Upton, Walden, Pai to Wheeler: Unlock the Plan

With the vote delayed on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's set-top box proposal, calls have been renewed for the chairman to publish the latest text of that proposal.

Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) were among the prominent members of that club.

"It’s clear that the many questions about the scope and authority of the commission in this set-top box proceeding have taken their toll on its consideration,” they said in a statement.

"It’s time for the commission to engage in the transparent process that the public deserves. It’s time for Chairman Wheeler to release the text and seek public comment," they said.

“As we’ve stated before, this process has been clouded with uncertainty and indecision around both what the commission is proposing and whether the proposal is supported by legal authority."

Following the FCC's public meeting Thursday—where the item was to have been voted before being pulled from the agenda at the last minute—commissioner Ajit Pai renewed his similar call, saying it was time to "unlock the plan," a play on the "unlock the box" title of the chairman's original set-top proposal.

"To me, the proposal doesn't need more time behind closed doors," Pai said. "It needs the public's input for both legal and policy reasons. And that input can only happen if the commission considers the proposal in the context of a further notice. And that's why I believe the majority should release the red line [most recent proposal with changes in red] that was circulated at 9 p.m. last night [Sept. 28]."

If that text were published, Pai said that it would include changes that did not seem to come from any particular commissioner but whose effect, he said, "would have been to grant almost a singular exception to a particular company." He did not elaborate, but did say: "If the commission agrees to release the document, as I think they should, you'll get all that insight into that you deserve."

Wheeler signaled in a post-meeting press conference that publishing the text was not likely.

"This is something that has had public comment that has been going on for a couple of years," he said. "I don't think this is an issue where the public has not had an opportunity to express themselves or has not been heard."

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.