A new proposal was offered by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler on Thursday revising his “Unlock the Box” plan, which is reviewed in a fact sheet available here. An initial review of the FCC document appears to take into account some of the proposals made by the cable industry on app-driven rules via the alternate “Ditch the Box” idea proposed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, pay TV operators and independent programmers.
Thursday’s FCC fact sheet reads: “Following constructive engagement from a wide range of stakeholders, the proposed final rules will allow consumers to access their pay TV content via free apps on a variety of devices so they no longer have to pay monthly rental fees, enable integrated search and protect content and privacy.”
The Commission is set to vote on what the document calls “simplified consumer-first, app-driven rules” at its next open meeting on Sept. 29. If adopted, the largest pay TV providers, who serve 95 percent of pay TV subscribers, will have two years to comply with the rules.
However, NCTA responded to the fact sheet saying there are some important details being left out.
“According to several public sources, the Commission will play a much more significant role in the licensing process than simply the ‘backstop’ as it was described today,” the association says in a statement. “That is, the Chairman isn’t just proposing a ‘standard license’ but a centralized licensing organization that would exist in perpetuity. The work of this licensing body would be subject to intrusive FCC oversight, creating a bureaucratic morass and improperly involving the FCC in private licensing arrangements in a way that will slow the deployment of video apps, ignore copyright protections and infringe on consumer privacy.”
The NCTA further says the proposal would exceed the Commission’s legal authority and improperly insert the government into private contract negotiations between pay TV distributors, content creators and device manufacturers.
“Perhaps that’s why it’s not on the fact sheet,” NCTA continues. “This element of the Chairman’s proposal must be eliminated or drastically altered if the Commission hopes to have a sound app-based plan that truly benefits consumers while protecting the critical rights of content creators.”
Also quick on the draw to respond to the new proposal was Public Knowledge.
“Since his initial proposal, the Chairman has worked assiduously to address all the legitimate concerns raised by some programmers and the pay TV industry,” John Bergmayer, senior counsel at Public Knowledge, says in response to the proposal. “The modified approach the Chairman has described today addresses the legitimate concerns raised by these parties while preserving the benefits to the public, and fulfilling the Congressional directive that requires the FCC to ensure that viewers do not need to rent set-top boxes from their providers.”
Look for more coverage on this topic on these pages soon as this story develops further.
Filed Under: Industry regulations