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Cable Chiefs Say OpenCable Is Only Viable Technology for Interactive TV

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 10/30/2007 9:41:00 AM

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts had a solid day of meetings last Friday at the Federal Communications Commission, delivering presentations to chairman Kevin Martin and the FCC's four other commissioners to lobby for the industry's OpenCable Platform as the standard for accessing interactive cable TV applications.

In the Oct. 26 meetings, Roberts and his staff "stressed that America's cable industry is committed to OpenCable" and that the technology has the support of "leading" consumer-electronics companies, according to a Comcast ex parte filing Monday.

The rare face-to-face between Roberts and Martin came after Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt met with Martin and FCC commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps on Oct. 24, also to promote OpenCable over the consumer-electronics industry's rival proposal.

The CEO campaign is intended to convince the FCC that OpenCable is the only viable technology for providing third-party CE devices access to cable's interactive services, such as video-on-demand and interactive program guides, before the government-mandated digital TV transition in February 2009.

The Consumer Electronics Association has pushed a proposal referred to as DCR+ ("digital cable ready plus") that would specify protocols for VOD and other individual applications. According to operators, if the FCC required the cable industry to support DCR+, it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and stifle development of two-way services not specified by DCR+ (such as caller ID on the TV).

Roberts and the Comcast team -- which included senior VP of strategic planning Mark Coblitz and chief policy advisor for FCC and regulatory policy James Coltharp -- noted that with the DCR+ proposal, "CEA is asking the FCC to micromanage technology choices for cable in a way it has never done for any industry."

Major cable operators, including Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks, have pledged to have OpenCable widely supported by the end of 2008. Time Warner Cable claims to have already deployed 150,000 OpenCable-based set-top boxes in 13 divisions.

Consumer electronics companies that are supporting OpenCable and developing products compatible with the technology include LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, Toshiba and Intel.

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