Thune To Wheeler: No More STB Secrets

John Thune
Sen. John Thune (R-S. Dakota)

It’s time for the world to know exactly what is in FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler‘s revised set-top box proposal, and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. John Thune (R-S. Dakota) has pleaded for its public release.

In a letter sent to Wheeler on Friday (Sept. 30), Thune 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.

With just 20 minutes to go before the FCC’s September Open Meeting on Sept. 29, Wheeler and Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel announced in a joint statement that the controversial vote on the set-top box has been removed from the agenda of today’s Open Meeting.

In his letter, Thune addressed Wheeler by stating, “Your new proposal is intended to benefit consumers, yet those same consumers are not currently able to read this far-reaching new plan …. For a rulemaking that is expected to take years before it is fully implemented, there is no need or urgency for the Commission to rush behind closed doors to adopt a final order. Sunlight in government proceedings is critical for ensuring outcomes that provide the most benefit possible for the American people.”

In urging the FCC to shine more sunlight on this rulemaking, Thune specifically cited the call by California Democratic Rep. Tony Cardenas for public review of the new proposal’s text before the Commission votes on it.

Meanwhile, 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.

For Thune, the issuance of a FNRPM would be the “most transparent, inclusive, and accountable way to do so.”

Meanwhile, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) chimed in on the last-minute decision to pull the STB vote from the September Open Meeting agenda by the FCC by saying the move “validates our concerns and provides the agency an opportunity to be more transparent about the details.”

In a statement, MMTC President/CEO Kim Keenan said, “Over the last few months, MMTC and other leading civil rights and social justice organizations have implored the Commission to pause or delay the set-top box proceeding until a thorough review of the proposal’s consequences on diverse and independent programmers was completed.  Just last week, our organizations came together to urge the agency to share the details of the current proposal and engage public comment to ensure the proposal’s efficacy.”

With concerns about the FCC’s proposed handling of copyright, licensing, and privacy issues, MMTC argues that these three areas “will bring more harm than good to consumers and potentially degrade the public interest value of this proceeding, if applied improperly.”