Google says pay-TV's set-top proposal alternative is a 'constructive effort'

Google appears to be showing some support for a pay-TV group's recently proposed alternative to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's "Unlock the Box" set-top proposal.

In a statement obtained by Politico, Google said it needs to be easier for people to find and watch shows they want on cable, satellite, on-demand or online, and that the Future of TV's "Ditch the Box" proposal looks like a step in the right direction.

"The proposal by some programmers and pay-TV providers is a constructive effort towards the goal of more competition and consumer choice, and we hope that it sparks a dialogue between the FCC and interested parties to reach a good outcome for American viewers," Google said in a statement.

But Google's statement stood in contrast to recent comments from Google-backed industry group INCOMPAS, which called pay-TV's proposal encouraging but ultimately a ploy to delay negotiations with the FCC.

Google's tenuous support is notable since it was likely one of the companies that stood to benefit most from Wheeler's proposal to make pay-TV programmers open up their content to third-party set-top manufacturers.

Under the "Ditch the Box" proposal, pay-TV programmers would all commit to making open HTML5-based apps that can used across many different streaming devices.

Google isn't the only proponent of Wheeler's proposal who appears to be wavering. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who originally voted to adopt the pay-TV set-top NPRM, now seems to be questioning the solidity of the proposal.

"It has become clear the original proposal has real flaws … We need to find another way forward. So I'm glad that efforts are underway to hash out alternatives," Rosenworcel told Reuters earlier this week.

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid has joined the chorus of politicians voicing concerns about Wheeler's proposal.

"I am concerned that your proposal does not contain mechanisms to ensure that third-party set-top box providers will be required to adequately protect programming content or consumer privacy. I urge you to give careful consideration to these possible consequences and ensure that they are resolved before proceeding with your proposal," Reid wrote in a letter to Wheeler.

Reid added that it has become "increasingly clear" that third-party STB vendors are less interested in profiting off the boxes themselves and more from the consumer information they'll be able to gather.

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Related articles:
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Pay TV pitches open, apps-based set-top alternative to FCC: 'Ditch the Box'
FCC's O'Rielly: Take the current set-top proposal and 'throw it in the garbage'