Senate bill would expand online video rights, obligations

A bill in the senate could give online video distributors new protections against anti-competitive behavior by incumbent pay-TV operators while also putting new obligations on companies that use the Internet to deliver pay-TV-like services.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said he would introduce the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act to extend some of the protections traditional pay-TV providers already enjoy to online video distributors. "Online video companies who want to offer services similar to those provided by cable and satellite companies would be given regulatory parity with those existing services," a fact sheet published by the Senate Commerce Committee said. 

The bill would also limit Internet service providers (ISPs) from degrading the quality of so-called over-the-top video services and would require greater transparency in ISP billing so consumers "can make informed decisions about which package and speed best fits their needs," the fact sheet said.

"My legislation aims to enable the ultimate a la carte, letting customers pick what programming they want and only pay for what they actually watch," Rockefeller said in a press release. "Consumers must be able to benefit from online video's promise of decreased costs, increased choice and higher-quality video content."

The press release didn't go into specifics, but the term "regulatory parity" could mean added obligations for online video distributors. Traditional pay-TV distributors have certain closed-captioning and emergency alert requirements and are required to carry the signals of certain little-watched TV stations.

For more:
- read Rockefeller's press release 
- the LA Times had this report

Commentary: Aereo, Congress and an expiring satellite TV law

Related articles:
Broadcasters ask Supreme Court to review Aereo injunction 
Congress eyes online video, ponders parity in the marketplace 
Online video exempt -- for now -- from FCC emergency broadcast rules

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