In the wake of the FCC’s decision to delay a vote on proposed rules that would replace cable set-top boxes with an apps-based solution to allow subscribers to access multichannel video program distributor (MVPD) programming on the devices of their choice, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) asked FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last Friday to publish the text of the draft order as a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNRPM) which would provide opportunities for public comment on the apps-based plan. 

The FCC has yet to reschedule a vote on the draft order, which, reportedly, lacks support at this time from a majority of the agency’s commissioners.  Noting that the apps-based plan offered by MVPDs “appears to differ significantly from the one publicly proposed by the Commission” in its corresponding rulemaking notice, Thune lamented that “consumers are not currently able to read this far-reaching new plan” which would replace the FCC’s original proposal to open set-top information streams to third-party device makers.  As such, Thune called on Wheeler to open further rulemaking proceedings on the apps-based plan, declaring:  “there is no need or urgency for the Commission to rush . . . to adopt a final order.” 

Echoing Thune, the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC) joined the National Urban League, the NAACP and various other organizations in urging the FCC to lift “sunshine” restrictions in the set-top box proceeding to allow additional opportunities for public comment.  Asserting that the FCC’s postponement “validates our concerns” with the new apps-based plan, a spokeswoman for MMTC told reporters that the FCC should instead “ask the public for feedback on the current proposal to assist the commissioners in arriving at the best possible result for current and future television viewers, as well as content creators.”