Top Republican raises questions about FCC box proposal


The Senate majority whip is raising concerns this week after President Obama backed a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal to open up the market for television set-top boxes.

“Irrespective of the underlying merits of the FCC’s proposal, I am troubled by claims that administration officials are inappropriately pressuring an independent agency to pick winners and losers in the marketplace,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said in letters Monday to White House counsel Neil Eggleston and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

{mosads}Cornyn asked for extensive information from both the administration and Wheeler, including records of communications between the FCC and the White House as well as visitor and vehicle travel logs for both.

The letters were first reported by Politico on Tuesday morning. An FCC spokesperson said the agency had received the letter and was reviewing it.

At issue is the White House’s decision to weigh in, via comments from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, on the FCC’s set-top box proposal.

The proposal would require companies that provide live video services, like Comcast, to open up their video feeds to firms that wanted to make their own boxes. Those devices would compete with the boxes currently leased to consumers by the video providers.

Opponents have said the proposal, which the FCC formally voted to consider earlier this year and will need to be voted on again before it can take effect, would endanger consumer privacy and the copyright protections enjoyed by video creators. They also argued it would hurt minority and independent programmers.

The Obama administration nodded at those concerns in their comments but endorsed the plans as good for competition and consumers.

Conservatives see echoes in the pronouncement of Obama’s decision to endorse an aggressive approach to maintain net neutrality in 2014; months later, the FCC enacted strict net neutrality rules.

Tags Federal Communications Commission John Cornyn set-top boxes Tom Wheeler

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