NCTA Floods FCC With 'Ditch the Box' Data

In response to the FCC's request for more information and clarification on cable operators' HTML5 apps-based "ditch the box" alternative to the FCC's "unlock the box" set-top plan—chairman Tom Wheeler called the initial proposal a one-page press release rather than a plan—the National Cable & Telecommunications Association has offered up a 30-page filing.

And if the chairman is still counting pages, NCTA pointed out in a blog post that the filing also included "over one thousand pages" of supporting material. That filing came July 21, the deadline FCC staffers had set for responses to a raft of questions.

NCTA blogged that supporting material shows how its proposal will "advance the cause of retail device competition while respecting the rights of content creators and distributors."

Page counts notwithstanding, the trade group was still able to boil the proposal down to its essence in a paragraph: "What the apps proposal will do is allow consumers to choose to watch their cable service without the need for a set-top box. What it will not and should not do is to permit third parties to ignore copyright law and the decision of content creators as to how their content is packaged and presented to consumers."

NCTA warned that trying to add the FCC "information flows" requirements on its "ditch the box" proposal wasn't going to work.

"Some proponents of the [FCC's] original proposal have nonetheless sought to 'bolt on' the 'information flows' from the [FCC proposal] to the HTML5 apps-based proposal," NCTA said. "Some seek those unbundled flows in the name of stripping out the MVPD’s user interface in favor of their own, or in favor of allowing third party app developers to write their own apps from the unbundled flows.  But they continue to make crystal clear that they do not consider protecting channel lineup, agreed-upon presentation of service, or limiting the spread of pirate content to be within the permissible rights of copyright owners or even tolerable under FCC rules, and seek to use 'information flows' to defeat all such protections."

NCTA said that would instead defeat the proposal. "This approach would undo the entire HTML5 approach and recreate the failings of the [FCC] proposal," NCTA said. 

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.