US broadband plan: FCC wants open gateway for cable

The FCC wants the US cable industry to adopt an open-standard, “gateway” device to replace current set-tops by the end of 2012, according to extracts of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.

The cable industry has resisted a one-size-fits-all approach to set tops. The FCC wants the new “gateway” to be a standard interface that “bridges” conditional access, tuning and reception functions, with no additional functionality. The FCC says it should be cheap and allow CE makers to sell network-neutral devices that can access content independent of any particular platform or third party, allowing those consumer electronics companies to design to a common interface, and to open standards.

The device will also need to pass through content protection flags from cable operators. The commission proposed interim milestones to make sure operators were gearing up for the switch, and penalties for those who are not installing the gateways in all new homes, or all box replacements, by December 31,st 2012.

The leak comes as the FCC is about unveil the first plan to give every American super-fast broadband by 2020. The Federal Communications Commission said broadband was the “greatest infrastructure challenge”. It estimates that one-third of Americans, about 100 million people, are without broadband at home. The goal is to provide speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps), compared to an average 4Mbps now.

In an executive summary released ahead of the presentation to Congress the FCC said: “Broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. It is changing how we educate children, deliver healthcare, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government, and access, organise and disseminate knowledge”.

Requested by Congress, the plan of over 350 pages looks set to touch off intense lobbying. The FCC are due to vote today (Tuesday) on publishing a summary of “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan.”

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