Wyden, Franken Push For FCC Set-Top Plan

With the FCC's vote on "unlocking the apps" set-top proposal a day away, Hill fans of the plan are doing some last-minute pushing.

Following Tuesday's press conference with plan backers Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-calif.), Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) issued statements in support.

"It is long past time to break the stranglehold Big Cable has over their customers through forced set-top box rental fees," said Wyden. "Cable providers should not double dip on customers who are already paying monthly subscription fees for their content. The FCC should act, as directed by Congress, on its authority to create a competitive marketplace that will save consumers money and promote innovation in the industry. Oregonians and Americans should not be held captive by Big Cable’s price gouging. At this Thursday’s FCC Commission meeting I urge the Commissioners to pass Chairman Wheeler’s proposal and unlock the box.”

Franken took to Facebook to try to convince his followers to support FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal.

"The Federal Communications Commission—or FCC—has said that it’s time to 'unlock the box' and give consumers a meaningful choice in how they access the content they pay for," Franken said. "Instead of renting one of those dust gatherers, consumers would be able to access the full content of their cable subscription via an app—just like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO GO—at no additional charge. That means you’d use the app with your smartphone, tablet, smart TV, or on a device like the Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire Stick. Can you imagine how much easier that would be than the outdated way we’re doing things now? The FCC is voting on the proposal tomorrow, and I really hope they’ll side with consumers and vote to unlock the box."

Wheeler is proposing an app-based approach to unlocking that box, with MVPDs supplying an app to make their content available and searchable alongside over-the-top content.

While ISPs suggested an app-based approach, the FCC's creation of an app standards body and its assertion of authority to modify agreements that are not reasonable or competitive has prompted concerns not only from ISPs and the programmers with which they have contracts, but legislators on both sides of the aisle, as well as app developers and unions and diversity groups.

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.