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Almost 50 years ago a former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission famously called television a "vast wasteland." On Tuesday Google invoked the V-word again, but this time in a much more positive context.

Google, the company promised the FCC, "seeks to achieve the vast pro-consumer potential of video convergence" via its new Google TV feature. But the Commission has to make its proposed "AllVid" video interface a reality, the search engine giant urges, and soon.

"Consumers would be well-served by having such an inexpensive universal adapter available at retail, which would feature an easy-to-use, common interface, and employ nationwide interoperability standards to connect to televisions, digital video recording devices ('DVRs'), and other smart video devices," its filing on the Commission's AllVid docket declares.

If the Web is so smart

As this summary suggests, the FCC's AllVid plan is to launch a universal adapter that you could plug into your pay video service and/or WiFi or Ethernet port, then connect to pretty much any video handling device: your HDTV, computer, DVR, projection screen, or whatever. The idea is a replacement for the agency's flopped CableCard requirement—that data wedge that was supposed to allow consumers to be able to buy the set-top box of their choice (except CableCard's functionality was so limited that relatively few consumers did).

Google's filing functions as a vehicle for explaining its Google TV plans and how the FCC can facilitate them. The idea, as outlined in Google's YouTube video, presents television as a choice between two inadequate models—one that you access via a cable/telco/satellite video provider, the other that you watch via the Internet.

"If the Web is so smart, and our TVs are so fun to watch, Why do we have to choose?" the video asks. "Why can't they work together?"

The solution will be a video viewing device that will hook into both your pay TV service and the 'Net, and aggregate your channels, recorded shows, YouTube videos, and even other services like NetFlix and Amazon Video on Demand. Consumers will be able to search the machine by typing in what they're looking for, and bookmark links as they would on a computer. The company is partnering with Sony, Intel, and Logitech to roll these gadgets out.

Free development

So, obviously, this ambitious project would benefit from an interface like AllVid, which is why Google wants the FCC to get the show on the road. The company offers the following recommendations for the device:

Keep it scaled down. The Commission's blueprint for AllVid should be restricted to basic tuning and security functions, but avoid adding any navigation features. "This approach would allow smart video devices to be developed and deployed free from [a] particular [pay TV] network and technological constraints," Google says, "which may limit functionality, increase costs, deter improvements, and constrain device innovation and enhancements."

Go open source. No big surprise here that Google TV, which is based on the company's Android operating system, wants AllVid to move in a similar direction. "The AllVid adapter solution should utilize standards and specifications developed through a transparent and inclusive process. There are real benefits that stem from the ability to select existing, established technologies."

Keep it simple, with widely used interfaces like 100-BASE-TX Ethernet standard and the Universal Plug and Play Protocol.

Open the metadata. This could get contentious, copyright-wise—Google wants pay TV data like program guide information to be easy to obtain, and to include last-minute updates. The FCC should require standardized metadata streams that include closed captioning and content format information, the filing urges.

"To enhance user utility and promote innovation and adoption, there must be assurance that metadata streams, data exchanges and MVPD programming (in compressed form) are carried in full without compromised integrity between the adapter and consumer devices."

In other words, Google wants the FCC to tailor AllVid to the needs of Google TV. Still, the agency could do worse than follow these suggestions.

"Embarking on a path of openness and transparency in the navigation device marketplace will ensure the greatest innovation and competition among devices and video services," the company's filing concludes.

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