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Google Asks FCC To Open Video Device Market

In preparation for the launch of Google TV, Google is backing open video device rules.

Google believes that consumers' ability to search for video content using set-top boxes is limited by the absence of a competitive market place for video devices.

In comments submitted on Tuesday to the Federal Communications Commission, Google voices its support for a proposed standard called AllVid that describes an open interface for consumer video network equipment.

"Generally, there are few technical impediments today to building a search index that combines both broadcast and Internet content, so that users can search for accurate and up-to-date information about the availability of video across different platforms," Google says. "Too often, however, consumers are constrained from easily navigating the universe of available video content on the platform of their choosing."

Google has an interest in blurring the line between TV and the Internet. The company's forthcoming Google TV platform -- backed by partners like Sony and Logitech -- aims to offer access to TV content and Internet content through a single interface, and to allow TV equipment to act as a digital music player, game console, and Web browser.

To encourage the creation of Web applications for Google TV, Google plans to release TV-related APIs and, next year, an updated Android SDK that will support Google TV applications.

Google's comments come in response to a Notice of Inquiry published by the FCC in April. The agency asked for input on a proposed plan to make the market for retail set-top devices competitive. The FCC believes that the existing CableCARD standard has failed to produce a competitive market for set-top hardware.

"Consumers want devices that can navigate the universe of video programming from all of these sources and present the choices to them in a simple, integrated way," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski in statement in April. "They also want to know that they can buy a device and not have to replace it if they change video providers."

As it stands, devices that present content carried by multichannel video programming distributor ("MVPD") services require negotiation with each service. Accessing content from Comcast, for example, requires Comcast-approved hardware.

Adopting a standard like AllVid would make video content as accessible as Internet content on a technical level. It would not mean free cable service; but it would allow pay TV customers to use hardware from any manufacturer. It would also allow consumers to switch services without replacing their video network hardware.

Google is also backing the standardization of video metadata, which the company says should include closed captioning and content format information.

Google is preparing to enter the video device market in a big way and it would like the FCC to help it get there.

"Just as the FCC over 40 years ago mandated the right to attach any non-harmful device to the wireline telephone network, and more recently adopted a policy statement and proposed similar rules for devices in the broadband context, so too should the same overarching openness rationale extend to the video device marketplace," Google says.

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