FCC's O’Rielly: New set-top plan ‘exists within a fantasy world of unlimited commission authority’

Set Top Box

Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has come out as staunchly opposed to the agency’s significantly revised proposal to regulate the leased pay-TV set-top box business. 

“I will review this proposal carefully over the coming days and weeks, but at the outset it appears to exist within a fantasy world of unlimited commission authority,” O’Rielly told reporters shortly after FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled the plan last week. “The commission is and must remain in the business of licensing spectrum and infrastructure, not content.”

Wheeler’s new plan incorporates the major underpinnings of a pay-TV industry counterproposal to replace set-tops with multiscreen apps provided and controlled by the MVPDs themselves. Top pay-TV companies including Comcast and AT&T have come out against Wheeler’s new proposal, as has the industry lobbying org that created the apps-based plan in the first place, the National Cable Telecommunications Association. 

Programmers — who were also vehemently opposed to Wheeler’s original “Unlock the Box” proposal — are concerned about the chairman’s revised proposal, as well.

Executives for Disney, Time Warner Inc., CBS, Viacom and 21st Century Fox, among other network operators, reportedly met with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel last week to discuss their concern about Wheeler’s new plan. 

Specifically, they’re worried about a key component of the revised proposal that calls for the creation of an FCC-operated standards body, which would have the power to alter the terms and conditions of program license deals negotiated between programmers and pay-TV operators. 

Rosenworcel and the four other FCC Commissioners are set to vote on Wheeler’s revised proposal on Sept. 29. 

Notably, Wheeler’s new plan includes a provision that exempts operators with less than 400,000 subscribers. Not surprisingly, the American Cable Association — which represents smaller cable operators — has not stated objection to the revised proposal. 

For more:
- read this Inside Sources story
- read this Telecompetitor story
- read this Broadcasting & Cable story

Related articles:
Wheeler formally pitches revised app-based set-top proposal, includes integrated search
Comcast, Charter, AT&T lament app-based set-top proposal they lobbied for, call it regulatory over-reach