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FCC's Martin Harps on Tru2way

LAS VEGAS -- 2009 International CES -- It turns out that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin has at least one thing in common with Mark Cuban: They both believe cable's tru2way platform hinders innovation because it's not open enough.

Cuban shared that opinion when he kicked off a Light Reading Live event last year in Los Angeles, holding that tru2way and the cable industry needed to take on an "Internet mind-set." (See Mark Cuban: tru2way Should Be More Open.) Martin chimed in on Saturday afternoon here at the annual gadget geekfest.

Martin, who said he has no plans to resign his post before his term is up in 2011, said tru2way and cable still have too much control and put "limitations" on innovations that, for example, would allow cable boxes to easily grab and display Web video on the TV screen.

He also complained about other perceived limitations, including the inability of users to put their own content into the guide. For example, he wondered why users can't click on a movie title and have info about that movie or movie recommendations based on that selection delivered through an IP connection and integrated with the video. Martin, who cited Microsoft's Media Player multiple times during the discussion, called such an innovation "exciting." [Ed note: Yaaaawwwwn!]

He didn't mention that the tru2way memorandum of understanding (MOU) inked last year attempts to address the issue of guide data, though it does come with some caveats. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU.) At a conference earlier in the day, CableLabs VP of video technology policy Jud Cary outlined this condition of the MOU, noting that tru2way set-top and TV makers can develop their own enhanced interactive program guides that overlay the screen, though they are required to obtain the data via Gemstar/TV Guide, which requires a license.

But Martin was more jacked up about future cable boxes that can obtain "alternative" video off the Web.

Martin is concerned that cable operators are doing what they can to slow down the Internet video wave to protect their own video services and revenues. "It's not a technological limitation," he said, calling cable's two-way video avenue "closed."

Martin obviously did not attend the tru2way panel earlier in the day. Baked-in support for over-the-top video is exactly the type of feature some cable execs think the consumer electronics guys should consider for tru2way boxes destined for retail. (See Cable's 'Dream Set-Top' .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

bollocks187 12/5/2012 | 4:14:28 PM
re: FCC's Martin Harps on Tru2way He is right on - regardless of what the vendors say.

The MSO is a closed space and hinders competition. You can buy a STB - HDTV with PVR functionality for $150.
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:14:27 PM
re: FCC's Martin Harps on Tru2way Arguments about how open or closed tru2way is aside, i still think broadband consumption caps and metered billing will be one of the dominant debates this year...even if more consumers buy over-the-top boxes or we do see tru2way boxes emerge that can pipe in Internet video, they're going to be hobbled if consumption levels are set too low, particularly when it comes to downloading or streaming hi-def content. Jeff
bollocks187 12/5/2012 | 4:14:26 PM
re: FCC's Martin Harps on Tru2way I can appreciate the metering and bandwidth caps debate and that is fair.......but ultimately consumers want to receive content of their choosing and not be the service provider/MSO which today holds them hostage.

It is analogous to cell phones we in the the USA are held captive by the carriers - other countries offer a more open system - CHINA is an example where you can buy a new cell phone but are not held captive to the service provider - "open cell phones" would go a long way to drviing down costs and fair competition for your business instead of the contract bs.

The same applied to STB - we the consumers want open
Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:14:10 PM
re: FCC's Martin Harps on Tru2way By the same token, nothing is stopping anyone from creating tru2way-based products (TVs, set-tops, DVRs) for retail, and cooking in the features they see fit. The caveat is that they have to agree to and pay for the associated CableLabs licenses...so they can jump in so long as they agree to cable's terms, so in that sense it is certainly not completely open.

But that scenario is also fueling or at least contributing to a large over-the-top market that's made up of broadband-connected devices. Jeff
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