New FCC regime officially kills ‘Unlock the box,’ BDS reform

New FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had the two items taken off the list last week “for further review.”

Now under Republican control, the FCC has officially killed plans to regulate pay-TV set-tops and business data services. 

The two proposals have been removed from the agency’s list of active proceedings. According to Morning Consult, new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had the two items taken off the list last week “for further review.”

Both proposals were championed by former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last year, but neither ever got put up for a commission vote. 

RELATED: Congressional Republicans tell Pai to officially kill Wheeler’s set-top proposal

An unnamed FCC official told Morning Consult both items could be put back into circulation with modifications. This prospect seems unlikely under Pai, who wasn’t a fan of either proposal.

Last week, Congressional Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter to Pai, asking him to dispose of the Wheeler-backed proposal to require pay-TV operators to render their services on multiscreen apps that could run on a wide variety of third party devices. 

Separately, Wheeler had championed a proposal that would cap pricing for business data services. Both proposals, of course, were highly unpopular in the cable industry. 

Pai’s decision to table both proposals culminates a dramatic turn in regulatory fortunes for cable operators. In fact, only nine months ago, during the NCTA’s final industry trade show, org President and CEO Michael Powell decried to a lightly attended exhibit hall that his industry was “under relentless government assault."

"The FCC's mantra is competition, competition, competition," Powell said. "But from where we sit it means one thing: Regulation, regulation, regulation … The policy blows we are weathering are not moderate corrections, they are thundering tectonic shifts," he said.

Referring to the FCC's attempt to "unlock" the pay-TV set-top industry for third-party companies, Powell called it an attempt to "confiscate" the cable industry property and "pass it to new competitors and give them a leg up.

"Instead of unlocking the box," he added, "this proposal has unlocked fierce opposition from all groups. We can only hope the commission will hear their voices."

Powell framed the FCC's approach to business services rate regulation as ironic. 

"Even when we are the new competitive interest, we seem to be marked for rate regulation," he said. "Internet companies are being nurtured and allowed to run free, while network operators are labeled as gatekeepers who should be shackled."