Pai, Latta: Ban the Integration Ban

Pen op ed calling for end to FCC mandate
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FCC commissioner Ajit Pai teamed with Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) on an op ed in The Washington Times Friday calling for an end to the FCC's integration ban.

Latta introduced legislation to do just that, which was incorporated into a House version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act that passed in the House Energy & Commerce Committee on a unanimous, bipartisan vote. Cable operators have long been pushing the FCC to end the ban.

The FCC imposed the ban to try to drive a retail set-top box market, in essence by forcing cable operators to make their set-tops as expensive and energy inefficient as retail boxes, they argue in their piece.

A booming retail box market has not resulted—only1.4 percent of subs buy a retail box—they point out, while cable boxes use more energy than they need at the rate of 500 million kilowatt hours a year in aggregate and cost $56 more apiece, which gets passed on to the customer.

"We haven’t heard anyone complaining lately that they are paying too little for cable service," they said. "So regulators should prioritize measures that will lower prices, not raise them."

They also pointed to the number of different options now for accessing video besides a cable rental box, including video game consoles, tablets, phones and streaming set-tops from Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple, also echoing cable industry arguments and examples.

By ending the ban, they said, "we can kill two birds with one stone"—save consumers money and recognize that the marketplace has changed. The FCC could lift the ban on its own dime, or Congress could do it in STELA, but in either case they want it done.

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