Majority Whip to Wheeler: 'Abandon' Unlock the Box

In perhaps the strongest rebuke yet to the "Unlock the Box" proposal delivered by a Congressional lawmaker yet, U.S. House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) has called on FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to abandon his NPRM focused on opening pay-TV information flows to third-party device makers. 

"It has become increasingly evident that the original set-top box proposal is deeply flawed and should be abandoned," Scalise said in a letter to Wheeler. "Instead of rushing the original proposal though the rule making process to meet an artificial deadline, it is my hope that the FCC will strive for industry collaboration and give every consideration to the alternative approach recently submitted."

Scalise, of course, is referring to the NCTA-backed counter-proposal "Ditch the Box," which is based on HTML5 apps. 

"This alternative plan more accurately reflects the state of today's marketplace by allowing consumers to download an app on a smart TV or any other connected device, thereby ensuring that copyright licenses are protected while eliminating the need for a set-top box and the accompanying monthly set-top box rental fees," Scalise said. 

Support for Wheeler's proposal to revamp pay-TV's proprietary leased set-top business has largely broken across partisan lines, with Republican FCC Commissioners and Congressional lawmakers largely opposing — in increasing veracity — the NPRM. 

While some Democratic lawmakers have also opposed Unlock the Box, it was a report commissioned a year ago by Senators Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) that got the ball rolling, claiming that consumers were paying, on average, $231 a year to rent set-tops from their pay-TV provider. 

"The FCC alleges that the new rules are necessary to increase innovation and lower prices for consumers, yet the proposal ignores the many innovations already occurring today," Scalise added. "Unfortunately, these burdensome regulations would bring drastic changes to the marketplace that will likely have the reverse effect of harming consumers."

Related articles:
'Ditch the Box' backers to make DVR functions in apps optional
NCTA responds to FCC 'Ditch the Box' questions with huge data dump
Wheeler: 'Unlock the Box' will exempt small analog cable systems