FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his proposal regarding set-top boxes yesterday which, as an accompanying fact sheet indicates, is an initiative designed to “increase consumer choice & innovation in the video marketplace.”

An excerpt from Wheeler’s missive appears below and is followed, in order, by perspectives from fellow FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly and Charter Communications.

–  “Ninety-nine percent of pay-TV subscribers currently rent set-top boxes because there aren’t meaningful alternatives. Lack of competition has meant few choices and high prices for consumers – $231 in rental fees annually for the average American household.  Altogether, U.S. consumers spend $20 billion a year to lease these devices.  Congress recognized the importance of a competitive marketplace and directed the Commission to adopt rules that will ensure consumers will be able to use the device they prefer for accessing programming they’ve paid for.  The new rules, if adopted, simplify the Commission’s original proposal to finally provide consumers with choice in how they access pay-TV service while satisfying Congress’ mandate. Following constructive engagement from a wide range of stakeholders, the proposed final rules will allow consumers to access their pay-TV content via free apps on a variety of devices so they no longer have to pay monthly rental fees, enable integrated search, and protect content and privacy.  The Commission will vote on these simplified consumer-first, app-driven rules at its next open meeting on September 29, 2016.  If adopted, the largest pay-TV providers, who serve 95% of pay-TV subscribers, will have two years to comply with the rules.”

 – “I will review this proposal carefully over the coming days and weeks, but at the outset it appears to exist within a fantasy world of unlimited Commission authority.  The Commission is and must remain in the business of licensing spectrum and infrastructure, not content.” 

 –  “Enabling consumers to use apps instead of set-top boxes may be a valid goal, but the marketplace is already delivering on the goal without overreaching government intervention.  The FCC’s mandate threatens to bog down with regulations and bureaucracy the entire TV app market that consumers are increasingly looking to for innovation, choice, and competition.”