Technology Transitions, Video, and the Future

Consumers have long complained about how their cable support forces them to buy channels they never watch. The move associated with video onto the Internet can do some thing about that frustration – but first Internet video services need access to the programs. Today the FCC requires the first step to open access to cable programs as well as local television. The result ought to be to give consumers more alternatives to choose from so they can buy the programs they want.

In 1992 Congress realized that the then-nascent satellite industry would have a hard time competing because much wire programming was owned by wire companies who frequently kept this from competitors. Congress mandated access to cable channels for satellite solutions, and competition flourished. Today We are proposing to extend the same concept to the providers of linear, Internet-based solutions; to encourage new video alternatives by opening up access to content previously locked on cable channels. Exactly what could these over-the-top video providers (OTTs) supply to consumers? Many different kinds of multichannel video packages designed for different tastes and preferences. A better ability for a consumer to order the channels he or she wants to watch.

So-called linear channels, which offer the viewer a prescheduled lineup of programs, have been the largely exclusive purview of over-the-air broadcasting, cable, and satellite TV. Require kinds of packages of programming are coming to the Web as well. DISH reports that it intends to launch an online service that may include smaller programming bundles. And it has already begun providing foreign language channels online. Sony, DIRECTV, and Verizon are also in the hunt. Recently, CBS announced a loading service that includes linear channels, individual from cable subscriptions; and the brand new HBO service may as well.

The mantra “Competition, Competition, Competition” fits perfectly with consumers’ desires for video choices. That’s the reason why I’m asking my fellow Commissioners to update video competition guidelines so our rules won’t work as a barrier to this kind of advancement. Specifically, I am asking the Percentage to start a rulemaking proceeding in which we would modernize our interpretation from the term “multichannel video programming distributor” (MVPD) so that it is technology-neutral. The effect of this technical adjustment will be to give MVPDs that use the Internet (or some other method of transmission) the same access to programming owned by cable operators and the same ability to negotiate to carry broadcast TV stations that Congress offered to satellite systems in order to make certain competitive video markets.

A key component of rules that encourage competition is assuring the FCC’s rules are technology-neutral. That’s the reason why the definition of an MVPD should switch on the services that a provider offers, not on how those services reach audiences. Twenty-first century consumers shouldn’t become shackled to rules that only recognize 20th century technology.

Much of the focus of debate about technology transitions has been on telecommunications, but video is moving too. Over-the-air TV has already shifted from analog to digital tranny. And cable systems – currently the dominant providers of high rate broadband – are moving their traditional services to IP-based shipping. This proposal recognizes that a wire system would continue to be regulated being a cable system, even if it migrates to IP delivery.

The Commission established in our The month of january Tech Transitions Order that the simplest way to speed the adoption of new technologies is to assure consumers that enduring values will be protected, including competitors. That applies to video as well as telecommunications. By making our rules technology neutral, we can encourage both new movie providers and incumbent cable workers to take advantage of the benefits of IP tranny, boosting competition.

In our Open Internet proceeding, we seek to assure open access to broadband shipping. In this proceeding, we will address access to programming for those taking advantage of that open up access. These new business models can bring new choices and advantages in order to consumers.

In Name VI of the Communications Act, Congress created rules to ensure that cable companies that own video content can’t raise artificial barriers to competitors by refusing to let their video competitors have access to the programming they own. That worked to get satellite providers, and also helped telephone companies entering the video business. In my opinion it makes just as much sense – and can have just as positive a consumer benefit – for an OTT.

Such benefits follow from advancement. Taking advantage of this rule, new OTTs may offer smaller or specialized packages of video programming, so consumers will be able to mix-and-match to suit their tastes. Aereo recently visited the Commission to make exactly this point – that updating the definition of an MVPD will provide consumers with new choices. And perhaps consumers will not be forced to pay for channels they never watch.

Opening up program access will also stimulate the high-speed broadband buildout. In September, I detailed how limited today’s competition for high speed fixed broadband in the United States is – about 75 percent of United states homes have either zero or even only one broadband network delivering rates of speed of 25 Mbps downstream/3 Mbps upstream or better. Those wanting to deploy new competitive broadband systems tell us that it’s hard to provide new high-speed Internet access without also being able to offer a competitive video package deal as well. An updated definition of MVPD would permit a new broadband rival to offer customers the ability to reach a variety of OTT video packages without always having to enter the video business by itself.

We have passed through an era where it was necessary to build a purpose-specific pathway to deliver video. The innovation of Internet Protocol (IP) has freed video from these closed pathways and single-purpose devices. The proposal put forth today will update FCC rules to recognize this brand new reality and, as a result, expand competitors and consumer choice.

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