Public Knowledge: Set-top Box Proposal Benefits Everyone - Broadcasting & Cable

Public Knowledge: Set-top Box Proposal Benefits Everyone

But says a contract does not trump FCC rules
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It's good policy and it's the law. That was public knowledge's take on the FCC's proposal to "unlock" the set-top box Initial comments were due to the FCC April 22.  

In its comments, Public Knowledge said that Congress has given the FCC unambiguous authority to promote both app and device competition and that programmers and distributors, as well as computer, will benefit--many of the former do not agree.

"“Opponents of the FCC’s proposal fear the loss of device rental fees, or worry that a more competitive marketplace might put them at a disadvantage," said Public Knowledge senior staff attorney John Bergmayer. "But in our comments, Public Knowledge explains how the FCC’s proposal, in addition to benefitting viewers while protecting privacy and other public interest goals, will ensure that content creators retain control of their programming, will make it easier for viewers to access lawful content (thus decreasing piracy), will promote diverse and minority programming, and will benefit video distribution competition, including making traditional pay TV services more appealing to viewers who might otherwise ‘cut the cord.’

But Public Knowledge also argues that copyright does not trump FCC rules, and says distributors do not have to worry about breach of contract because "there can be no liability for breach of an impossible, impracticable, or unlawful contract or contractual condition. A private agreement negotiated between two parties does not take precedence over Congress or the FCC."

Gigi Sohn, senior adviser to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, is former head of Public Knowledge and a fan of the set-top proposal.

"[A]s the FCC has recognized, the pay TV stranglehold over the viewing experience holds back the marketplace in a number of ways and affects diverse programmers, online video competition, cable bills, and many other things," Public Knowledge told the FCC.  It is therefore critical that the FCC continue its work on this key issue, and for policymakers and stakeholders of all kinds to assist the FCC in resolving any technical or policy issues they may feel are outstanding.”

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