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 GrassleyWhite House denies exploring payroll tax cut to offset worsening economy Schumer joins Pelosi in opposition to post-Brexit trade deal that risks Northern Ireland accord GOP senators call for Barr to release full results of Epstein investigation MORE (R-Iowa) and Senate Commerce Committee ranking Democrat Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonAl Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 Poll: Six Democrats lead Trump in Florida match-ups 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.