updated 06:05 pm EST, Fri December 4, 2009
FCC would let TV boxes pipe streaming video
The FCC signaled its intent to advance the state of set-top TV boxes this week with a quietly published rulemaking notice. A request for comment (PDF) on "video device innovation" has noted that the CableCARD standard has failed to create the open digital environment for TV that the FCC had planned and that it wants input on how to spur development of replacement technology that would bring Internet access and other features to the traditionally closed-off cable and satellite TV realms.
Just 14 devices are on the market that support CableCARD but aren't tied to a particular broadcaster's service, the FCC said. These are often TV tuner add-ons for computers.
The US agency highlighted examples of how many online-only living room hubs have provided more functionality than many CableCARD devices. Devices like the Apple TV, Roku Internet Player, TiVo's DVRs and the Xbox 360 all offer more than one source of Internet-based video, such as iTunes, Netflix or even amateur video, but most TV providers only offer at most a handful of data. Conventional set-tops are also rarely available outside of retail and provide little incentive for customers to upgrade beyond what their TV provider initially rents or sells.
CableCARD by itself provides just one-way data and as such is often blocked from providing many basic Internet features, such as a programming guide or searching for videos. Tru2way offers two-way interaction but has also been ruled out by the FCC as its spec mandates that TV tuning features be kept in a separate interface from other features, all but ruling out integrating tru2way into hardware that doesn't have a provision for a second interface.
Cable and satellite providers have been resistant to CableCARD as it cuts off many of the on-demand movie services and is often more expensive, but they have been relatively open to Internet features as long as they complement rather than replace their more lucrative subscription packages. [via Ars Technica]