E&C Leaders Ask Pai to Close Set-Top Docket

New FCC chairman Ajit Pai is a long and strong opponent of FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to revamp the set-top box marketplace to boost online video competition, and would be unlikely to exhume that push, but the Republican leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee want him to put a nail in the coffin.

In a letter to Pai Wednesday (Jan. 25), Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Communications Subcommittee chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Energy and Commerce Committee vice chairman Joe Barton (R-Tex.), and every Republican member of the Communications Subcommittee asked him to officially close the docket on the proceeding.

"The regulatory overhang of the set-top box regulation has cast a shadow over investment and innovation in traditional video programming delivery," they said. "[w]e urge you to close the proceeding and permit the industry to innovate and serve consumers free from the restrictions of a government-chosen platform."

They said it would generally be a good idea to close all inactive dockets. and that in this particular case it should be closed as an "unnecessary regulatory threat to content creation and distribution industries" and to signal to video program distributors "that they can bring technological advances to set-top boxes and video delivery without fear that the Commission overturn them by regulation."

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler proposed requiring MVPDs to make data and program info available to third parties, first devices, then apps, to allow a better co-mingling of traditional and online video. But there was pushback from Republicans and Democrats over issues of copyright protection and the FCC's role in approving an app-based approach to accessing the MVPD content, so Wheeler could not get three votes for the item before time ran out on his tenure.

Chairman Pai’s office said it was reviewing the letter.

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.