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House Republican leaders ask FCC to kill set-top box proceeding

Several Republican representatives from the House Energy and Commerce Committee have asked the newly appointed FCC chairman to close the commission's proceeding on set-top boxes.

In a Jan. 25 letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., and House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., among others, said there were multiple reasons the docket on the set-top box proceeding should be closed.

"On a procedural note, the Commission should engage in the healthy practice of closing dockets that are no longer under active debate and consideration," the legislators wrote. "Second, the FCC's proposal remains an unnecessary regulatory threat to the content creation and distribution industries."

The former chairman of the FCC, Democrat Tom Wheeler, had pursued the set-top box proceeding as a means to unlock or eliminate the set-top box. The original version of Wheeler's proposal called for pay TV providers to share discovery and security information as well as programming with third-party device manufacturers and app developers. But that version raised a number of security and copyright concerns, and the FCC ultimately changed course.

Wheeler's revised proposal promoted an apps-based approach, whereby any operator with more than 400,000 subscribers would be required to offer a free app that provides access to all the programming consumers would otherwise receive through a leased set-top box.

In the letter to Pai, the Congressional members said Wheeler had forged ahead with his modified proposal "without further formal notice and comment," adding, "The shortcuts around good process ... have tainted this proceeding and necessitate its closure."

With Pai leading the FCC and Republicans holding a 2-1 majority on the commission, the set-top box proceeding had already been widely viewed as dead, but closing the docket would formalize the proceeding's demise.