Official conversations with FCC staff by outside parties regarding their thoughts on Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s controversial TV set-top box proposal can now be held.
The Commission late Thursday (Oct. 6) released a public notice stating that it has lifted the sunshine period prohibition on the proposal, which was removed from the agenda of the FCC’s September Open Meeting just 20 minutes prior to its start.
The STB proposal is now on an indefinite hold with respect to a vote by the five commissioners, and it is believed that the item was pulled from the Open Meeting agenda because Wheeler would have seen his proposal go down in a 3-2 defeat — with Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel liking siding with Republicans Michael O’Rielly and Ajit Pai in voting against the plan. Rosenworcel has been vocal regarding her concern for the original draft of the proposal.
What the proposal looks like today is still a mystery for those outside of the FCC, and the lifting of the sunshine period prohibition may not be enough in the eyes of some stakeholders.
In a letter sent to Wheeler one week ago (Sept. 30), Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S. Dakota) urged him and the Commission to issue a “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” allowing those outside of the FCC to view word-for-word the proposed new regulation of pay-TV set-top boxes.
New York Democratic Rep. Yvette Clarke also asked that the text of the proposal be made public, while also noting that the indefinite postponement of the vote allows the General Accounting Office to review the rules.
THE FUTURE OF TV COALITION: NOT SATISFIED WITH ‘SUNSHINE’ ALONE
The Future of Television Coalition, an advocacy group that opposes “unnecessary technology mandates that would threaten innovation and diversity, counts among its members the American Cable Association, Comcast and subsidiary NBCUniversal, and several top MSOs.
The coalition believes the FCC’s lifting of sunshine prohibitions doesn’t go far enough.
“The law is clear. If this is a substantially new proposal – and all reports indicate that it is – then the FCC needs to let the public see it and offer comments before any final vote,” the coalition said in a statement. “Chairman Wheeler should heed the requests made by civil rights leaders, independent programmers, and dozens of Members of Congress to ‘Unlock the Plan’. Lifting the ‘sunshine’ prohibitions is meaningless if the public isn’t even allowed to know the details of the plan. This isn’t just some ‘inside the beltway’ fight – it’s a question of whether the real-world risks to consumers and creators are going to be addressed or just swept under the rug. ”
Meanwhile, advocacy groups TechFreedom, CALinnovates, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation,
International Center for Law & Economics, and Tech Knowledge were joined by High Tech Forum publisher Richard Bennett and George Washington Institute of Public Policy senior fellow Hal Singer in writing a formal letter to the FCC urging the Commission to seek public comment by issuing a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Wheeler’s revised proposal. The tech groups are formally supporting a petition filed Oct. 2 by 19 civil rights groups seeking further public comment.