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Citizens’ group opposes FCC open STB policy

Tom Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) – a nonpartisan, non-profit organisation dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government – has submitted public comments to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in opposition to the February 18th notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on set-top boxes.

CAGW wrote that the NPRM “unnecessarily imposes technology mandates on multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs); forces them to relinquish intellectual property to third parties; makes costly overhauls to the manner in which they currently provide video content to consumers; and, discourages future innovation in a changing video marketplace … Government mandates on technology rarely accomplish their intended goals and often cause technology stagnation. Such a result is highly likely based on the proposed mandates in the NPRM. Technology is dynamically changing, and the innovations of today will be quickly out of date. These disruptive advances are among the reasons that the FCC’s past technology standard mandates have not been able to keep pace with innovation in the private sector.”

“Perhaps one of the most pernicious and disturbing mandates in the NPRM is the requirement that MVPDs turn over proprietary information and data to third-party manufacturers of alternative set-top box devices. This requirement lays the groundwork for gross violations of intellectual property rights by government officials under the guise of consumer benefit. … The violations of content providers’ intellectual property rights that would occur under the NPRM could be exacerbated by mixing illegal online content with legitimate pay-TV services, as there is nothing in the NPRM banning this practice.”

In urging the FCC to reject the NPRM, CAGW noted that the “proposed set-top box mandates will prevent technological advances and attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t exist”.

The CAGW also noted that Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications have announced plans to beta-launch a multi-channel streaming video service for the Roku 3 media device, and that Comcast announced that it will be releasing video streaming apps, initially for Samsung and Roku, that will enable customers to access content without any need for a set-top box.

Separately, CAGW has denounced efforts by President Obama to interfere with the rulemaking.

CAGW plans to continue its opposition as the process moves forward.

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