Public Knowledge Urges Senators To Fix or Oppose STAVRA

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Today, Public Knowledge and other public advocacy groups sent letters to all 100 senators urging them to either fix provisions harmful to consumers in the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) or refrain from passing the bill at all. Each letter explains that language removing current Federal Communications Commission rules around set-top boxes will harm competition in the video device market, and potentially hurt future innovation in video devices and systems.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved STAVRA's harmful provision, but several senators have objected to the bill's language and delayed its passing. Public Knowledge supports these objections and encourages all senators to demand the language be changed. Public Knowledge also opposes hiding the anti-consumer provision in important spending legislation needed to fund the U.S. government.

Multiple public interest advocacy groups joined Public Knowledge’s letter, including Common Cause, Consumer Action, Consumers Union, Free Press Action Fund and the Parents Television Council.

The following can be attributed to Christopher Lewis, Vice President for Government Affairs at Public Knowledge:

“Every U.S. senator should know that American consumers are watching them as they decide whether to maintain choice and competition in the set-top box marketplace. Americans already have few choices for pay-TV offerings and face ever increasing prices on these services. Consumers pay at least $7 billion a year to cable companies just for the right to rent a set-top box. This is before they pay for the video service itself. If this legislative giveaway to Comcast and the cable industry is allowed to pass, it will provide them with a virtual monopoly on set-top boxes and allow prices on box rentals to increase unchallenged.

“The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was carefully crafted to direct the FCC to promote competition in the set-top box market by enacting a technological standard that ensures competing boxes will work with your cable system. This bill will remove these pro-competition rules without ensuring the Commission updates that standard for the digital age. While this is a simple provision to fix, the bill is being delayed due to uncompromising demands from the cable lobby. If the cable lobby continues to hold STAVRA hostage, millions of satellite consumers could lose access to their favorite channels.

“Senator Markey has a proposal that would eliminate the outdated technological standard and direct the FCC to ensure it is updated with a new standard. We support Senator Markey’s sensible compromise proposal.

“Senators have two options to move forward in a consumer friendly way: Either strip offensive set-top box language from STAVRA, or revise STAVRA with language similar to the Markey proposal which will direct the FCC to approve a new technological standard for set-top boxes prior to eliminating the old. Without such actions, we urge senators to oppose the bill.”

You may view the full letter here.

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