FCC’s Rosenworcel says new set-top proposal ‘has problems,’ Wheeler said changes will be made

From left to right: Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Tom Wheeler, Jessica Rosenworcel, Michael O'Rielly.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told the Senate Commerce Committee today that he is open to further changing his recently revised plan to regulate the pay-TV set-top business.

“Let’s do it -- let’s get at it,” Wheeler said, according to wire service reports. “The door isn’t closed on anything.”

Wheeler’s remarks came after the revised plan faced criticism from pay-TV operators and programmers. The new proposal contains a fundamental request from the TV industry — that it be based on multiscreen apps provided by operators themselves — but critics have not received warmly a mandate that the FCC set up an independent body to arbitrate licensing of the apps to third-party device makers. 

Important to Wheeler’s aspirations, fellow Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel doesn’t appear sold on the current iteration of the proposal. 

Rosenworcel, who controls the key swing vote on the five-member commission, told the Senate committee today that the current proposal “has problems” and the she’s not sure the provision to form an independent licensing board isn’t an overstep of FCC power.

In public comments, Comcast has called that portion of the plan an over-reach. 

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, said the FCC is trying to “design and dictate the future of television apps.”

Rosenworcel added, however, that she’s hopeful Wheeler and the industry can come to a compromise, “because I think bringing some change to the set-top box market would be a good thing for consumers.”

Starting in February, when FCC Commissioners voted 3-2 in favor of Wheeler’s “Unlock the Box” NPRM, the Chairman has embarked on the FCC’s latest quest to open the largely proprietary leased pay-TV set-top business to third-party suppliers. The FCC has tried previous regulation, most notably CableCard, but has not been successful in the past at creating rules that render pay-TV  subscriptions widely playable outside the set-tops provided by their respective operators. 

For more:
- read this Reuters story
- read this Bloomberg story

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