FCC Releases Set-Top Proposal

The FCC has released the text—all 100-plus pages—of its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on opening up MVPD set-top content to third parties (actually, it did so late Thursday, according to a commission spokesperson).

A divided FCC voted early Thursday to approve the NRPM

An FCC source said it is likely already on its way to the Federal Register, whose publication, likely within 10 days to two weeks—will trigger the 60-day comment window that must precede any vote on a final order.

Fans and foes of the proposal have already been weighing in in abundance, but if those comments are any indication, the official docket will fill up quickly.

The information that MVPDs will have to pass is "(1) service discovery (information about what programming is available to the consumer, such as the channel listing and video-on-demand lineup, and what is on those channels), (2) entitlements (information about what a device is allowed to do with content, such as record it), and (3) content delivery (the video programming itself, along with information necessary to make the programming accessible to persons with disabilities)."

As first reported by B&C, the proposal requires third parties to certify (either themselves or possibly through some third party) that they will protect the privacy of cable subs' information (customer proprietary network information [CPNI])—cable operators are bound by FCC CPNI rules that don't apply to third party device makers or app developers.

In fact the FCC will not allow an MVPD to pass through its information streams to a third party without that certification. The FCC also said it will make passing through emergency alert information and limits on children's advertising quid pro quos for access to the data, and cable operators can't let the streams leave home without those certifications as well.

"Navigation Devices that have been certified by the developer to meet certain public interest requirements. We tentatively conclude that this certification must state that the developer will adhere to privacy protections, pass through EAS messages, and adhere to children’s programming advertising limits," the FCC said.

Cable operators say the FCC won't be able to enforce those certifications—though the third party certification appears an effort to address that concern—and have pointed out that, in the Open Internet proceeding, the FCC would not accept ISPs promises not to block or degrade or prioritize for pay.

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.