How Many Ports Does a Set-Top Box Need?

Following a petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Intel and Verizon requesting that Ethernet ports be required on the backs of set-top boxes, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association have come out in favor of an open standard such as Ethernet (or even better, the tru2way standard developed by the cable companies) but against any sort of federal mandates. The trade group filed an ex parte filing with the FCC last night in which it argued that industry groups could work together to figure out how to deliver digital content without any pesky government interference.

The effort to put Ethernet ports on cable boxes would be a boon to carriers delivering content via their own IP networks and to companies such as Intel that are trying to get Wi-Fi as the home networking standard of choice. Anyone inclined to point out that they can already connect their set-top box to devices via Firewire, HDMI, optical ports and coax, and hence to ask why Ethernet is necessary, may not realize the stakes at play when it comes to controlling digital content in the home.

Most vendors, be they carriers, networking gear makers or computer manufactures, view the set-top box as the key to digital content for consumers as ports will dictate how easy it is for consumers to plug their boxes into a variety of networks without adaptors. So as the computer industry and the telecommunications companies get deeper into the digital TV and home networking market, we’ll wait to see if the FCC decides to make Ethernet ports mandatory. Even if they do, a showdown between those in favor of Ethernet and those on the side of cable’s tru2way standard is likely to ensure as each industry seeks to control the home network.

image courtesy of Chris Albrecht

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