Who On Capitol Hill Wants Wheeler’s STB Plan?


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has an ally in Congress.

In a letter dated Oct. 21, Wheeler thanked a House of Representative member for his support of the Commission’s efforts “to obey the statutory instruction to bring competition to the set-top box market.”

The two-page letter notes that he and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel “have made tremendous progress,” and that “consensus is within sight.”

The Congressman who has won Wheeler’s heart is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who was singled out for supporting the Commission’s efforts “to obey the statutory instruction to bring competition to the set-top box market.”

In his letter, Ellison focused on consumer frustration over their cable bills, and the cost of cable set-top boxes.

He also blasted cable companies for “promising consumers choice and competition for nearly 10 years, yet 99% of customers are forced to rent their set-­top box from their pay-TV provider because they have no other option in this market.”

While this is the case, the failure of getting approval for Wheeler’s set-top box plan has largely involved his proposal to “open it up” with Roku-like apps that would provide the consumer choices right on the spot. MSOs object because it would negate years of infrastructure build and dollars spent. Technology giants such as Microsoft want to make sure the FCC does not dictate technology.

Wheeler also noted in his letter to Ellison that “good-faith discussions have been underway for over two years, beginning with the Congressionally-mandated Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee, to resolve a handful of outstanding issues. We are committed to protecting copyrights and honoring contracts and licensing arrangements.

“I have long felt that consensus is within sight and will continue in this quest,” he said. “The statute mandates the Commission to move forward.  As Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and I recently expressed in our joint statement, ‘We have made tremendous progress – and we share the goal of creating a more innovative and inexpensive market for these consumers. We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country. Consumers are counting on us.”

RBR + TVBR OBSERVATION: Here we go again. Chairman Wheeler-Dealer has stated, in writing, that he’s pushing hard for yet another 3-2, party-line vote. On something so significant, we renew our calls and that of many other interest parties to issue a NPRM and let the world see why your plan was yanked from the September agenda and hasn’t been put back up for a vote. You want a legacy? Let us see the plan and decide if that’s a good idea.


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