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America’s National Broadband Plan Recommending Multi-Channel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs) Install a Home Gateway Device in All New Subscriber Homes Starting On or Before Dec. 31, 2012

October 20, 2011

Are you aware that America’s National Broadband Plan includes recommending that the  FCC initiate a pro­ceeding to ensure that all multi-channel video programming distributors (MVPDs) install a gateway device or equiva­lent functionality in all new subscriber homes and in all homes requiring replacement set-top boxes, starting on or before Dec. 31, 2012.

To facilitate innovation and limits costs to consumers, the gateway device must be simple. Its sole function should be to bridge the proprietary or unique elements of the MVPD network (e.g., conditional access, tuning and reception functions) to widely used and accessible, open networking and communications stan­dards. That would give a gateway device a standard interface with televisions, set-top boxes and other in-home devices and allow consumer electronics manufacturers to develop market and sup­port their products independently of MVPDs.

The following key principles apply:

  • A gateway device should be simple and inexpensive, both for MVPDs and consumers. It should be equipped with only those components and functionality required to perform network-specific functions and translate them into open, standard protocols. The device should not support any other functionality or components.
  • A gateway device should allow consumer electronics manufacturers to develop sell and support network-neutral devices that access content from the network independently from MVPDs or any third parties.Specifically, third-party manufacturers should not be limited in their ability to inno­vate in the user interface of their devices by MVPD require­ments. User-interface innovation is an important element for differentiating products in the consumer electronics market

Similar to broadband modems the proposed gateway device would accommodate each MVPD’s use of differ­ent delivery technologies and enable them to continue unfettered investment and innovation in video delivery. At the same time, it would allow consumer electronics manufacturers to design to a stable, common open interface and to integrate multiple functions within a retail device. Those functions might include combining MVPD and Internet content and services, providing new user interfaces and integrating with mobile and portable devices such as media players and computers. It could enable the emergence of completely new classes of devices, services and applications involving video and broadband.

To ensure a competitive market for set-top boxes, the open gateway device:

  • Should use open, published standards for discovering, signal­ing, authenticating and communicating with retail devices.
  • Should allow retail devices to access all MVPD content and services to which a customer has subscribed and to display the content and services without restrictions or requirements on the device’s user interface or functions and with­out degradation in quality (e.g., due to transcoding).
  • Should not require restrictive licensing, disclosure or cer­tification. Any criterion should apply equally to retail and operator-supplied devices. Any intellectual property should be available to all parties at a low cost and on reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.
  • Should pass video content through to retail devices with existing copy protection flags from the MVPD.

Requiring that the gateway device or equivalent functional­ity be developed and deployed by the end of 2012 is reasonable given the importance of stimulating competition and innova­tion in set-top boxes, the extensive public record established in this subject area and the relatively simple architectures proposed to date.

The FCC should establish interim milestones to ensure that the development and deployment of a gateway device or equivalent functionality remains on track. In addition, the FCC should determine appropriate enforcement mechanisms for MVPDs that, as of Dec. 31, 2012, have not begun deploying gateway device functionality in all new subscriber homes and in all homes requiring replacement set-top boxes.

Enforcement mechanisms would be determined with public input as part of the rulemaking proceeding. They could include, for example, issuing fines against non-compliant operators or denying extensions of certain CableCARD waivers like those granted for Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs). The FCC could also reach agreements with operators to provide set-top boxes for free to new customers until a gateway device is deployed.

The FCC should establish up front the criteria for the enforcement mechanisms. The FCC may want, for instance, to grant small operators more time to deploy the gateway device to take account of unique operational or financial circum­stances. Transparency in the criteria for the enforcement mechanisms will establish more regulatory certainty in the market and help limit the number of waiver requests.

The following is a summary of the recommendations across Networks, Devices and Applications that are contained within America’s Broadband Competition and Innovation Policies


  • The federal government, including the FCC, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and Congress, should make more spectrum avail­able for existing and new wireless broadband providers in order to foster additional wireless-wireline competition at higher speed tiers.
  • The FCC and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) should collect more detailed and accurate data on actual availability, penetration, prices, churn and bundles offered by broadband service providers to consumers and busi­nesses, and should publish analyses of these data.
  • The FCC, in coordination with the National Institute of Stan­dards and Technology (NIST), should establish technical broadband performance measurement standards and meth­odology and a process for updating them. The FCC should also encourage the formation of a partnership of industry and consumer groups to provide input on these standards and this methodology.
  • The FCC should continue its efforts to measure and publish data on actual performance of fixed broadband services. The FCC should publish a formal report and make the data available online.
  • The FCC should initiate a rulemaking proceeding by issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to determine performance disclosure requirements for broadband.
  • The FCC should develop broadband performance standards for mobile services, multi-unit buildings and small business users.
  • The FCC should comprehensively review its wholesale competition regulations to develop a coherent and effec­tive framework and take expedited action based on that framework to ensure widespread availability of inputs for broadband services provided to small businesses, mobile providers and enterprise customers.
  • The FCC should ensure that special access rates, terms and conditions are just and reasonable.
  • The FCC should ensure appropriate balance in its copper retirement policies.
  • The FCC should clarify interconnection rights and obliga­tions and encourage the shift to IP-to-IP interconnection where efficient.
  • The FCC should move forward promptly in the open pro­ceeding on data roaming.


  • The FCC should initiate a proceeding to ensure that all multi­channel video programming distributors (MVPDs) install a gateway device or equivalent functionality in all new subscriber homes and in all homes requiring replacement set-top boxes, starting on or before Dec. 31, 2012.
  • On an expedited basis, the FCC should adopt rules for cable operators to fix certain CableCARD issues while develop­ment of the gateway device functionality progresses. Adop­tion of these rules should be completed in the fall of 2010.


  • Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FCC should consider clarifying the relationship between users and their online profiles.
  • Congress should consider helping spur development of trusted “identity providers” to assist consumers in manag­ing their data in a manner that maximizes the privacy and security of the information.
  • The FCC and FTC should jointly develop principles to require that customers provide informed consent before broadband service providers share certain types of informa­tion with third parties.
  • The federal government, led by the FTC, should put addi­tional resources into combating identity theft and fraud and help consumers access and utilize those resources, includ­ing bolstering existing solutions such as OnGuard Online.
  • FCC consumer online security efforts should support broader national online security policy, and should be coor­dinated with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FTC, the White House Cyber Office and other agencies. Federal agencies should connect their existing websites to OnGuard Online to provide clear consumer online security information and direction.
  • The federal government should create an interagency working group to coordinate child online safety and literacy work, facilitate information sharing, ensure consistent messaging and outreach and evaluate the effectiveness of governmental efforts. The working group should consider launching a national education and outreach campaign involving governments, schools and caregivers.
  • The federal government should investigate establishing a national framework for digital goods and services taxation.

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