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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 11, 2011

Comcast Previews Upcoming IPTV Offerings to Slow the FCC's Roll

By Beecher Tuttle, TMCnet Contributor

In an attempt to mitigate the effects of cord-cutting, Comcast last week joined nearly 40 television and entertainment providers by inking a deal with Microsoft (News - Alert) to provide content for Xbox Live, the software company's new Web TV service.

Not looking to stop there, Comcast is now apparently testing its own IPTV service for PCs and Macs as well as a device that brings TV to tablets and various IP devices.

The information comes directly from Comcast, which recently sent a filing to the FCC (News - Alert) that describes a number of IP-related offerings that it is currently working on – some of which we have known about, some we haven't.

The filing, initially obtained by LightReading.com, says that the company will "soon launch a trial to deliver private IP-based cable services to PCs and Macs." In addition, Comcast acknowledges that it is working with TiVo on a service that would bring its on-demand content to TiVo CableCARD devices. Comcast said that it plans on trialing the service "later this year."

The cable provider also used the filing to confirm that it will bring its on-demand service to Web-enabled TVs from Samsung (News - Alert) and a number of "other device manufacturers," without naming names. Comcast even previewed a new cloud-based interface that it hopes will combine video programming with other Web applications for weather, traffic and social networking.

The final example of Comcast's current work in the IPTV (News - Alert) space is AnyPlay, a device that it first previewed at the 2011 Cable Show that will allow customers to access cable services on IP devices without the need for a home set-top box. The device, set to launch this fall, will work with the iPad and Motorola’s (News - Alert) Xoom tablet, with compatibility for other IP devices to come.

So the question is: Why did Comcast write a letter to the FCC previewing its IPTV offerings? The short answer is to get the FCC off its back.

Comcast is trying to convince the FCC to dump AllVid, the organization's proposed replacement for CableCARD, which would act as a universal adapter for pay TV content delivered across all mediums. Supporters argue that it would level the playing field and encourage innovation, while detractors like Comcast say that it would provide strict mandates on cable, satellite and telco providers and derail innovation.

Basically, the letter explains how Comcast is accelerating technological change on its own.

"Comcast, consumer electronics companies, and others are making major investments to meet rapidly evolving consumer demand with rapidly changing technological tools," wrote Kathryn Zachem, SVP of Regulatory and State Legislative Affairs at Comcast. "Raising the specter of AllVid mandates in this dynamic marketplace will chill investment and derail the very innovation that the Commission is seeking to encourage."

Whether or not the letter accomplishes its purpose, it does at least offer a nice window into where Comcast is headed in the next year. Investors can be pleased that the company has noticed the inevitable move to IPTV and is responding accordingly.

Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Carrie Schmelkin