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Amazon Joins Chorus of FCC Set-Top Plan Questioners

In a phone conversation with the top aides to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Amazon execs have warned against inserting a government committee into what should be a marketplace-driven regime.

Following criticism of his "unlock the box" set-top proposal, Wheeler last week unveiled a new, app-based plan for providing competitive video navigation but would do so under the auspices of a standards committee over which the FCC would have oversight.

According to an ex parte filing with the commission, Amazon execs told Wheeler aides that "a well-functioning market solution—and not a government supervised industry committee—is the appropriate solution in the first instance. If examples of market failure arise, then a complaint process can be used to address related concerns."

The Amazon execs said MVPDs should be able to participate in the current existing open app market rather than under a new government regime. 

"Millions of app developers already work productively within this system," they said, according to the document. "In this context, there is no need for app licensing terms to be determined by an industry group subject to Commission oversight. The process to create such a license and oversight body will delay competition and delay customers from receiving the MVPD services they already pay for on the device of their choice."

App developers have also raised concerns about having a standards body overseeing the apps MVPDs would supply to third parties.

Amazon said that if the FCC is concerned about MVPDs imposing unfair terms and conditions, "it could create a complaint process through which an aggrieved party could file a complaint about unfair terms and conditions."

Wheeler has scheduled the set-top proposal for a vote at the Sept. 29 open meeting, but ISPs and programmers are pushing back—they favor an app-based approach but not the standards body—including with commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who has had issues with the proposal from the beginning. While voting for the rulemaking proposal, she said changes needed to be made and was getting the full court press from Hollywood last week with the message that changes still were needed.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.