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FCC Chair's update on 5G wireless, robocalls, business data services & more

Tom Wheeler | Sept. 16, 2016
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's statement to U.S. Senate on Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission

Today, 99 percent of pay-TV consumers pay hundreds of dollars in set-top box rental fees on top of their monthly bill every year because they don’t have meaningful alternatives.  This February, the Commission launched a proceeding to assure consumer choice in the set-top box marketplace, as Congress mandated.  

Over the past seven months, the Commission has conducted an open proceeding where we heard from pay-TV providers, programmers, device and software manufacturers, consumers groups, and, most important, the American people.  I was heartened to see the industry and other stakeholders step up to tackle the issue with constructive feedback. 

Last week, I circulated proposed rules to fulfill our Congressional mandate and provide consumers with choice in how they access pay-TV content.  If adopted, consumers will no longer have to rent a set-top box, month after month, just to watch the programming they already pay for. Instead, pay-TV providers will be required to provide apps – free of charge– that consumers can download to a variety of devices to access all the programming they pay for.

Among other consumer benefits, these rules would enable integrated search across different sources of content and open the door for innovation, spurring new apps and devices, giving consumer more choice and control.  Expanded access to programming created by independent and diverse voices on the same platform as your pay-TV provider’s would mean consumers will more easily find content that is buried behind guides or not available from a pay-TV provider. 

To ensure that all copyright and licensing agreements will remain intact and in response to feedback we received, the delivery of programming will continue to be overseen by pay-TV providers from end-to-end.  The proposed rules also maintain important consumer protections regarding emergency alerting, accessibility and privacy. 


After months of talks with stakeholders, the Commission launched a proceeding in March to give consumers the tools they need to make informed decisions about how Internet Service Providers use and share their data, and confidence that ISPs are taking steps to keep that data secure – all while encouraging continued innovation by ISPs and other actors.

For the past six months, we’ve been listening, learning, and speaking with the public to figure out the best way to achieve these goals.  Parties engaged in this process have included – among others – consumer and other public interest groups, fixed and mobile ISPs, advertisers, app and software developers, academics, other government actors, and individual consumers.  The FTC’s input has been particularly helpful as a key partner in consumer privacy protection.

I am confident we’ll be able to arrive at final rules that are good for consumers and good for innovation later this year.


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