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AT&T: Set-Top Plan Indefensible, Nonsensical

AT&T did not mince words in its reply comments on the FCC's set-top box proposal, which is to make MVPDs—AT&T's U-verse for example—provide their set-top programming streams and data available to third-party navigation devices and apps.

AT&T said in comments filed Monday, the deadline for replies, that the proposed rulemaking was "indefensible as a matter of law and nonsensical as a matter of public policy." The company also called it an unnecessary, harmful and deeply flawed "scheme."

AT&T did not see any way to repair the proposal, asking the FCC to "withdraw" the proposal.

AT&T says the FCC's interpretation of the congressional mandate that there be competitive navigation "equipment" to include software applications won't hold up in court, nor will its interpretation that it is authorized to promote new services or mandate "user interfaces."

The FCC's goal is to allow traditional and over-the-top services to be combined in a single search as a way to promote those competitive options.

"[T]he Commission’s proposal deprives MVPDs of established copyright rights, infringes their constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments, and would not survive legal challenge," AT&T said. "And, as a matter of policy, it makes no sense that one company can commandeer its competitors’ assets and branding."

AT&T points to the broad and deep opposition to the FCC proposal that has come from, among others, more than 150 members of Congress; civil rights groups; video programmers; privacy advocates; technology suppliers and labor unions.

Among the many takeaways in the filing are that the marketplace is already competitive; an apps approach is already working in the marketplace; the proposal would harm the video ecosystem, including by facilitating piracy; it would create customer confusion; and it would undermine privacy protections.