isn't AllVid. But for its part, the Future of TV Coalition wants to know how Google knows more about Wheeler's plan than it does. 

"This raises a burning question: how does Google have a box that could possibly comply with the FCC's proposal when an intentionally vague framework of the proposal was announced just two days ago; when the FCC says there are still numerous technical issues to be addressed; and when no technical specifics are yet available to the public?," the coalition asked. "Chairman Wheeler's 'fact sheet' says a new 'independent open standards body' will be formed to determine technical specifications for these new devices, a process that could take years. Yet Google already has a working box?"

Coming right out and saying it, the coalition accused Google of collaborating with the FCC to develop the proposed technology.

"If we didn't know better, we might think Google had a sneak preview of the FCC's new proposal," the statement added. "Or maybe they're just amazingly confident they will be able to dominate the supposedly 'open' standards setting process, ramming through specs cooked up in Google's Silicon Valley labs. Confidence that may be justified since Google reportedly held a similar off-the-record confab with the FCC staff late last year – a great opportunity for them to shape this AllVid 2.0 regulation from the beginning."

A Google representative was not immediately available to respond to FierceCable's request for comment.

Wheeler's decision to follow up on proposals made in September by the FCC's Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC) committee is a blow to pay-TV operators. Congress had set up the committee last year to once again explore technologies that could open up the pay-TV set-top market to consumer electronics companies and others. Since there was no mandate that Wheeler act on DSTAC's proposals, pay-TV companies and groups representing them, including the National Cable Telecommunications Association, hoped the chairman would take no action at all.

An intense lobbying effort was made in the weeks following DSTAC's proposals. It appears Google may have lobbied more successfully. 

For more:
- read this Future of TV Coalition press release

Related articles:
Wheeler: Set-top proposal is not AllVid
TWC's Marcus: IP-only apps already opening set-top options
FCC proposes set-top rules overhaul; operators and programmers form coalition to oppose plan