The Chairman of the FCC says the agency wants you to be able to watch broadcast TV on Internet video services. Tom Wheeler is proposing a rule change that would require broadcast TV stations and cable channels to provide their content to Internet-based services.
Of course, those services would also be regulated by the FCC, giving the FCC more of hand in those services, but also giving those companies the ability to negotiate for basic channels with local stations.
Right now, broadcast stations are required by law to negotiate with both cable companies and satellite providers and those cable companies and satellite providers are not allowed to bring in broadcast channels from other markets.
Wheeler said, “Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch. The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration – but first Internet video services need access to the programs. Today the FCC takes the first step to open access to cable programs as well as local television. The result should be to give consumers more alternatives from which to choose so they can buy the programs they want. “
That’s not entirely true, this rule has no effect on so-called a la carte programming. Cable and satellite providers do not necessarily group channels because they want to, but because the programming providers they’re purchasing the channels from often insist on it.
A recent Supreme Court ruling basically squashed Aereo, a company that allowed users to receive local signals through an app despite a dissenting option from Justice Scalia who reminded the court that it came within one vote of making VCRs illegal back in the 1980s.
Of course, the government made the regulations about broadcast TV and how it can be transmitted in the first place, but now the Chairman says it’s all about “Competition, competition, competition.” and calls for technology-neutral rules.
What this means for consumers it that you may soon be able to get local channels via services like Amazon Prime, Chromecast or Apple TV.
This proposed rule change also doesn’t address the fact that most licenses for programs that stations air include over-the-air, cable and satellite broadcast, but not the Internet. Unless those contracts were changed, stations would have to find a way to block out material that was not licensed for the Internet.
The FCC Chairman says that mean you’ll pay less, but as these services are subject to more federal regulation and have to pay more for things like local channels and original programming, costs for these services will probably rise as well.