Wheeler Promises Speedy Resolution Of Set-Top Fix

Says Commission Will Work With Working Group Established By Statute
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Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said Monday that they have been assured by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that he will move quickly in coming up with a new plan for creating a competitive set-top box market.

The senators released Wheeler's response to the request for that expedited action, which followed the passage last week of a satellite reauthorization bill that eliminated the FCC's integrated cable set-top box ban, which had been intended to spur that market but had failed to do so.

The law mandates that the FCC create a working group and come up with a successor, but Markey and Blumenthal put an exclamation point on the need for speed.

Wheeler signaled he had gotten the point, actually echoing a commitment he made Friday in a press conference with reporters.

"Recognizing the near-term enactment of STELAR, I plan to direct the Commission staff to establish the Working Group as quickly as possible," Wheeler said. He said the Commission will help the group, and assess the best way to proceed when it releases its report, which has to be within nine months of the enactment of the bill, which should be this week or next.

The ban sunsets a year after enactment.

“We appreciate Chairman Wheeler’s commitment to moving as quickly as possible to put in place a new standard in light of the upcoming repeal of the existing integration ban rule. We believe we need to protect competition and choice in the set top box marketplace. Consumers should not have to pay high monthly fees to lease cable boxes forever. We look forward to working with the Commission and its Working Group as it works to implement a new standard. The Chairman’s letter today confirms our belief that he will embrace the Commission's role as a champion of consumer choice, and we anticipate that a majority of his fellow Commissioners will support these efforts," said Public Knowledge, which had been pushing, along with Markey and Blumenthal, to have the integration ban elimination struck from the bill.

But Public Knowledge was not taking any chances. At about the same time it was sending out that comment, it sent an e-mail to supporters asking them to sign a petition to the FCC to move on a new set-top regime.