Television box plan skeptics ask FCC for more transparency

Television box plan skeptics ask FCC for more transparency
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Congressional skeptics of a federal regulator’s plan to reform the set-top box market asked the agency to be more transparent about its proposal on Friday.

In a letter, the top two lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee and leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the Federal Communications Commission proposal was wrongly shrouded in secretary.

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“Different versions of this proposal have circulated for many months now, and while staff for both committees has held numerous discussions with Commission staff and other stakeholders, we have received conflicting accounts about this proposal,” the lawmakers said. “Without further delay, we request that you release the text of the proposal.”

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlattePress: Trump's final presidential pardon: himself USCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids MORE (R-Va.) and the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. John Conyers (Mich.). It was also signed by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who leads the panel’s tech subcommittee.

A different group of lawmakers, including conservative Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline Tennessee primary battle turns nasty for Republicans GOP may face choice on tax cut or stimulus checks MORE (R-Tenn.), wrote to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to “suggest that you reconsider your intent to force a vote on the revised proposal on September 29th, and instead publish a full version of the revised proposal in the form of supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking, provide an opportunity for stakeholder review and comment, and only move forward with a final rule that respects the Copyright Office’s expert interpretation.”

The assault on the proposal — weeks before it is brought to a vote — comes  after Wheeler announced it had been significantly altered from his original plan.

Under the initial proposal, pay-television providers like Comcast and DirecTV would have had to open up their feeds to third party manufacturers who wanted to make their own set-top boxes. Proponents said it would bring new options to markets and lower prices for consumers.

The industry launched an attack on the proposal on the grounds it would endanger copyright protections, user privacy and minority programmers. Their campaign proved fruitful: Wheeler ultimately adopted an application-based approach they had championed.

But pay-television providers have said that they cannot abide by a portion of the new proposal that would give the FCC oversight over the deals they have with device manufacturers who would host their apps.

Now, the proposal’s chances are in doubt after Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has said she does not think the agency has the authority to oversee the licensing process.

Wheeler has his own allies, including the White House.

“We have been pleased to see FCC Chairman Wheeler actively listen to the many stakeholders involved to improve the proposal, and believe that he is charting out a responsible way to address their meaningful concerns while being responsive to Congress's explicit directive to ensure a healthy set-top marketplace,” said Jason FurmanJason FurmanIn surprise, unemployment rate falls, economy adds jobs Overnight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims The Memo: Scale of economic crisis sends shudders through nation MORE, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, in a speech on Friday.

The proposal will come up for a vote in late September unless Wheeler chooses to delay it.