US telco Verizon has warned the FCC that in any possible rule-making determining that OTT video providers offering pre-scheduled, linear channels of programming using the Internet are ‘Multichannel Video Programming Distributors’ (MVPDs) could be fatal to such services.
Verizon has filed an ex parte notice following a meeting with FCC officials noting that there are “potential benefits” to such a move, but also expressing concerns. While the potential rules may give online service providers the same access to channels as traditional TV companies, they would also involve certain obligations.
Verizon is likely working on an online service following its January 2014 purchase from Intel of the assets of Intel Media, a business division dedicated to the development of Cloud TV products and services. The transaction was designed to accelerate the availability of next-generation video services, both integrated with Verizon FiOS fibre-optic networks and delivered ‘over the top’ to any device, Verizon said at the time.
In Verizon’s regulatory filing, Leora Hochstein, Executive Director, Federal Regulatory Affairs, wrote that the meeting discussed the potential benefits to OTT video providers if they were found to meet the definition of MVPDs, including the protections of the programme access rules and the retransmission consent good faith negotiation obligations. “We also expressed our strong view that the legacy regulatory regime – and particular requirements, such as franchising and must-carry obligations, that apply to ‘cable operators’ – should not apply to OTT video services or providers and could be fatal to such services,” she said. “With this approach, OTT video offerings would offer the promise of new competitive choices to consumers and increased competition to incumbent cable operators,” she added.
Verizon also stated stated some concerns with the MVPD designation, such as whether regulations governing navigation devices would apply to OTT video providers. “We explained that OTT video services are in a nascent stage of development and that to promote these emerging competitive services, the Commission must allow OTT video providers the flexibility to adopt different technologies for providing their services rather than imposing legacy technology mandates,” wrote Hochstein.