Google, TiVo call cable's STB plan 'light in details, heavy with loopholes'

Comcast X1
Comcast has invested heavily in its X1 set-top box and doesn't want to cede ground to third-party vendors.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) – a trade group representing Google, Dish Network, TiVo and others – has submitted a paper slamming the cable industry’s alternative to Chairman Tom Wheeler’s “Unlock the Box” NPRM as “light in detail and heavy with loopholes.”

Whereas Wheeler’s proposal would allow third-party set-top vendors like Apple and Roku to access pay-TV content, the alternative proposed by NCTA, AT&T and Comcast would require all pay-TV providers to create HTML5 apps that can be accessed across all manner of streaming devices.

CCIA claims that the proposed reliance on HTML5 features like Media Source Extensions (MSE) and Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) would benefit MVPDs by “allowing them strict control on playback of content.” The group says this could result in a limiting of third-party devices’ abilities to make local recordings, use custom remote controls, or launch and play content without loading the complete MVPD application, including the program guide.

“Device manufacturers also would be limited in their abilities to differentiate their devices through innovations occurring outside of the browser like high performing, multi-featured, custom-skinned media players,” wrote CCIA.

CCIA says that some aspects of the HTML5 app proposal “have merit,” but calls HTML5 an inadequate replacement for a “native” applications running on a device. The group says there are ways the proprietary apps and NPRM proposals can coexist.

“To leverage beneficial components of the proprietary app proposal, HTML5 functionality associated with playback and that of the UI must be separated. MVPDs are familiar with this concept, which they have utilized with content providers. Custom Platform Extras, an openly available set of specifications describing how a content provider’s HTML5-based app works for content playback with enhanced UI features, can be combined with a distributor’s or retailer’s HTML5 app that manages entitlement control and purchasing, using a set of mutually agreed upon protocols,” wrote CCIA.

As companies like Google and TiVo push for reforms that could potentially open up the pay-TV set-top market, opposition to Wheeler’s proposal continues to mount, with numerous companies, lawmakers and even Wheeler’s fellow commissioners expressing doubts about the merit of the plan.

For more:
- read this The Hill article
- see this CCIA study

Related articles:
Majority Whip to Wheeler: 'Abandon' Unlock the Box
 Wheeler: 'Unlock the Box' will exempt small analog cable systems
FCC's Wheeler may bow to pressure, could change 'Unlock the Box' set-top proposal