The FCC announced two significant policy initiatives by Blog post in the last week – perhaps recognizing that the Internet provides a better way of packaging a message about policy directions than an unpredictable news conference. The two decisions announced this week by Blog post were (1) the Chairman announcing that he has directed that a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking be circulated among the other Commissioners to treat Over-the-Top TV providers (“OTT” providers, usually those that provide service over the Internet) of linear programming as MVPDs – meaning that they would be treated, for regulatory purposes, in much the same way as cable and satellite TV services, and (2) an announcement by the head of the incentive auction task force that the auction by which some of the broadcast TV spectrum will be purchased from TV users and resold to wireless carriers for broadband wireless uses will be postponed from its expected date in the summer of 2015 until early 2016. We will write about the postponement of the auction later. But what does the MVPD proposal mean?
The MVPD issue is one that we last wrote about here. At the urging of some OTT providers, apparently including Aereo, the FCC has been urged to treat these providers, when they provide “linear” programming (programming that is provided at set times on a set schedule, in the manner of broadcast TV or cable programming, as opposed to the on-demand programming of a Netflix or Hulu), in the same fashion as cable and satellite. The Chairman, in his blog post, announces his support for an FCC proceeding to review that proposal, apparently looking to use linear Internet programmers as a new competitive force against cable and satellite TV. By treating these services as MVPDs, they could get access to over-the-air TV programming (if they can negotiate retransmission consent agreements with the TV stations) and equal access to programming provided by vertically integrated cable programmers (those programmers that have attributable ownership from cable system operators). But, obviously, there are some big “ifs” here. Continue Reading