Thune blasts FCC chairman on secrecy

Greg Nash

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) is calling on Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to release the FCC’s latest proposal on rules for pay-television set-top boxes. 

Thune’s letter was delivered a day after Wheeler indefinitely delayed a vote on his latest proposal to change the rules for set-top boxes, a market that has been dominated by cable companies.

{mosads}Wheeler’s rule would require companies to make their television feeds available as apps to other companies, such as Apple and Google, that might make set-top boxes. 

The decision to delay the vote shows Wheeler does not have support on the FCC for his rule to be approved at this time.

Thune said the public should be able to see the latest version of the rule and be able to comment on it. 

“Your new proposal is intended to benefit consumers, yet those same consumers are not currently able to read this far-reaching new plan,” Thune wrote in the letter.

“For a rulemaking that is expected to take years before it is fully implemented, there is no need or urgency for the Commission to rush behind closed doors to adopt a final order. Sunlight in government proceedings is critical for ensuring outcomes that provide the most benefit possible for the American people,” Thune continued.

Wheeler has argued that the public has already had substantial time to weigh in on the proposal.

“I don’t think that this is an issue where the public has not had an opportunity to express themselves or has not been heard,” Wheeler said during the FCC’s open meeting on Thursday.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the panel’s tech subcommittee, voiced similar concerns on Thursday.

“As we’ve stated before, this process has been clouded with uncertainty and indecision around both what the commission is proposing and whether the proposal is supported by legal authority,” the two said in statement.

“It’s time for Chairman Wheeler to release the text and seek public comment.”

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