House Republicans are asking new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to officially scrap a proposal that would have allowed consumers to replace their set-top boxes with apps.
The proposal "remains an unnecessary regulatory threat to the content creation and distribution industries," Reps. Greg Walden (Oregon), Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee) and 17 other members of the Committee on Energy and Commerce say in a letter to Pai.
Last September, former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler put forward a plan to require cable and satellite providers to make television programs available to subscribers via apps. The initiative stalled after former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel raised questions about proposal.
Consumer advocates supported Wheeler's proposal, arguing that the rules would allow cable subscribers to save an average of $231 a year on set-top-box rental fees. But Internet service providers and various industry groups, including the Association of National Advertisers, criticized the potential rules. The ANA raised concerns that the plan could "open avenues for piracy of copyrighted and protected material."
Before Wheeler proposed letting people replace set-top boxes with apps, he put forward an even more sweeping proposal that would have allowed Google and other companies to develop set-top boxes that could access pay-TV programs.
Last February, Pai dissented from the vote to move forward with that earlier proposal. "Our goal should not be to unlock the box; it should be to eliminate the box," he stated at the time. "If you are a cable customer and you don’t want to have a set-top box, you shouldn’t be required to have one. This goal is technically feasible, and it reflects most consumers’ preferences -- including my own."
House Republicans on the Commerce Committee now want Pai to officially close the FCC's docket on the proposal.
"The regulatory overhang of set-top box regulation has cast a shadow over investment and innovation in traditional video programming delivery," they argue. "This has pushed video programming and delivery innovation out to the edge, which is currently unhampered by regulation."