Rep. Pallone: Wheeler’s new set-top plan ‘won’t work’

Representative Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) | Image: Ryan Kelly/Getty Images

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who has been an ally to the pay-TV industry in its battle to stop the FCC from regulating leased set-top boxes, has come out against a revised proposal by agency Chairman Tom Wheeler. 

“While I commend Chairman Wheeler for working to solve this difficult issue, I’m concerned that this latest proposal will not work, particularly when it comes to licensing,” said Pallone, the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, in a statement. “Ultimately, I’m skeptical that the revised plan will benefit consumers.”

Last week, Wheeler put forth a major revision of his “Unlock the Box” proposal, which sought to engage devices from third-party manufacturers like Google, Amazon and TiVo in the pay-TV ecosystem. The goal was to disrupt what critics described as near monopoly power by pay-TV operators to force customers to lease their set-tops. 

Wheeler’s new plan is based on a counter-proposal, depending on multi-screen apps, championed by the National Cable Telecommunications Associations. But neither the NCTA, nor any of the constituencies who backed the lobbying group’s “Ditch the Box” counter-proposal, seem happy with Wheeler’s compromise. 

“Congressman Pallone’s skepticism about the FCC’s revised set-top box proposal could unfortunately cost consumers tens of billions of dollars in inflated cable charges,” said progressive group Public Knowledge, in a statement responding to Pallone. 

“Each cable household is currently getting ripped off by more than $20 a month in bogus set-top box fees,” Public Knowledge added. “We believe consumers will get the benefit of lower prices, more choices, and more innovation with the FCC’s plan and urge Congressman Pallone to re-evaluate his stance on this important consumer pocketbook issue.”

For more:
- read this Morning Consult story
- see the Public Knowledge statement

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