Pros weigh in on FCC set-top proposal

While pay-TV operators have been backed by a surprisingly robust coalition of programmers, advertisers and Congressional lawmakers in their battle to stop the FCC from imposing new regulations on their set-top leasing business, the agencies set-top proposal is also getting commentary from numerous backers. 

"Markets, not monopolies, are the key to innovation and lower prices," said INCOMAS CEO Chip Pickering, in his companies filing to the FCC. "Unlocking the set-top box will give consumers more choice, inject competition into a stagnant market and create new opportunities for streaming services and content creators. Action by the FCC to unlock the set-top box will create new companies, more jobs and an entire new industry for video services. It's an economic win for consumers and business."

In March, the FCC commissioners voted 3-2 to move forward with a controversial proposal meant to enable devices from third-party manufacturers to be used in the pay-TV ecosystem.

Both the National Cable Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and the American Cable Association (ACA) said the proposal reaches beyond the authority granted to the FCC in Section 629 of the Communications Act. 

Poppycock, said the Consumer Video Choice Coalition in its filing to the FCC.

"The Commission is acting well within its authority in initiating this proceeding," the group said. "Congress provided the Commission with explicit direction 20 years ago in Section 629 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to ensure that consumers could purchase competitive navigation devices at retail. The instruction to 'promote the competitive availability of navigation devices' was repeated by Congress just two years ago in the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014. Moreover, Sections 629 and 624A of the Telecommunications Act make clear that the Commission's authority extends not just to consumer hardware, based also to software-based applications.

Added Public Knowledge: "By moving forward on its proposal to allow subscribers to access their pay TV subscriptions (this includes cable, satellite, and 'telco' or fiber services like FiOS TV and Google Fiber — the technical term is multichannel video programming distributor, or "MVPD") on the devices and apps of their choice, the Commission can save viewers money while ensuring they can choose from better and more modern alternatives."

The Obama Administration also indicated earlier this month that it strongly backs the proposal. 

For more:
- read this INCOMPAS FCC filing
- read this Consumer Video Choice FCC filing
- read this Public Knowledge FCC filing
- read this CED Magazine story

Related articles:
FTC to FCC: Third-party set-top makers must certify their devices meet privacy guidelines
Programmers, advertisers, Congress back pay-TV operators in battle against FCC set-top proposal
NCTA and ACA pounce on FCC statement, says its set-top plan exceeds Communications Act authority