Cable association to FCC: AllVid is DOA

Former FCC Chairman Michael Powell wrote current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski a letter Thursday, urging the commission to halt its plans to create a new standard to be used for delivery of IP video services and applications on connected TVs. Writing on behalf of his new employer, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), Powell cited the wide array of TV apps popping up on connected TVs, tablets and mobile devices as proof that such a move is unnecessary.

The FCC is seeking comment on a new technology standard called AllVid that aims to bridge the gap between traditional TV offerings and connected devices. But that standard has met stiff resistance from the cable industry, which has gotten wise since the CableCard debacle.

In short, the cable industry doesn’t see the need for another standard, a point reiterated in Powell’s letter to the Chairman. Using the Cable Show as backdrop, Powell pointed to the large number of applications from programmers and cable distributors alike that are being built for connected TVs and mobile devices. Also, he notes the growing acceptance of new authenticated TV Everywhere services, as well as cable’s adoption of cloud-based programming guides and user interfaces, as proof that pay TV operators are rapidly innovating in the digital age. Powell wrote:

Consumers have even more choices for content from DBS, telco TV, video over the Internet, game consoles, and “smart TV” platforms. Tens of millions of tablets, game consoles, Internet-connected TVs, and other smart, video-capable devices have been sold. Analysts predict that by the end of 2015, more than 500 million televisions with Internet connectivity will have shipped worldwide. The Commission need not ‘create’ a retail marketplace; the unprecedented choices available today have already surpassed what the drafters of Section 629 could have imagined, and they are growing rapidly in creativity and variety.

That is, innovation is happening due to consumer demand, not because of a regulated standard. In fact, Powell argues that if such a standard had been in place, it would have made serving content to tablets and other connected devices more difficult than it is today. And Powell argued that the FCC should do away with the plans for AllVid altogether, since the regulatory overhang could create uncertainty in a market where giant investments are already being made. “Risk taking, investment, and innovation flourish most fully when freed from regulatory technology mandates and participants in the marketplace are able to craft thoughtful solutions that optimize value to consumers,” he wrote.

In other words, the cable industry is sure to continue innovating on connected devices. The question is, will the FCC let operators place their on bets freely on new technologies, or force them to invest in a specific technology of its choosing?