FCC's O'Rielly calls STB proposal 'convoluted scheme,' stumps for apps-based alternative

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, a vocal critic of Chairman Tom Wheeler's set-top box regulation proposal, delivered his most strident support yet for the pay-TV industry's apps-based proposal. 

Calling Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to break up pay-TV's proprietary leased set-top box business a "convoluted scheme," O'Rielly said the industry's alternative suggestion — to use existing multiscreen apps — is more than viable. 

"The common-sense, technology-friendly replacement for STBs is presently before the commission in the form of downloadable apps used daily by millions of American consumers," O'Rielly said in a blog post.

"The argument in support of apps has been strengthened further by new details offered by various video providers, including firm commitments on timing and price, offering further comfort to those worried about an app-centric solution," he added.

Citing a range of figures pointing to the proliferation of apps among American consumers, O'Rielly sought to debunk claims that the apps-based proposal won't provide the unified search capabilities offered by Wheeler's proposal.

In fact, O'Rielly debased the need for unified search altogether. 

"It should be noted that nothing in the [Communications Act] actually requires any search function, let alone a unified search capability between an existing video provider and content outside of its system, such as edge provider programming," he said. "Section 629 of the Communications Act, on which the overall STB approach is based, does not mention anything remotely close to some type of integrated, unified search requirement. It just isn't there. Additionally, no one knows that consumers are actually seeking such functionality."

The commissioner also disputed what he described as claims that an app-based solution won't drive down set-top leasing costs for consumers.

"In an all-app world for video distribution, there is no need for a STB, meaning no monthly rental or separate purchase is required," O'Rielly added. "This would result in consumers saving most or all of the money they spend today to rent or buy devices they generally loathe. To the extent that estimates are accurate that consumers spend $231 per year and a cumulative $20 billion annually for STB rentals (and there are real reasons to question these figures), these funds would go back into the pockets of consumers who chose the app route."

For more:
- read this FCC blog post

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