You’ve probably already heard that on February 18, the FCC voted to initiate a new rulemaking proceeding which it says is intended to lead to a new “open” government-designed and mandated “cable set-top box” that would replace the current one provided by your cable, satellite, or telephone company multichannel video program distributor (MVPD). The vote was split 3-2, with the agency’s three Democrats voting in favor and two Republicans dissenting.
Most of the FCC’s own statements concerning its TV device proposal – and consequently most of the news reports on the FCC’s action –suggest that the new rule will give consumers, for the first time, a choice to obtain a set-top box from a provider other than their own MVPD provider. This is not true.
Instead, this is another example of administrative agency overreach to intervene in a marketplace – this one especially dynamic and fast-changing – that is serving consumers far better without such government intervention.
In a commentary published on February 18 in The Hill, here’s what I said at the conclusion:
“But, of course, you don’t need to be a videophile to know that consumers now have many video choices available other than the traditional cable, satellite, and telephone video offerings. Due to technological and marketplace innovation, rapidly proliferating online video services, streaming video devices, gaming consoles, and Smart TVs render Wheeler’s proposal entirely unnecessary. In today’s video environment, consumers may choose among a multitude of services and devices, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Apple TV, and Roku. And they are doing so in exponentially increasing numbers. Indeed, online video subscriptions, led by Amazon Prime and Netlflix, now total 100 million – equal to, or even greater than, the number of subscriptions to traditional video distributors.
The FCC needs to resolve its case of cognitive dissonance. And it needs to resolve it in a way that leads to abandonment of the agency’s ill-conceived proposal for a costly new government-mandated and government-designed video navigation device. Otherwise, this will be another prime example of regulatory policy run amok.”
Please take a look at the entire commentary, and you’ll understand what I mean concerning the FCC’s cognitive dissonance. And I think you’ll agree that this is a prime example of regulatory policy run amok.