The Future of TV Coalition IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Concern over FCC’s Set-Top Mandate Grows on Capitol Hill

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Concern over FCC’s Set-Top Mandate Grows on Capitol Hill

Future of TV Coalition   •   Press Release   •   May 31, 2016

The FCC’s controversial set-top box mandate continues to attract criticism and tough questions from a growing, bipartisan chorus of lawmakers. Last week, a series of letters voicing specific concerns over the proposal’s impact on rural communities, cybersecurity, energy efficiency, copyright protections, and privacy were sent to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler – including letters from the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees. To date, more than 160 lawmakers have written to the Chairman voicing concerns with the approach the Commission has embraced in its proposal. Highlights of last week’s letters include:

  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter on Thursday to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler voicing support for greater consumer choices but urging the Commission not to enact rules that undermine copyright protections or consumer privacy safeguards. “While you have repeatedly said that copyright law will not be impacted by this proposal, reliance on existing copyright protections is insufficient,” warned Leahy, adding: “I share the Administration’s concern that the proposed licensing process to address consumer privacy ‘leaves important questions to be addressed.’ The patchwork of state privacy laws and Federal Trade Commission enforcement alone are not adequate protections…” Leahy’s letter came just days after his Republican counterpart, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA), also voiced “significant concerns” over the proposal’s impact on “important consumer privacy and copyright interests.”
  • A bipartisan group of 10 Senators, led by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), sent a letter to Chairman Wheeler on Thursday warning that the proposal “could harm rural consumers and small pay-TV providers.” The bipartisan letter concluded: “Putting additional burdens on the smallest providers could significantly reduce options in the most rural areas, which is why additional work needs to be done to study the costs and impacts of the proposed video navigation device rules before moving forward.” A separate letter sent by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) on Friday echoed these concerns, asking, “What assurances can you provide that small providers will be able to meet the standards of the new rule, and that their customers will realize the benefits of increased choice and new technologies?”
  • On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) wrote, “I am gravely concerned that the Commission has not fully considered the potential negative impact on content providers.” Feinstein’s letter also warned the Commission against undermining efforts already underway to dramatically improve the energy efficiency of set-top boxes – echoing concerns voiced earlier in the week by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who wrote, “While the current set-top box model already presents significant energy savings, it would be troubling if the result of the new rule were to double the number of energy-consuming set-top boxes.”
  • Earlier in the week, the Chairman and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees — Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE), Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) — sent Chairman Wheeler a joint letter asking whether the FCC considered cybersecurity concerns when developing the proposed mandate. The letter asks whether the proposal addresses “potential economic harm to content creators or businesses that may be impacted from the potential for cyberattacks or potential harm to infrastructure.”

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