CCIA Supports STELA, But Not Anti-competitive Amendment On TV Set Top Boxes

BY Heather Greenfield
March 12, 2014

Washington – The House Energy & Commerce Communications subcommittee will hold a hearing today to consider legislation from its chairman, Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., that would reauthorize a law setting the rules for satellite subscribers to access broadcast television. The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act expires at the end of this year. While there is agreement in general on extending it, there is controversy over added anticompetitive provisions that would protect the cable industry from independent providers of TV set top boxes.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association supports renewal of STELA, but without unrelated anticompetitive amendments. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“The goal of this legislation is to renew a law so that more than a million people can continue to use a service that offers more choices for watching the TV programs they want. Whenever equipment is untethered from the network, innovation flourishes. We’ve seen this with telephone handsets and personal computers, laptops and tablets. HD CableCARD DVRs are now available, but unsupported by certain cable operators, so the FCC has required cable operators to allow consumer self-installation of these devices, which facilitate two-way Video on Demand.

“Adding an unrelated provision aimed at protecting incumbent companies goes against Congress’s usual goal to avoid picking winners and losers when writing technology bills. Even worse, it undermines the very reason for this piece of legislation –to give customers more TV choices – not fewer.

The following can be attributed to CCIA Vice President Cathy Sloan:

“This amendment would invalidate pro-competitive FCC rules requiring cable operators to use the same security standard that they make available for the retail device market. This would then allow cable operators to rely on IP security standards that are incompatible with devices other than their own set-top boxes. Such a move waters down Section 629 of the Communications Act, which was intended to facilitate the introduction of independent commercial products for consumers to use when accessing multichannel video programming from distributors.  The competitive device market should not become a casualty of the transition to IP networks.

“Congress should not support an amendment to STELA that would invalidate the FCC’s consumer protection mandates in this area.  So we join with the AllVid Tech Company Alliance and numerous public interest and consumer groups in opposition to any amendment that would weaken Section 629 of the Communications Act.”

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