Ever wonder whatever happened to “cable ready” televisions, so that now you have to rent a set-top box from your cable or satellite (or other “MVPD” for those who remember the term from last time)? Wonder why getting your TiVo or XBox or Roku box hooked up to your “CableCard” (whatever that is) is such a pain?
I and a panel of other witnesses will explain all this to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet tomorrow (Thursday, April 29) at 10m a.m. at a hearing on Competitive Availability of Navigation Devices. “Navigation Devices” is the fancy name for set-top boxes that can do things other than switch channels. Almost 15 years ago, Congress directed the FCC as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to make rules that would promote competition for “navigation devices” that would make it possible for us consumers to have our choice of fun things to attach to the cable system cheaply and easily. (Law codified at 47 U.S.C. 549)
We at PK pushed for the FCC to take up this issue as part of the National Broadband Plan as part of the general issue of broadband and the next generation of online video competition. To its credit, the FCC admitted that the existing rules have not worked out (as anyone who has tried to find a “cable ready” anything or tried to hook up something that is supposed to be “compatible” with your subscription video service knows). They have kicked off a new proceeding based on our Petition last December to create a “universal gateway” device that would work the way the a phone jack works: plug in the connector and the device connects to the network (more details in this post by PK colleague John Bergmayer.)
I’ll be talking about our proposal and why I think it would not only save people tons of money on monthly rental fees for cable boxes, but would have serious impact on online video, gaming, and content creation generally. Witnesses from various industry sectors will be there to explain what they like and don’t like about the status quo and our proposal. If you are the sort of policy junkie that enjoys watching this (or wonder what I look like hunched over a table reading testimony), you can follow the fun on the Subcommittee homepage via the link they will post in the bottom right-hand corner box.
Stay tuned . . . .