Group of 76 Organizations Leads Parade for FCC Action

Tell commissioners to move on set-tops, zero rating, broadband privacy

Looking to light a fire under the FCC, a group of 76 organizations have written chairman Tom Wheeler and the other commissioners to urge them to take action on three items and issues currently before the commission.

Those are the set-top box proposal, broadband privacy and the zero-rating plan investigation.

The commissioners are currently vetting an updated set-top proposal and zero rating is an ongoing inquiry, Wheeler has said recently. Broadband privacy is up for a vote at the Oct. 27 public meeting, so it appears to be the closest to action, though Wheeler could add the set-top proposal to the October meeting if he can get three votes for it, and though the privacy proposal has been tweaked, it continues to get pushback from industry and some in Congress.

In the letter, they called the three items "big opportunities" to protect consumers. Wheeler has said he wanted to act on set-tops and broadband privacy by year's end but has not provided a timetable for the zero-rating investigation/inquiry.

The FCC is looking into zero-rating plans both on its own dime and in response to a complaint under the Open Internet general conduct standard, which the FCC can use to decide, on a case-by-case basis, that a practice not specifically prohibited under the rules impedes an Open Internet.

Related: O'Rielly Says Zero-Rating Plan Has Chilled Offerings

The groups asked the commission to "liberate" those consumers from the set-top "monopoly"; "promulgate rules that foster trust in the integrity of broadband privacy"; and "prohibit abusive data caps and zero rating plans that violate net neutrality."

The set-top proposal would require MVPDs to make their content available to third parties via a device or app as a way to promote competition in navigation devices and give online video competitors a stronger platform for competing with that MVPD content, both of which are FCC goals under Wheeler.

While the broadband privacy item is scheduled for a public vote, it is unclear when the set-top box order will be voted. It was pulled off last month's meeting agenda and placed on circulation, which means it could be voted any time, though if the chairman does line up three votes, he could add it to the Oct. 27 agenda, which would make sense politically given that both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have called for transparency in how that item is dealt with.

Among the many signatories to the letter, which was dated Oct. 17, are Public Knowledge, Free Press, Demand Progress and the Center for Digital Democracy.