SureWest Communications has rolled out an interactive television platform in Kansas City based on the EBIF standard. The Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format was developed by CableLabs as a lowest common denominator standard to promote affordable and uniform television interactivity across multiple platforms. The Kansas City operation is one of the first to use EBIF in its headend and deploy across its whole subscriber base.

SureWest Communications, based in California, operates a fibre network in the Sacremento region. It expanded into Kansas City earlier this year with the acquisition of Everest Broadband.

Ken Johnson, general manager of operations for SureWest in Kansas explained that EBIF enables interactive applications that deliver added value to its customers. “This EBIF standard is available to all of our television subscribers and we believe it offers an excellent added benefit for our valued customers,” he said.

Applications available include My TVi, a local news and information service, Yellow Pages, eBay and Fantasy Football.

The applications were created by BIAP, a company based in Plano, Texas, that specialises in interactive television development.

Tim Peters, the chief executive of BIAP, which derives its name from Broadband Interactive Applications, observes that the cable and broadcast industries in the United States have embrace the EBIF standard as the primary application platform to deliver advanced features across the full range of deployed digital cable set-top boxes.

Verizon Communications claimed to have rolled out the first EBIF interactive application in Portland, Oregon, although it is not clear how many subscribers were able to access the service.

That application was developed by Ensequence for the NBC coverage of the Olympics. Verizon says that it plans to roll out similar applications across the footprint of its FiOS fibre service.

Deployment of interactive television on cable in the United States has been frustrated by the fragmented infrastructure and the enormous installed base of set-top boxes with limited capabilities.

The emergence of telcos like Verizon and AT&T, who have been starting to offer interactive services that cable companies have been talking about for a decade, appears to have reinvigorated the market for interactive television in the United States.

The CableLabs EBIF standard was finally released in September 2007. It is specifically designed to enable practical implementation on legacy boxes with limited memory and processing capacity.

CableLabs has also led the development of the Tru2way standard, the consumer brand for OCAP, which is based on MHP, for use on higher specification devices.