Roku CEO Rips FCC Set-Top Proposal

Says FCC should focus on banning data caps, zero rating plans
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While Roku has been one of the companies touted as benefitting from the FCC's set-top box “unlocking” proposal, its CEO Anthony Wood isn't behind the proposal.

On the same day that official comments were due on FCC chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to "unlock" MVPD set-top box info and supply it to third-party navigation devices Wood provided some unofficial commentary in a Wall Street Journal op ed to the effect that the FCC was off track.

He said that at the prodding of Google and TiVo, the FCC was unnecessarily forcing cable companies to make their services available as an open set of streams to those third parties.

"This might seem like a great deal for consumers and companies like mine, but once you start peeling back the layers, the picture changes," said Wood. "The proposed regulation would—as we say in the industry—'decouple the user interface' from the video and data itself. This would allow a company like Google to do to the TV what it did on the Web—build an interface without the 'inconvenience' of licensing content or entering into business agreements with content companies such as ABC, FOX, HBO, or video distributors like pay TV operators. The unintended consequences of circumventing these kinds of arrangements are likely to include increased costs for consumers, reduced choices and less innovation."

He says regulating the set-top is unnecessary and fails to recognize that a video service interface is integral to its economics.

"A common practice in video content distribution is to offer a low-price, entry-level video package and sell step-up options to customers in the user interface," he said. "The entry price is often a loss-leader, so if the ability to offer discounts and promote additional services disappears, as would happen under the proposed regulations, prices will likely rise on basic video packages."

Taking aim at Google, he said the FCC proposal would help it ride into consumers homes on the back of other people's content rights but with the goal of offering its own service.

He was on the same page as cable operators on those points but diverged with a plug for banning "discriminatory" data caps and zero rating "schemes" which he said was much more important than opening up boxes.

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