Wheeler: 'Unlock the Box' will exempt small analog cable systems

Addressing the concerns expressed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) over his "Unlock the Box" proposal, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in letters to two the lawmakers that his NPRM will exempt smaller analog cable systems. 

"The NPRM further asks how the commission can ensure that any rules adopted are not overly burdensome to pay-TV providers," Wheeler said." We are continuing to engage with all stakeholders on this issue, including small pay-TV providers."

Wheeler continues to defend his controversial proposal, which seeks to open up pay-TV's largely proprietary leased set-top business to third-party device manufacturers, and thus free consumers from what he describes as burdensome monthly leasing costs. 

"Our record already contains more than 280,000 filings, the overwhelming majority of which come from individual consumers," he said. "FCC staff is actively engaged in constructive conversations with all stakeholders, content creators, minority and independent programmers, public interest and consumer groups, device manufacturers and app developers, software security developers, and pay-TV providers of all sizes-on how to ensure that consumers have the competition and choice they deserve. I am hopeful that these discussions will yield straight-forward, feasible and effective rules for all."

Wheeler also addressed the lawmakers' concerns about privacy.

"I strongly believe that third-party app developers and device manufacturers must afford consumers the same level of protection as afforded by pay-TV providers," he said. "While the NPRM proposes that competitive devices and apps certify compliance with the privacy protections in the [Communications Act], we also invited parties to provide alternative proposals that would ensure the preservation of these important privacy protections."

Wheeler attempted to dismiss copyright protection fears, as well. 

"I can assure you that we do not seek to alter the rights that content owners have under the Copyright Act; nor will we encourage third parties to infringe on these rights," he added. "All of the current players in the content distribution stream, including cable and satellite companies, set-top box manufacturers, app developers, and subscribers, are required to respect the exclusive rights of copyright holders."

For more:
- read this letter from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

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