Nation & World

FCC delays vote on new cable rules

Would force providers to offer channels as apps on devices

The Federal Communications Commission has delayed its vote on new rules that would force cable companies to provide their channels as a free app on major device platforms such as iOS and Android.

There’s no word on when the vote may be rescheduled; FCC officials said Thursday that it would remain under consideration for future meetings.

Several people close to the matter say that late changes to the final draft offered by FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel pushed back the vote.

“We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country,” said Rosenworcel, along with the FCC’s two other Democrats, Mignon Clyburn and chairman Tom Wheeler, in a joint statement.

Policy analysts said that the bottleneck concerned the FCC’s potential role in overseeing legal agreements between cable companies and the device manufacturers that would host each cable provider’s free app.

“Rosenworcel in particular is a very technically oriented commissioner,” said Harold Feld, senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge. “They clearly want to do something, but it’s also clear that in her case she’s not going to agree to a general shape of something and give editorial privileges to work out the details later. She is going to want to make sure the details are resolved.”

The free apps would effectively end the need for TV watchers to rent expensive set-top boxes, whose sole purpose is to display channel lineup and protect TV content from piracy. The change would make watching cable television more like browsing Netflix.

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About 99 percent of the nation’s 100 million pay-TV subscribers rent at least one set-top box.

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