FCC chairman pushes back on lawmaker request for box study

FCC chairman pushes back on lawmaker request for box study
© Greg Nash

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler appeared to rebuff a request by lawmakers to delay consideration of his proposed plan to open up the market for television set-top boxes in a letter released Wednesday.

Fifty-five lawmakers wrote to Wheeler in April asking him to delay the proposal until a study could be performed on the effect it would have on the marketplace.

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“In order to evaluate the current marketplace and to assess the potential impact of the proposed rules, we believe it is essential for independent, peer-reviewed studies to be completed of current developments towards market-based solutions and of the potential costs and benefits of the proposed rules, including the impact of the proposed rules on diversity of programming, independent and minority television programming, content protection and consumer privacy,” they said at the time.

Wheeler said in his response that their concerns touched on important issues but argued that the record of comments related to the proposal was robust.

“Thus far, our record is replete with comments from minority programmers who have been locked out from carriage on traditional cable networks,” he said in one of the letters. “For the sake of these entrepreneurs and the audiences they hope to reach, we must move forward.”

He did not explicitly reject their request for a study. The letter was sent last week but not released until Wednesday.

The FCC has been facing a deluge of critical comments from lawmakers in recent weeks. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyCollins says she will vote 'no' on Supreme Court nominee before election The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, GOP allies prepare for SCOTUS nomination this week Gardner signals support for taking up Supreme Court nominee this year MORE (R-Iowa) and Senate Commerce Committee ranking Democrat Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDemocrats sound alarm on possible election chaos Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson MORE (Fla.) have both been critical of the plan.

Lawmakers who back the proposal say it would boost competition for the boxes and save consumers money.