NCTA, pay-TV lawyers meet with FCC, try to shoot down tech industry's AllVid push

Lawyers for the NCTA and every major pay-TV company met with FCC commissioners earlier this week in an attempt to block supporters of the AllVid technology for set-top boxes. 

The "burdens" imposed by AllVid "would handicap MVPDs, particularly small MVPDs that lack the necessary resources to reconfigure their networks and deploy new adapters required by the new AllVid proposal, but would not apply to OVDs or retail device manufacturers," said the National Cable Telecommunications Association, in a memo to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, recounting Tuesday's meeting. 

From Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) to Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) to AT&T/DirecTV (NYSE: T) to Bright House Networks, counsel for every major pay-TV operator, save for Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), was represented in the meeting. Reps from CableLabs, the American Cable Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, Arris, Cisco and EchoStar were also present. 

AllVid is one of two tech proposals rendered over the summer by the FCC's Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), a committee set up to find a new technology that would enable retail set-top devices to work in the pay-TV ecosystem.

Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), TiVo and other technology/consumer electronics companies have thrown their support behind AllVid. This technology would employ a kind of bridge device that would securely decode pay-TV signals and render them usable on set-tops consumers purchase at retail rather than those they could lease from their cable, satellite or telco provider.

The pay-TV industry has been stridently opposed to AllVid since DSTAC proposed it as a possible solution to the retail set-top issue in late August.

In its filing with the FCC, the NCTA outlined a range of concerns it has with AllVid. The group specifically pointed to the dangers of relying on "a single, vulnerable security solution that is insufficient for today's consumer offerings."

Most of all, the NCTA objects to the regulatory aspect of AllVid, noting that it would "mandate a new government-designed intermediary device in the home that MVPDs must provide for the consumer to use any new retail device, locking consumers into more (not fewer) boxes with their associated lease payments and higher energy consumption."

Next to AllVid, DSTAC also proposed an "app-based" technology solution for retail set-tops based on HTML5. The cable industry has viewed this proposal more favorably, but counters that it already provides such an app-based solution through TV Everywhere. The NCTA has argued that the pay-TV industry's multi-screen apps already open the door for smartphones, tablets, streaming devices and notebooks to enter the pay-TV ecosystem. 

For their part, the technology companies backing AllVid argue that the pay-TV multiscreen apps that exist today are primitive and do not address the potential for better user experiences. 

DSTAC has already received public comments on its proposals. It has set a reply deadline for next week. 

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