TPI Fellow Slams FCC Set-Top Proposal

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The Technology Policy Institute's Scott Wallsten says the FCC has provided no economic rationale to justify its new set-top box proposal, and provides no evidence of consumer harm from the current set-top marketplace or evidence that consumers would be better off under the FCC's proposal.

In comments to the FCC, Wallsten, VP for research and senior fellow at TPI, said that, by contrast, there is clear evidence that the set-top box marketplace is competitive.

Wallsten said the FCC needs to explain why it believes the set-top marketplace is not competitive and why regulatory intervention is necessary.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has said the set-top marketplace is not competitive, pointing to the fact that 99% of boxes are still leased from MVPDs.

Wallsten said the set-top marketplace is robustly competitive. He also says that the FCC's proposal would do damage to the business models of both programmers and MVPDs.

"Despite the FCC’s assurances, given the many details involved in negotiations between programmers and MVPDs it is unlikely that existing contracts could survive the new rules," he told the FCC. "The new rules would change incentives facing both programmers and MVPDs with uncertain consequences. At a minimum, the FCC should take those concerns seriously and consider the potential effects of its proposed rules."

TPI supporters include both Comcast, the largest member of set-top proposal opponent, and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, as well as Google, one of the set-top proposal's biggest backers.

Asked about that, a spokesperson for TPI said: "We have supporters from all sides of most issues we deal with, and we don’t take positions on issues as an organization. It allows the [institute's] fellows to be independent. Scott [Wallsten] pretty thoroughly went through the FCC’s justifications for regulation and found them to be severely lacking.

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.