Wheeler: Set-Top Plan Is Energy Efficient

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has assured Capitol Hill that the FCC's "unlock the box" set-top proposal will reduce energy consumption.

That came in a letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) just published on the FCC's website.

"I share your interest in ensuring that our proceeding facilitates advancements in energy efficiency," Wheeler told the senator. "A majority of set top boxes deployed by Pay-TV companies today are not energy efficient using approximately 300 kWh per year, while other options such as streaming devices use as little as 6 kWh per year," he said. "By facilitating competition in interfaces, search functions, and integration of programming sources, consumers will be able to consolidate the number of devices they use to access their programming, and take advantage of new devices on the market, thereby reducing their energy consumption."

Cable operators have said the FCC proposal would add, not subtract, from the home device count.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has argued in comments to the FCC that the commission's proposal would undermine energy efficiency, including pointing to the Natural Resources Defense Council concern that the FCC "did not take into account the energy use and environmental implications of its proposal."

The "unlock the box" proposal did say that giving third parties access to MVPD info “will ensure that consumers will not be forced to use outdated, power-hungry hardware to receive [MVPD] services," but NCTA countered that it was the FCC proposal that would "force consumers to use energy-wasting additional devices," saying that MVPD set-tops have rapidly improved their energy efficiency—in 2012 the MVPDs, equipment suppliers and others, struck an agreement on energy efficiency.

NCTA has said the FCC proposal would "erase" gains made under that agreement.

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.