Bipartisan support for simplicity at the FCC

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The Federal Communication Commission’s decision to move ahead with writing new rules for set top boxes was made on a party line 3 to 2 vote. But that’s not the way the vote on the final rules will necessarily go.

FCC chair Tom Wheeler is all for the draft rules as written – no surprise, his office wrote them. So is Mignon Clyburn, a fellow democrat. The third democrat, Jessica Rosenworcel is not as enthusiastic, though

This rulemaking is complicated…The most successful regulatory efforts are simple ones. More work needs to be done to streamline this proposal, because in the end for consumers to enjoy the bounty of what we have proposed—execution is all.

So what we have here may not be the precise way forward. But something has got to give. I support Chairman Wheeler’s effort to get this proceeding started.

On the other hand, Ajit Pai, a republican, says he wants to push it even further

Our goal should not be to unlock the box; it should be to eliminate the box. If you are a cable customer and you don’t want to have a set-top box, you shouldn’t be required to have one. This goal is technically feasible, and it reflects most consumers’ preferences—including my own.

Pai’s objective is arguably within the scope of the draft rules, although you can find enough devils in the details to drag out the argument for decades. Which is the point Rosenworcel is making. The ultimate vote might be split between commissioners who want to flatten the playing field with simple rules that let anyone play, and those who prefer to keep the game complicated. And firmly inside Washington.