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Google is working on a secret universal cable box — and, bizarrely, the project was just exposed by the cable companies it would harm.
The "Future of TV" coalition, which includes Comcast and Time Warner, sent Tech Insider a press release that seems to blow the lid on the unannounced device:
Staffers in Congress received an unusual off-the-record email Thursday, inviting them to an invite-only meeting at Google’s DC office to “test drive” something called the “competitive video solution”.
The release is light on details of the technology, but one imagines it would resemble a Google-branded Roku or Apple TV with a port for a cable cord. That was, after all, similar to the original plan for the Apple TV in 2014, according to Bloomberg. In an email to Tech Insider, a Google spokesperson confirmed the demonstration of the set-top box.
Cable company executives have good reason to be worried. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a proposal Wednesday to force them to make their services compatible with third-party set-top boxes. The move would save consumers billions in monthly rentals of Time Warner, Comcast, and co.'s proprietary devices.
Predictably, the vast corporations that profit from that locked-up market were not pleased. Doxxing Google's device seems to be an attempt to gain consumer sympathy.
That Google had the foreknowledge to build this FCC-compliant box, "The Future of TV" release argues, is evidence of a government-Silicon Valley conspiracy to damage the cable business. The group also expresses anger that Google execs didn't clue them in to their plans:
If we didn’t know better, we might think Google had a sneak preview of the FCC’s new proposal ... Google reportedly held a similar off-the-record confab with the FCC staff late last year – a great opportunity for them to shape this AllVid 2.0 regulation from the beginning.
Strangely, this group of cable companies known for operating without rivals is trying to portray themselves as victims of an anti competitive agenda:
The AllVid scheme being flogged by Google and the FCC is unfair and destructive to values held far too dearly on Capitol Hill — undermining free market competition and putting a government thumb on the scale for powerful incumbents like Google, and making it harder for those serving communities of color and providing diverse and independent programming to make the video ecosystem work. We wish Google good luck with its demonstration. And we hope the staffers coming in for the show can see through the spin and take a hard, rigorous look at how Google wants to build a new business by taking a free ride on the labors of others.