Pai to Hill: Set-Top Plan Has United Critics

Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai tells Congress he has never seen a larger or more diverse group coalesce around an issue than those who share his concerns about the FCC's set-top box proposal.

That came in prepared testimony for an FCC oversight hearing in the House Communications Subcommittee July 12.

Pai voted against a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring MVPDs to make their set-top data and content available to third parties. "Chairman Wheeler’s proposal has united content creators and cable operators. It has brought together Democrats and Republicans, conservatives, moderates, and liberals. And it has led to civil rights organizations, privacy advocates, environmental organizations, and free-market proponents making common cause in opposition to the FCC's proposal," he said, which he called a "scheme" that "misses the mark."

Pai spent most of his testimony on the set-top issue.

He said the FCC's set-top proposal must protect intellectual property, should not result in digital redlining, should take into account the challenges faced by smaller MVPDs, particularly in rural America (Pai is from Kansas), and must protect privacy.

He did not endorse cable operators' "ditch the box" app-based alternative set-top proposal, but his issues were all ones cable ops have said that proposal tried to address.

"My office is currently reviewing that proposal and meeting with a wide range of stakeholders to see what they think about it," he said, adding that the FCC "should welcome and encourage the market’s movement in the direction of apps."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he is fine with moving in the app direction, so long as it provides a competitive alternative to leased set-tops, including by wedding the user interface for traditional and online content searches.

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.