FTC to FCC: Third-party set-top makers must certify their devices meet privacy guidelines

Adding to the cacophony of voices chiming in on the FCC's plans to revise pay-TV set-top regulation, the Federal Trade Commission has submitted comments suggesting that third-party manufacturers certify their devices meet privacy guidelines. 

"I propose that if the FCC adopts the rule, MVPDs should require that third-party set-top box manufacturers represent to consumers, as well as to MVPDs, that their products comply with the cable and satellite statutory privacy provisions," said Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in comments. 

"Such a representation would be analogous to manufacturers voluntarily committing to a privacy code of conduct," Rich added.

Consumer privacy has been a prominent discussion point amid the FCC's bid to open pay-TV's leased set-top business to third-party manufacturers including TiVo and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). 

The comments followed a busy week for the set-top discussion, with Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) also delivering comments suggesting the FCC hasn't done enough in its proposal to account for the differing one-way communication paradigm of satellite TV distribution. 

"Having recognized that a different approach would be required for satellite MVPDs, the [FCC's proposal] fails to propose rules that would accommodate such an approach," Dish said in comments.

"As a result, the Notice provides the text of proposed rules for implementation of a regime that the Commission recognizes would not be appropriate for satellite systems, and makes only a very brief and generalized request for comment on satellite-related issues."

Meanwhile, a bi-partisan collection of 23 Congressional lawmakers sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, echoing a chief concern among pay-TV companies and programmers — that companies including Google will use the law merely to obtain content rights without paying for them. 

"In order to keep this ecosystem intact and ensure that creators are able to make a fair living from their trade, we urge you to prevent third-party competitors in the set-top box market from making commercial use of or modifying copyrighted programming without acquiring a direct license from the owner of the content," the letter said. 

Both of the National Cable Telecommunications Association and American Cable Association have filed extensive comments to the FCC on the proposal. (The NCTA's comments, submitted Monday, spanned 394 pages.)

Both cable-industry organizations have described the proposal as an "unlawful" over-reach of FCC power. 

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