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Wheeler: 'Ditch the Box' Effort Is 'Terrific'

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday he was glad the cable industry offered up a compromise set-top proposal but suggested that indicated many of the problems those same parties had with the initial proposal weren't problems after all.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association and others last week proposed a "ditch the box" variation on the chairman's "unlock the box" proposal last week.

In a Q&A following a speech at the National Press Club on 5G wireless broadband, Wheeler was asked about the cable-backed effort.

"I think it is absolutely terrific that the cable industry came forward with this proposal," he said. "I have been asking them to do this, and I think that by coming forward they indicated that a lot of the arguments that had been put up against our set-top box proposal really fell by the wayside."

He said that cable proposal indicated that copyright can be protected, that privacy can be protected and that small networks can continue to thrive and that you don't have to remake the network to do all that.

"So, I think that what they have done is say, 'yes, the approach that the FCC suggested is an approach that can be taken.'"

He said he wanted to now engage in "constructive" dialog on how you write the specific regulations to achieve that.

He wasn't ready to break out the champagne just yet.

"There have multiple times in the past been situations where the industry has said they would do similar kinds of things and it never came to pass. Let’s make it come to pass now."

Wheeler then echoed his complaint about the 99% of consumers who have no choice but to pay the average $230 per household annual set-top box rental fee. (The story initially incorrectly identified it as a monthy fee.)

He pointed to Congress' mandate to the FCC to create that choice in Sec. 629 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

"It says the FCC shall, not may or should think about, provide that there are competitive navigation devices for consumers and we are going to follow through on that statute," he said.