Comcast, AT&T Slam Wheeler’s Set-Top Plan

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler got more pushback from MVPDs Thursday over his set-top box proposal.

Wheeler has said his proposal is about coming up with open standards for new video access devices and not the cable business model, but MVPDs see it very differently.

In a blog post, Comcast chief technology officer Mark Hess, said the proposal would require MVPDs "to disaggregate or separate their services so that a few companies could repackage them as their own without negotiating for content rights like everybody else in the market does today."

He said despite the chairman's suggestion of consumer benefits, the opposite was the case. "The proposal, like prior federal government technology mandates, would impose costs on consumers, adversely impact the creation of high-quality content, and chill innovation," he said. "It also flies in the face of the rapid changes that are occurring in the marketplace and benefitting consumers."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler insists that his proposal is about open vs. closed standards not blowing up the cable business model, including tiering or channel positioning or programming contracts.

AT&T was equally unhappy, accusing the chairman, or at least the FCC, of favoring one company--it did not say Google, but that is the likely target--while feigning consumer focus.

“The Chairman's proposal is another disappointing example of an FCC that thinks it's smarter than highly competitive markets," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T senior executive VP. external and legislative affairs. "Pretending to favor consumers, they're instead favoring one company that seeks to siphon profits away from those actually investing to build broadband and create exciting content.  In short, by once again putting its thumb on the scale, the FCC will discourage the very investment it claims to want.”

John Eggerton

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.