Good news within the federal regulatory leviathan has been depressingly rare, perhaps most of all at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This week, however, brought a remarkably welcome development worthy of celebration.
Specifically, the FCC delayed its vote on a toxic and entirely unwarranted new proposal to regulate cable television set-top boxes before the Obama presidency’s clock expires, in what The Wall Street Journal labeled “a major blow to the proposal” and “a setback to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on one of his top priorities for the year.”
Even Democrats have attacked the scheme as a “massive new federal regulation,” and CFIF stands alongside a broad coalition of conservative and libertarian organizations in opposition. The initiative from the overactive FCC seeks to impose a one-size-fits all mandate to make cable TV set-top boxes artificially compatible with third-party entertainment devices. So even while cable companies themselves progressively and voluntarily move toward abandoning traditional cable boxes in favor of devices owned and maintained by individual customers as they prefer, Chairman Wheeler hopes to impose a 1990s-style regulation upon the industry. That would essentially freeze in place the increasingly outdated model of set-top cable boxes that is already becoming an anachronism due to market forces. Exacerbating matters, the proposal reeks of crony capitalism, as CFIF has highlighted. The proposal is a confluence of regulatory overreach, technological sclerosis and crony capitalism.
Fortunately, this week’s decision within the FCC to delay a vote due to Wheeler’s apparent inability to persuade fellow Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to his side provides a rare victory against years of FCC regulatory onslaught. Although the bipartisan consensus among consumer groups, Congress, the innovation community and market participants must remain vigilant because the battle isn’t over, it’s welcome news worthy of note and celebration.