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IBEW Opposes FCC Set-Top Plan

Add the 750,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) to those opposed to the FCC's set-top box proposal.

While the union has called for a pause in the proceedings, it has also signaled that it is not convinced any change in the regime is justified.

The FCC is proposing to require MVPDs to make their program streams and data available to third-party navigation devices as a way to unite traditional and online content. MVPDs say it is a way to threaten their business model and content protection in service of a backward-looking, set-top-driven view of an app-driven video access world.

In a letter to the FCC, IBEW international president Lonnie Stephenson said the proposal would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and hurt its broadcast and MVPD workers.

How so? By unfairly favoring the business model of one company—that would be Google, though the name is left blank—and thereby "weakening the contractual protections of service providers."

He said that under the proposal consumers would be confused if they had problems and would call the MVPD even if the fault was somewhere else and could not be resolved by that MVPD's customer service rep, often an IBEW member.

Stephenson said broadcast members were worried that the proposal would shift the balance of power from those who produce and broadcast content to those who control the set-top box.

He said in that case, it would hardly be surprising for consumers to express their frustrations with the MVPD and broadcast programming and seek other alternatives. Weakening license terms, he says, "hurts broadcasting and thus puts jobs in broadcasting at risk."

He agrees with those in the minority programming community that the proposal would hurt minority and diverse programming.

Stephenson called for a pause in the proceeding, but also said IBEW believed the FCC had failed to justify why a rule change was needed, given the "highly competitive" market, and signaled withdrawing the proposal entirely would be just fine with the union.