Grumbles & Gripes Over Set Top Box Order


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s revised proposal to add more competition and consumer choice to the market place by opening up the cable television set-top box has raised concerns from some high-profile members of Congress — and a Republican FCC Commissioner.

In a statement released earlier today (Sept. 12),  New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone, the top-ranked Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, vocalized his uncertainties that Wheeler’s plan will work.

“As I’ve said before, consumers do not like set-top boxes—they are clunky, outdated, and needlessly expensive,” he said. “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.  Ultimately, I’m skeptical that the revised plan will benefit consumers.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly was a bit more blunt.

“I will review this proposal carefully over the coming days and weeks, but at the outset it appears to exist within a fantasy world of unlimited Commission authority,” he said in a statement released Sept. 8.  “The Commission is and must remain in the business of licensing spectrum and infrastructure, not content.”

Meanwhile, some of the cable television industry’s biggest players also expressed concerns that Wheeler’s plan was ill-conceived.

“While we appreciate that Chairman Wheeler has abandoned his discredited proposal to break apart cable and satellite services, his latest tortured approach is equally flawed,” Comcast VP of Government Communications Sena Fitzmaurice said. “He claims that his new proposal builds on the marketplace success of apps, but in reality, it would stop the apps revolution dead in its tracks by imposing an overly complicated government licensing regime and heavy-handed regulation in a fast-moving technological space.”

Fitzmaurice also believes that Wheeler’s new proposal “violates the Communications Act and exceeds the FCC’s authority.”

He adds, “It perpetuates many of the concerns that led hundreds of members of Congress, content creators, diversity and civil rights organizations, labor unions and over 300,000 individuals to object to his original flawed approach, including problems with privacy, copyright protection, content security and innovation.”