OCAP- Who is capping whom?

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by Justin Thyme, Jan 13, 2006.

  1. Jan 16, 2006 #21 of 169
    TiVoPhish

    TiVoPhish New Member

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    You raise very good points dt_dc.

    Now, if CE companies choose to make boxes compatible with OCAP, they are confined or opened to this "middleware platform" the cable companies' agree to support.

    I just went through a presentation this morning with a company providing us software that has a specific purpose... that software will run equallly well on Mac or PC because it's run through the internet via Java. Because Mac and PC both agree to run Java on their platforms, Java provides the "window" (or middleware?) to this new independently developed software... software developed to run through Java on any computer.

    Would this be a fair comparison to OCAP?
     
  2. Jan 16, 2006 #22 of 169
    interactiveTV

    interactiveTV New Member

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    Nikon rcently hit this issue in a way. Some of the data (white balance) in the RAW format is encrypted in the newer gen cameras (D50/D200, etc).

    Of course, the camera owner owns the pictures.

    http://photoshopnews.com/?p=226

    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1034&message=14311231

    Yes, there is an SDK for "authorized developers"

    Please also remember (because Lexmark learned this lesson from the Sixth Circuit), a company CANNOT rely on DMCA soley for anti-competitive purposes.

    http://lawgeek.typepad.com/04a0364p-06.pdf
    "If we were to adopt Lexmark's reading of the statute, manufacturers could potentially create monopolies for replacement parts simply by using similar, but more creative, lock-out codes. Automobile manufacturers, for example, could control the entire market of replacement parts for their vehicles by including lock-out chips. Congress did not intend to allow the DMCA to be used offensively in this manner, but rather only sought to reach those who circumvented protective measures "for the purpose" of pirating works protected by the copyright statute."

    And no, while I can read the law just fine, when you get to items like checksum, I get a little lost. The question of "primary purpose" is somewhat clear though.

    You should also differentiate between: "pseudo vertical monopoly fiefdoms- whatever. It's anti competitive behavior" and conducting business. Should DVD or Blu Ray or 802.11n be considered "anti-competitive"? WHY SHOULD we force Apple to license FairPlay? Companies are meant to COMPETE. Obviously, since Sherman, we draw some specific lines and Lexmark is another but OPEN EVERYTHING seems to be anti-innovation. Barring somewhat obvious attempts, like Lexmark, I tend to believe the market is capable of sorting things out. Apple might "own" the downloadable music market now but market share can shift rapidly and there is substantial resources behind the competition (Samsung, Sony, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.). Apple can make a legitmate case for Fairplay's existance (it falls SQUARELY under the primary purpose reading) and in terms of NOT licensing it out, that's it's own choice. We've seen plenty of examples where not widely licensing eventually hurts and some where it works just fine. Again, the market tends to pick its winners and those who win might not even stay on top all that long (where IS Lotus 123?).

    Then again, I don't like Sonic's DVD burning. Perhaps Tivo should be forced to allow me to use any DVD burn software I would like.

    _ITV
     
  3. Jan 16, 2006 #23 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    Correct ... "A is not a monopoly because there is alternative B" is not valid. Just because there is some competitor ... somewhere ... that (kindof) competes with Company A ... well, that doesn't prevent Company A from being declared a monopoly and the government acting accordingly.

    On the other hand ... declaring "pseudo monopoly" or "anti competitive behavior" and therefore bad or illegal or wrong is also invalid.

    "Monopolistic practices" absent of a monopoly is ... well ... business as usual.

    Apple can use their OS or hardware or DRM or whatever to leverage other products. The courts didn't find that no one can use an OS to leverage other products. They found that "Microsoft's dominance of the personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly" ... and therefor the government could make a legitimate anti-trust case and seek the corrective actions it felt neccessary.

    Absent of a monopoly ... if you use one product to leverage another ... well, you take the good with the bad. Apple uses the success of the iPod to leverage iMusic. Ok ... but on the other hand that potentially limits the success of iMusic and iPod. If Apple has a monopoly on portable music players, or on-line music distribution, or content ... well, that leverage isn't allowable. But if they don't have a monopoly ... there's nothing wrong with them choosing to leverage a popular product to break in to new markets.

    OTOH, if they choose interoperability and openess as a way to leverage their products ... that's fine too.
     
  4. Jan 16, 2006 #24 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    Just to get back to this ...

    If you consider "Microsoft's dominance of the personal computer operating systems market constitute(s) a monopoly" ... and don't consider them to have a monopoly on word processors ...

    In that case ...
    Microsoft CAN encrypt Word files in a Word-specific format only editable / openable / whatever by Word ... however, they CAN NOT encrypt Word files in a format that is only readable by their operating system. That would be using their monopoly (OS) to leverage another product (word processor).

    If you also considered them to have a monopoly on word processors ... in that case they would be subject to anti-trust measures which COULD include forcing them to use a "standard readable unencrypted" format. Then again, the government could come up with some other suitable anti-trust measure ... like braking up the company into a "Word Processing" group and a "DRM" group.
     
  5. Jan 16, 2006 #25 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Whether you directly profit from the sale of an application is immaterial. That you derive profit in some way due to the application is sufficient.

    For the purpose of this segment of the discussion, the analog of the Microsoft OS is the CableCo servers and their APIs. The analog of Microsoft SQL server is OCAP. Simply because the transport uses a coax cable in one case, and occurs on the same machine in the other is immaterial.

    From a layman's perspective, an OS does not broadcast data, but in actual fact there is a steady bidirectional stream of data between the application and the system. What Oracle was objecting to was the fact that certain protocols and data were not being documented that SQL server was benefiting from. And the government agreed that this is not permissible.

    CableCo's want to be in the position of controlling navigation software. It is irrelevant whether they profit directly from OCAP's distribution- they may derive profit as you suggest through advertising revenue. They want to use dominance in content distribution to leverage themselves into a position of dominating navigation software.

    My understanding is that if you support Cablecard2.0 OCAP, you MUST support forced downloads of software from the headend. You have no choice in the matter. If you are not cablecard2.0 compliant the cableco doesn't have to send you switched channels, VOD or PPV. If the Cableco wants to replace all the navigation software in your OCAP machine, they can. So if Oracle "chooses" to implement on Windows, and using windows means that the OS can force download of SQL Server and even erase Oracle software, is that permissible? What if it weren't MS. Say Apple has a position of market dominance in one some segment- are they immune from governmental objections of abuse of market dominance? Could they leverage their dominance in public schools to lock out competitors to educational software they wish to sell?

    Carterphone said that everyone could have access to data on the phone network. So would it have been permissible for the phone company to say fine- when you get access to voice data, it will be in a format that will require behavior along with the audio. For example, prior to being connected, the handset would be required to run a program that would play an advertisement to which the customer could respond via keys on their handset?
     
  6. Jan 16, 2006 #26 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    And you make absolutely no distinction between Microsoft using their OS to leverage other products ... and Apple using theirs to do likewise ... or me coming out with my own new operating system doing likewise?

    Microsoft ... Apple ... me ... all the same. None of us can write an OS and then use it to leverage other products? That type of behavior is automatically a "pseudo monopoly" and "anti competitive behavior" and can't be allowed ...

    No matter what the OS market is and whether any of us (Microsoft, Apple, and me) has an actual monopoly or not? The same rules apply to us all?

    Is this what you're saying?
     
  7. Jan 16, 2006 #27 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    Woops ... sorry ... didn't see this.

    Ok ... so you do differentiate between Microsoft and Apple (and me).

    "Market dominance" ... Seems like a rather weak / vague test.

    As you pointed out earlier ... having a competitor with %0.001 market share does not automatically mean you are NOT a monopoly ... doesn't automatically preclude the government from taking anti-trust measures.

    Then again ... even a 100% market share doesn't automatically equate to a monopoly either. If I make / sell _______ and no one else chooses to make / sell _______ ... well, that doesn't automatically MAKE me a monopoly either (even if I have a 100% market share).

    Hmmm ... so there's a fuzzy line / distinction in there somewhere ... and it's not just related to "market share" or "market dominance".

    This is coming down to whether cable (and telcos and dbs) truly enjoy a "monopoly" or not ... and if so ... exactly what market they have monopolized ...
     
  8. Jan 16, 2006 #28 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    I am saying that the law has yet to catch up with the notion of how a network of technology dependencies effectively create a local monopoly condition.
     
  9. Jan 16, 2006 #29 of 169
    TiVoPhish

    TiVoPhish New Member

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    I could be wrong on this, but your example is not my understanding of OCAP at all, but more like what I said further up in my reply... That OCAP is "middleware" making it possible for the interface from a stand-alone CE box run and communicate with what comes from the cable companies... similar to how Java can run programs independent of platform (but the platform itself must support and run Java).

    Using certain "basics" Java can get information from my local operating system, because that OS (whether Apple or Windows) can communicate with Java. Then the program running on the Java platform can utilize that data, but run itself independent of the OS.

    So running Java wouldn't illiminate (or delete) all the basics of the platform itself -- it just makes it possible for me, as a developer, to make any interface I want communicate with the resident operating system.

    To translate to Cable... on their side they provide VOD or PPV or Guide Data and there is a basic "OCAP format" they follow. On the CE side, I develop my navigation system to be OCAP compatible. Now my navigation will run utilizing OCAP middleware and the "java" that makes is possible for my software to run, get information from and send information to Cable.

    Maybe I'm totally wrong... or only partially right... but I don't see OCAP as "Windows" or "OS X" -- but more like the Java in the middle that lets me run my stand-alone developed software on either.

    Thoughts?
     
  10. Jan 16, 2006 #30 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    Oh my ... there's some buzzwords.

    Ok, probably true. The law (and changes to it) often trails technology and innovation and other precursors neccesitating changes to the law.

    Then again ... this is usually considered a good thing. Try as we might to pass laws that take into account every possible technology change in the next 100 years ... well, that's not going to happen.

    Personally I would say that many (although no, probably not all) of our notions of monopoly and anti-trust are equally applicable whether you are looking at a physical product like oil and physical distribution ... or software and video and network technology ...

    But anyway ...

    So are you saying cable is currently a "network of technology dependencies effectively creat(ing) a local monopoly condition"? Do all MVPDs (dbs, telco, etc) merit this special categorization? Or is it just cable's position in the plug-and-play negotiations and their "leveraging" that you are concerned with?

    Or is it just comfortable (even cliche) to paint a picture of the "big bad cable monopoly"?

    Like I said above ... alot of this (particular) part of the conversation is coming down to whether (or not) cable (and / or other MVPDs) is / are / have been / will be a "monopoly" ...

    Fine ... well ... call the question what it is. "Is cable a monopoly"?

    Not exactly a new question. Something that's been back and forth on these boards before. But ... there you have it. Nothing that new or exciting ...
     
  11. Jan 16, 2006 #31 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Please consider page 194 of the cablecard 2.0 spec. You will see that Cablecard2.0 Apps MUST allow forced downloads of code images from the MSO.

    As I said earlier, it is not the position in a hierarchy that determines whether a company is using an OS dominance strategy. If everyone is writing to your API, and you control the API, you have a successful OS strategy.
     
  12. Jan 16, 2006 #32 of 169
    dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

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    Northern...
    I'd say you're both right. :)

    OCAP is like ... well, it's like a JVM. Or it's like middleware. Yes.

    You've got a Sony box ... or a Samsung box ... or a Panasonic box ... doesn't matter.

    If it's got an OCAP environment then anyone can (theoretically) write software to run in that environment (easily). You don't need to know box-specific commands for doing something like ... put a message on screen.

    You write one "Hello World" OCAP app and it will run on any of those boxes (Sony, Samsung, Panasonic).

    Ok great. Sounds good.

    OCAP itself isn't really the issue.

    One way to look at the issue is ...

    1) There's no standard for how those OCAP apps talk to/from the cable headend

    Sony (or Tivo or Microsoft) can't write their own apps that run in the OCAP environment and talk to the cable head-end. Take a VOD-ordering system. There's no 'standard' way to order VOD. Sony or Tivo or Microsoft could write a VOD-ordering app ... but ... it would be useless to provide directly to a consumer.

    The only way Sony or Tivo or Microsoft can write a usefull VOD-ordering system is by first selling the cable company software that sits on their head-end. THEN their OCAP client-software knows how to talk to that software on the head-end and actually order and view VOD ...

    So ... I can write a "Hello World" app with OCAP. Big deal. I can't really do (much) interesting on just the client box alone ...

    more later
     
  13. Jan 16, 2006 #33 of 169
    HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

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    Apple can. Its called iTunes. Microsoft may be a special case which is not the best source of examples.

    -----------------

    In other words, ditto what dt_dc says:

     
  14. Jan 16, 2006 #34 of 169
    HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

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    In typical situations, where the parties don't have much power, the market tends to take care of the problem(s), such that the other side of the market (ie. the consumer) tends not to buy the product in sufficient quantities to make it worthwhile or onerous to the public to pursue the tying strategy.

    If the product is particularly useful, other companies come out with competing alternatives that do a similar job, offering choices. Some of those choices will be just as proprietary as the original, but still will be in and of themselves choices. There is a tendency for there to eventually be a more open choice offered by a company, which then is likely to take off with the market, and force the original provider(s) to open up as well to meet the challenge.
     
  15. Jan 16, 2006 #35 of 169
    HDTiVo

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    I think this is really the meat of what is at stake in the process of defining all this as the cable cos and CE makers fight it out with the FCC in there too.

    There is precedent in the classic analog cable world. Analog cable is open such that you can stick the wire into the TV and see unscrambled analog channels. If you want scrambled analog channels, or premium movie, or digital or PPV, you need a cable box between the wire and the TV. Changing/determining who has the power over each nugget in the modern digital cable world (like the VOD ordering system) involves working in relation to such old world precedent(s).
     
  16. Jan 16, 2006 #36 of 169
    smark

    smark Well-Known Member

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    You'll all be pissed with DCAS won't you?
     
  17. Jan 16, 2006 #37 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Part of it is the Monopoly question. Where else can you get legal online access to commercial music that plays on the Apple iPod? Does iTunes not have a monopoly on such music? Realnetworks created some software so that they could sell commercial music that would play on the iPod. Within a month, Apple had updated iPod software so Rhapsody once again could not interoperate with their iPod product.

    The other part of the monopoly question is the significant outlay from consumers that lock them into a particular network of interoperating technologies. The "Digital convergence" buzzword refers to a technology trend whereby devices can handle many different kinds of data and also interoperate with the family of devices that use the same interoperability protocols and data formats. Ok, sounds great except the complexity of these protocols effectively serves to create a lock out to competitors who by the time they figure out the protocols can be foiled by the provider changing the protocols by upgrading the software in the field.

    So customer chooses Satellite service based on an attractive channel lineup. Later, the customer wants an HD DVR- they can only buy from the dbs company or their surrogate at a significant price. If they want a portable video player than can play content from Satellite, they can buy one (again for a nontrivial price). None of this equipment will interoperate with the Cableco or the competitor satellite company's gear. Maybe the portable video device is also a VOIP/ Cell phone...and so on and so forth. This connector conspiracy can extend to a large family of interoperating devices.

    As for Ocap? I have an OCAP dvr so I can play the swiched channel video. Okay the MSO has to make money- it's their program and so they also embedded OCAP code to put in embedded advertisements for the video and they made it so that you can't play the video without the OCAP. Want to play it on a portable device? Well naturally you will need an OCAP interpreter, so they will have to apply for a Cablelabs compliance certificate too. Oh- woops- guess OCAP must be on my DVD player to burn it to disk, and on the phone that plays video, and so on and so forth.

    If makers of cablecard hosts have the server APIs, then they don't need OCAP, and they don't need the MSO's bytecode. If the APIs for the interoperability between the devices are not public, then the entity that controls the apis can leverage themselves into any number of unrelated businesses. Note there could be 3 or 4 companies each doing the same strategy in a given geographic area, so it is not a typical local monopoly. But are geographic barriers the only ones that create the local monopolies? Customers are effectively trapped in these local fiefdoms. The cable service may be right there on the telephone pole but it may as well be a thousand miles away because the switching costs are so high. They'd have to sell their DVR, their portable video player, their VOIP phone, maybe their plasma screen, at a significant depreciation- all because the customer is a little irritated with the carrier jacking up the rates for the Extended basic package.

    It is a much larger but similar situation as the school administrator- they have an alternative to Apple API BS with educational software- they can buy PCs and get the educational software they want. Like the Oracle database user, the office manager can buy Sun Machines to bypass the Microsoft advantage with non public APIs.

    I am not waving the Open standards flag. These guys can do all the closed apis they want. They just have to make them public if this fiefdom principle is in effect.

    I am not railing against vendor lock-out in general- although maybe ink jet cartridges are a little overpriced. Filling up a car with printer ink would cost about $175,000. And this is due to incorporation of "killer chips" which enforce incompatibility with aftermarket cartridges. If there should be a law against that- or whether it is illegal, that is a different subject.

    I am not railing against big is bad, or America's love hate relationship with wildly successful companies.

    Ok, that is the Monopoly part- Whether or not current anti-trust law and regulatory policy deals effectively with the interoperating fiefdom problem.

    But that is not my only objection. The other has to do with MVPDs and what is required of them by the 1996 telecom act. When section 629 states that "multichannel video programming and other services" be available to from third party devices, does that mean that the third party only gets to provide the metal and silicon, but the MVPD gets to provide the rest of the mechanism?
    I don't believe that. The only way that I can access a VOD show is through a mechanism which is written in OCAP bytecode dependent on OCAP libraries necessary to interact with the headend server. These mechanisms are provided by the MVPD and/or Cablelabs, so cablecard 2.0 is not proposing a third party mechanism, and so this is not in conformance with the 1996 Telecom act. The VOD program or switched channels are "a service", but the OCAP program is not "third party". If the MVPD provided the Server API used by the OCAP program, and the Cablecard unit was allowed to access it in the same manner as the MVPD program, then a third party mechanism could be built to access the service.

    Where have I erred?
     
  18. Jan 16, 2006 #38 of 169
    HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

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    All you have described here is the fact that my car door only fits my car. That means I can't use it with any other car I might buy, AND the corollary: if I bust my door I have to buy a new one from the "creeps" that made my car.

    Here you define the battle ground that exists between the parties: what set of rules satisfies the wording of the statute? That's a war between Cable and CE with the FCC as referee. I say wording not meaning, because each party will say the wording has a different meaning. So the solution is a set of rules which all parties (esp. FCC) believes fits the wording and gives them each a satisfactory negotiated share of the spoils.

    Taking VOD specifically, VOD is similar to the type of things that under the rules of the analog cable world would have required a cable box. That is precedent, and therefore has some weight. However, many years of analog also was a learning experience and Congress modified the law to open the door for changes in the (next) digital world. Without the "Act" it would be hard not to think that VOD in digital cable would carry over the cable box type requirement (ie. PPV) of analog. Either way there would still be a battle; this part of the Act gives more weapons to CE than otherwise would be the case.


    The early part of this thread outlined much of what is at stake, what the different parties interests are and how those interest complement and conflict. What is interesting ahead is talking about the signficance of those interests, the strategies being used by the parties to battle each other, what direction the game is going (what's been won/lost already, what movement an event causes in the interim balance, what might be some reasonable outcomes to expect in the end game...)
     
  19. Jan 17, 2006 #39 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Digital certificates was a technology that was available in 1996 when the telecom act was put into law. There will always be more attractive security solutions by the time that a specification is finally agreed to by all parties. Full compliance with the 1996 law must be reached promptly, and should do so building on existing cablecard standard, not on some back-to-square-one proposal. For the next generation, the carriers are free to make such proposals when the process for the next generation begins.

    Allowing further delays due to this proposal basically says to the carriers that they can delay compliance in perpetuity, because there will always be a "new technology" card to play.
    You mean the movie that played on the cable channel? As has been mentioned many times by legal experts here- no it isn't ours. We have the right to keep a copy for our own viewing, like we can copy a page out of an encyclopedia brittannica. But don't "own" the content in the sense we can go out and publish a copy of the encyclopedia ourselves.
     
  20. Jan 17, 2006 #40 of 169
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Actually the automotive aftermarket parts industry is a significant component of the US economy at about $185 billion /year. There is ample motivation of producers to lock out competitors, but ample motivation amongst legislators to see that this market segment is competitive. As ITV noted above in quoted from the Lexmark decision:
    So enginering for interoperability is a very old principle and reverse engineering of such automotive parts and making identicals is in most cases recognized as a legitimate business.

    Reverse engineering a physical part is one thing- reverse engineering software can be exceptionally difficult especially if the author is deliberately attempting to confuse observers. Even when interoperable code is produced, due to internet connectivity, the apis on which they are based and can be easily updated in the field nullifying all the work of the third party vendor. DT-DC seems to feel "notions of monopoly and anti-trust are equally applicable" to software as they are physical products. I very skeptical that legal protections designed to assure competitive production of physical objects designed to be interoperable are sufficient to protect similar producers in the software realm. I not only believe there are inadequate legal mechanisms to deal with the abuses these companies are subjected to, but the damage done by such excesses can be fatal to a company long before a legal remedy may be applied.
    1. The FCC's authority is gutted- no actions can be anticipatory in nature, but only punitive after harm to consumer has been proven, for which there were no other remedies. Cableco's immediately terminate cablecard support, and suitable apologies issued.
    2. Cablecard 2.0 is mandated- Cableco Adware is propagated to your dvr, your palmtop, laptop, phone... anything that might play a show with OCAP code in it. Hey- it's Java- that must mean it's open! Yeah! Adware and no FF is great!
    3. Server side APIs for VOD, PPV and shifted channels are agreed on after 4 years of wrangling, and FCC threat of action against further CableCo foot dragging.
    4. New wave of regulatory theory takes hold in Washington. Congress requires immediate compliance of all carriers to 1996 Telecom law, all carriers must license all necessary access technology to any third party vendor of navigational devices, and FCC is authorized to take punitive measures to force compliance if development of third party navigation devices is being hampered by the carriers in ways not anticipated by statute.
     

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