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Rep. Pallone Buoyed By FCC, Industry Set-Top Talks

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, has signaled he likes the direction set-top box compromise talks are taking, so long as the final destination is consumer friendly and protects content.

Industry players and FCC officials have been meeting all this week about a possible compromise on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's "unlock the box" proposal to require cable operators to make their content and user data available to third-party navigation devices and apps.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said he was looking forward to engaging in a "constructive dialog."

“One thing everyone can agree on is that our set-top boxes can be clunky, bad for the environment and expensive," he said in a comment provided to B&C. "The recent proposal from industry and the reaction from the FCC has brought us closer to a positive resolution," he said.

"Now, it’s important that we hear from those that create American’s most popular content," said Pallone.

"Ultimately, I will view the FCC decision as a success so long as consumers continue to enjoy the content they love whenever and wherever they want, and their privacy is not compromised. Consumers will not care how their TVs work if they can’t get the same quality programming, and no one will feel comfortable watching if they do not think their personal information is protected."

Those talks come following the introduction of the "ditch the box" apps-focused compromise proposal by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and others, as well as the signal from Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, whose vote is needed to pass a final order, that the FCC needs to find another route to the shared goal of competition for leased set-tops and access to over-the-top content

Pallone is said to be focused on a couple of things: first protecting content and second—as ranking member—reuniting committee Democrats split over the FCC set-top proposal.

New York Democrat Yvette Clarke, for example, has pushed back strongly on the FCC plan, while House Communications Subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has tried to marshal support from her colleagues for the proposal.

The Communications Subcommittee is holding an FCC oversight hearing July 12, where set-tops will be a hot topic of conversation, including with Pallone. "I look forward to continued discussion on this topic at the FCC Oversight hearing," he said.

If the FCC can work out a compromise with industry, that would be a good place for Wheeler to unveil it.

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.