No FCC Set-Top Box Vote Set For October


The FCC on Thursday released the official agenda for its October 2016 Open Meeting, and what was not on the agenda was more noteworthy to broadcast media’s C-Suite than what was on it.

The Oct. 27 meeting will see the five commissioners, led by Chairman Tom Wheeler, vote on a hotly debated broadband consumer privacy report and order.

They will also reconsider a matter regarding a fine for the deceptive marketing of prepaid phone cards

What they won’t be discussing or voting on is Chairman Wheeler’s set-top box proposal, which was hastily pulled from the September Open Meeting agenda just 20 minutes before its start.

With the FCC’s incentive auction now headed to a third stage in the reverse auction and the proposed broadband privacy rules getting the support on Thursday of Sen. Ed Markey (D- Mass.) and several activist groups, nary a word has been said about the set-top box plan.

The relative quiet is intriguing, as official conversations with FCC staff by outside parties regarding their thoughts on Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s controversial TV set-top box proposal are now permissible. That’s been the case since Oct. 6, when the Commission released a public notice stating that it has lifted the sunshine period prohibition on the proposal.

The STB proposal is officially on an indefinite hold with respect to a vote by the five commissioners, and Wheeler has not responded in any way to multiple requests for the proposal’s full release for public vetting.

In a letter sent to Wheeler on Sept. 30, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S. Dakota) urged the FCC Chairman and the Commission to issue a “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,” the action that allows those outside of the FCC to view word-for-word the proposed new regulation of pay-TV set-top boxes.

At the same time, 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 signing a formal letter to the FCC urging an NPRM be issued.

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.

It is largely 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.