Today, Energy and Commerce Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) issued a statement against the Federal Communications Commission’s set-top box proposal designed to open up the set-top box market for consumers.
Every time I tell people about the Federal Communications Commission’s #UnlockTheBox proceeding, the reaction is always the same: It’s a no-brainer. They burst into rants about how much they hate the boxes, that they hate paying so much, and that they can't understand why someone hasn't done something about this cable box rip-off that results in such a lackluster product and poor service. Even as they thank heaven, the FCC, and consumer advocates for their efforts to actually fix this, they ask why it hasn’t been done sooner. It’s getting ridiculous.
Today, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he is circulating a set-top box proposal to the other four FCC commissioners detailing a plan that would require most pay-TV companies (cable and satellite companies, as well as telco providers like Verizon FiOS) to allow consumers to access their TV subscriptions on the device of their choice, without the need to use a rented set-top box. The approach would require pay-TV companies to make apps available to consumers on the devices that they use, and to ensure that the apps were competitive, open, and allow consumer devices to offer compelling features like universal search.
Today, the United States Copyright Office sent a letter to Congress claiming that the Federal Communications Commission’s set-top box proposal “could interfere with copyright owners’ rights to license their works, and [could] restrict their ability to impose ... conditions on the use of those works.” Public Knowledge finds that the Copyright Office has relied on factual inaccuracies and a deeply flawed legal analysis to challenge the FCC’s efforts to protect consumers and competition in the set-top box market.
Yesterday, Public Knowledge and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that online cable services like FilmOn qualify for the same statutory copyright licenses as traditional cable systems. This license allows qualifying services to carry broadcast programming, provided they are otherwise complying with Federal Communications Commission rules. Public Knowledge rejects the idea that traditional pay-TV should receive special treatment denied to online video services.