NCTA and Comcast rail against FCC open box plan

US cable association the NCTA and leading operator Comcast have launched an all-out assault on regulator the FCC’s plans to force cable providers to open up their set-top boxes to competitors.

The NCTA described the FCC’s set-top box mandate plans as “complicated and backwards-looking” at a thime when the TV world was moving away from a hardware-centric world to one that relied on apps and IP delivery.

“The FCC’s set-top box mandate threatens to harm competition and innovation by strong-arming pay TV providers into giving away for free valuable programming to third parties, for them to rearrange, repurpose and monetize without responsibilities or obligations,” the organisation said in a blog posting.

In its submission to the NCTA, the organisation said that the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which had attracted “far more opposition, from a much wider variety of parties, than it did support”, would, if adopted, “leave a long trail of unintended negative consequences in its wake”.

“Those urging the Commission forward are relying on baseless talking points, fallacies, and demonstrably defective technology claims which, however often repeated, still provide no basis for adopting the proposed rules. Reliance on proponents’ unsupported assertions would be arbitrary and capricious,” said the NCTA.

“There is still time for the Commission to hit the pause button and seek out better, and simpler, ways to assure that consumers have access to competitive retail devices to access the video services that they purchase from MVPDs, without stealing the value of content from its creators, jeopardizing the security of MVPD services and systems, crippling the ability of MPVDs to protect their customers’ privacy, skewing the market by effectively prohibiting MVPDs (but not OVDs) from meeting consumer demand for boxless app solutions, and violating the Communications Act, the Copyright Act and the Constitution.”

Both the NCTA and Comcast said that the FCC’s proposals threaten to compromise consumers’ privacy rights and disregarded copyright protection for content providers.

The NCTA said that the proposals would give internet companies such as Google free reign to mine private viewing data and develop intrusive advertising. It said that the plan would also allow third parties to access and deliver video content while disregarding the contractual agreements made by the owners of the content or its distribution, packaging, protection and funding.

The group also said that opening up cable boxes would give free reign to providers that are under no obligation to secure the content they distribute properly.