Commerce Committee Members Split On STB Delay


The Sept. 29 last-minute decision to dump consideration of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s set-top box proposal from the Open Meeting agenda — thus preventing a vote likely to go down in a 3-2 defeat — was met with mixed reaction from key members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, both Republicans, were pleased that the vote was postponed and urged the Commission for full transparency in the form of sharing exactly what the proposal reads for all to review.

“It’s clear that the many questions about the scope and authority of the commission in this set-top box proceeding have taken their toll on its consideration,” said Upton and Walden. “As we’ve stated before, this process has been clouded with uncertainty and indecision around both what the commission is proposing and whether the proposal is supported by legal authority. It’s time for the commission to engage in the transparent process that the public deserves. It’s time for Chairman Wheeler to release the text and seek public comment.”

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey, who sits on the Senate Commerce Committee, voiced his displeasure at the removal of the set-top box vote from the Sept. 29 Open Meeting agenda.

“Today’s vote delay is an unequivocal loss for the tens of millions of Americans across the country who are forced to spend their hard-earned money on overpriced set-top box leases that cost them hundreds of dollars a year,” Markey said in a statement. “I am extremely disappointed that the majority of the FCC Commissioners have not yet come to an agreement to provide relief for consumers for these bloated set-top box rental fees and certainty to companies who wish to innovate with new products.”

He urged the FCC to complete the rulemaking as soon as possible.

“Consumers have waited for more than two decades for the promise of a robust set-top box marketplace to be fulfilled,” Markey added. “They should not have to wait one more billing cycle.”

Markey, along with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, in 2015 released findings from an investigation of the set-top box market they conducted that concluded consumers have little choice in their pay-TV set-top boxes, and that the average household spends nearly $232 annually on set-top box rental fees. Their investigation also found that approximately 99% of customers rent their set-top box directly from their pay-TV provider and the set-top box rental market may be worth more than $19.5 billion per year.