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Sens. Warn FCC of Set-Top Proposal Impact on Smaller Operators

A group of senators, including members of the Small Business Committee and a couple of Democrats, have written FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to ask that the FCC further study the impact of its set-top box proposal on smaller pay-TV providers before proceeding to vote on a final order.

Reply comments were due to the FCC on the proposal this week.

In the letter, they said that small providers won't be able to afford the cost of building new architecture to comply with the rules.

The FCC is proposing that MVPDs make their program streams and content available to third-party navigation devices and apps.

They said that even if the FCC provides an exemption that does not necessarily translate to relief as a practical matter.

"When equipment suppliers, programmers, and other vendors are compelled to meet a new standard, it often leaves small operators with no alternative choice but to comply."

They said that putting added burdens on the operators serving mostly rural areas could reduce options for those areas, which is why they say the FCC must "study the costs and impacts" before proceeding. 

“ACA applauds this bipartisan group of senators for standing up for consumers in hard-to-reach rural areas who depend on vital services from smaller pay-tv providers," said American Cable Association President Matt Polka. "The senators, consistent with ACA’s own advocacy at the FCC, rightly point out the harm the FCC’s set-top box proposal would have on these consumers and their providers. As ACA has previously noted, the FCC’s proposal would force more than 200 small providers to either go out of business or cease offering video service, leaving their customers with fewer competitive options. ACA would especially like to thank Senators Daines and Tester for bringing together this bipartisan group of their colleagues to raise the alarm about the burden of this proposal on those who can least afford to comply.”

“NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association appreciates the bipartisan leadership of Senators Daines and Tester," the group said of the letter. "They, along with eight of their Senate colleagues, highlight the increasing concerns with regard to the threats to rural consumers and small companies that would arise if the FCC were to adopt its proposed video navigation technology mandate."

Signing on the letter were Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Jon Tester (R-Mont.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Dean Heller (R-Nev.).