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Time: 2016-10-20 17:36:39 UTC
Original URL: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/10/after-setback-fcc-chairman-keeps-pushing-set-top-box-and-privacy-rules/ [arstechnica.com] using UTF-8 encoding.
Title: After setback, FCC Chairman keeps pushing set-top box and privacy rules
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After setback, FCC Chairman keeps pushing set-top box and privacy rules
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story [arstechnica.com]:
After a rare setback, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is still pushing for votes on plans to reform the cable TV set-top box market and impose new privacy rules on broadband providers.
The FCC was scheduled to vote on the cable TV plan at its last meeting on September 29 but removed it from the agenda [arstechnica.com] when the commission's Democratic majority couldn't agree on all the details. Last-minute negotiations aren't uncommon before FCC meetings, but this was a rare case of Wheeler not having enough votes to move forward with a controversial agenda item.
The cable TV proposal—which would require TV providers to make video applications for third-party set-top boxes—is not on the agenda for next week's FCC meeting. But it could theoretically be passed at any time, as commissioners can vote on it between meetings. It's not clear whether a vote is imminent, but Wheeler touted the plan again in an op-ed on CNET yesterday [cnet.com].
"There is currently a proposal before the FCC that would end the set-top box stranglehold," Wheeler wrote. "If adopted, consumers would no longer have to pay monthly fees to rent a box. Instead, they would be able to access their pay-TV content via free apps on a variety of devices, including smart TVs, streaming boxes, tablets and smartphones. Consumers would also enjoy a better viewing experience thanks to integrated search and new innovation that will flow from enhanced competitive choice."
The TV plan has faced persistent opposition from the cable industry, even though the FCC changed it [arstechnica.com] to assuage some of the industry's concerns. Industry opposition hasn't stopped the FCC from approving other controversial rules, such as the reclassification of broadband and imposition of net neutrality regulations. But in this case, the vote was delayed because Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel seems to be concerned [arstechnica.com] about how cable company applications would be licensed to third-party device makers.
Wheeler said after the vote delay that commissioners simply ran out of time before the scheduled vote. FCC officials haven't said anything further about whether they are closer to an agreement, though all three Democrats (Wheeler, Rosenworcel, and Mignon Clyburn) have said they're still committed to "resolv[ing] the remaining technical and legal issues."
"After so many months, this continuing delay is unacceptable," Kate Forscey, associate counsel of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Ars. "It is the Commission's responsibility to ensure competition and choice in the video marketplace, as well as ensure sufficient oversight to protect consumers. We are urging them to put this item on the agenda as soon as possible—whether that is October, November, December—but that decision ultimately rests on them."
Public Knowledge was among 76 groups that recently urged [publicknowledge.org]the FCC to act on the set-top box and privacy rulemakings quickly.
There is a question of timing, as Wheeler will likely leave his post sometime during the months after a new president [arstechnica.com] is inaugurated in January. Rosenworcel may also be in her final months as a commissioner—her term expired last year and she can remain on the commission only until December 31, 2016 [senate.gov], unless the Senate reconfirms her. Congressional Republicans who oppose various FCC policies have been delaying a vote [morningconsult.com].
Besides the set-top box proposal, Wheeler proposed new privacy rules requiring ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing Web browsing data and other private information with advertisers and other third parties. This plan has also faced industry opposition [arstechnica.com] but is still scheduled for a vote on October 27 [fcc.gov]. Wheeler touted the privacy rulemaking in his op-ed yesterday, saying the commission "will vote" on it this month.
As Wheeler potentially nears the end of his chairmanship, his office has been focused on cataloging his accomplishments. The FCC released a report yesterday [fcc.gov] that lists the major consumer protection decisions taken during his term, from net neutrality to actions related to cell phone unlocking, Wi-Fi blocking, sports TV blackouts, inmate calling prices, robocalls, and cramming charges.