The FCC has extended the comment period for its March 30
public notice asking for input on the definition of an "MVPD" to May
14 from its previous April 30 deadline.
The National Association of Broadcasters had asked for a
30-day extension, citing the deadline's nearness to the NAB show in Vegas that
would be occupying many broadcasters' attention, but the FCC split the difference,
as it did with the Media Ownership rule comment deadline a couple of weeks ago.
The FCC wants to know whether an entity that offers
"programming over the Internet without providing any of the facilities
that carry programming into viewers homes is an MVPD under the Communications
Act," Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake explained in a luncheon speech to the
Media Institute in Washington.
Lake said that while the proceeding sounds like something
that would only excite communications lawyers -- there were lots of them in the
room -- he said that was not the case. "Extending the rights and duties of
MVPD's to such entities could have effects on other players in the marketplace
in ways that could be hard to predict."
He urged broadcasters to weigh in-currently there are no
comments in the docket.
The implications are wide-ranging, including whether
over-the-top providers would be subject to program access or carriage rules,
PEG channel requirements or retransmission consent/must carry obligations. If MVPD
requires a transmission path and OVPDs (online video programming distributors)
don't have one, they would ostensibly not be subject to those rules and regs.
That would give online distribution a competitive advantage over traditional
cable and could hasten the migration of cable operators to online distribution.
The FCC arguably teed up the issue with online video access
conditions in the Comcast/NBCU deal, which presupposed over-the-top providers
as increasing competition to traditional delivery.