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Democrats Push FCC's Wheeler for Set-Top Further Notice

Sixty-four House Democrats have written the FCC to ask chairman Tom Wheeler to publish the text of his apps-based variation of the "unlock the box" set-top plan by way of a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which would require additional public comment before the FCC votes on a final order.

The FCC signaled in a sunshine notice on the Sept. 29 meeting agenda Thursday that the chairman was still planning a vote on the plan as an order, resulting from the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the "unlock the box" proposal approved by a politically divided FCC earlier this year.

FCC staffers have been holding numerous meetings with stakeholders this week as the chairman tried to tweak the item so itcould gain the support of at least three commissioners.

Related: Sen. Feinstein to Wheeler: Publish Set-top Proposal

In the letter, the legislators, led by Tony Cárdenas, pointed to the 200-plus members of Congress -- House and Senate and both sides of the aisle -- who had registered their concerns and those of constituents and businesses.

They suggested that the FCC's recent apps-based pivot was sufficiently different from the original "unlock the box" plan that was voted in the NPRM that a further NPRM (FNPRM) was needed.

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"Since the FCC can use a FNPRM to receive comment on a new or modified proposal," they said, "we believe this is appropriate to allow the public to weigh in on this revamped version."

They also said the new plan's creation of a standard license -- for the app supplied to third-party device manufacturers -- "strikes at the heart of the way content creators exercise their copyrights."

Related: AFL-CIO Lays Into FCC Set-Top Plan

They said the standard license could encroach on existing, "carefully negotiated between content creators and pay-TV providers."

They pointed out that time was of the essence and wanted an answer ASAP.

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.