Pai Pressed To Kill Wheeler’s STB Plan


Nineteen members of the House of Representatives, led by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Energy and Commerce Committee Vice Chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), have formally asked new FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to close the docket on the Commission’s all-but-failed set-top box proceeding.

In their letter to Chairman Pai, the House members argued that, on a procedural note, the Commission should engage “in the healthy practice of closing dockets that are no longer under active debate and consideration.”

This would provide the industry, and consumers, with a clear understanding of the FCC’s assessment and plan of action, the members of Congress — all Republicans — said.

Perhaps more importantly for the cable TV industry, the House members say the set-top box proposal — introduced by now-former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — “remains an unnecessary regulatory threat to the content creation and distribution industries.”

The members of Congress also argue that the STB docket should be closed “to give video programming distributors a clear sign that they can bring technological advances to set-top boxes and video delivery without fear that the Commission [will] overturn them by regulation.”

The letter to Pai continues, “The regulatory overhang of set-top box regulation has cast a shadow over investment and innovation in traditional video programming delivery. This has pushed video programming and delivery innovation out to the edge, which is currently unhampered by regulation. We believe that the best way to foster real choice in video programming delivery and bring consumers the services they want is to permit these innovations to flourish in all parts of the video ecosystem, not through a top-down Federal mandate. Accordingly, we urge you to close this proceeding and permit this industry to innovate and serve consumers free from restrictions of a government-chosen platform.”

The set-top box proposal drafted by former Chairman Wheeler was met with fierce opposition from the cable TV industry. However, it was not pulled from the September 2016 Open Meeting agenda until just 30 minutes before its start.

This means, officially, that the proposal was placed on the Commission’s circulation list and remain under consideration by the FCC.

The removal of the STB vote from the meeting agenda was instantly greeted with praise by the NCTA – The Internet & Television Association.


    • Speaking of “Fresh Air,” let’s hope Mr. Pai also protects the livelihood of noncommercial, non-religious broadcasters who depend on Federal funds to keep the lights on and their communities informed. NPR has disappeared from West Palm Beach, due to lack of financial support. This is with Federal support. What would happen in other markets where NPR stations don’t have huge endowments? Could KVCR in Riverside-San Bernardino be threatened? What about on Long Island? Could tiny Robin Hood Radio be forced to shut down? NPR may be biased, in the view of many, but cutting funding could be devastating in cities such as Miami, where news and information from other radio sources is lacking.

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