FCC votes to reclassify OTT providers as cablecos

DetailsMichelle Clancy | 23 December 2014

US broadcast regulator the FCC has officially proposed the reclassifying of over-the-top (OTT) operators to put them on parity with cable MSOs and satellite companies.

FCC panelThe change will create a technology-neutral definition of a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD), thus eliminating the requirement of having facilities-based transmission path in order to be guaranteed access to TV stations via must-carry rules and retransmission. As a result, OTT companies will be covered under programme access rules that will give them the right to negotiate retransmission deals with broadcasters.

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, the FCC said that it wanted to better reflect the fact that video services are being provided increasingly over the Internet, modernising its interpretation of the term MVPD to include within its scope services that make available for purchase, by subscribers or customers, multiple linear streams of video programming, regardless of the technology used to distribute the programming.

"Such an approach will ensure both that incumbent providers will continue to be subject to the pro-competitive, consumer-focused regulations that apply to MVPDs as they transition their services to the Internet and that nascent, Internet-based video programming services2 will have access to the tools they need to compete with established providers," the FCC said.

It went on to noted that incumbent cable systems are already looking to deliver video via IP themselves, experimenting with new business models based on Internet distribution.

"Over-the-air television has moved from analog transmission to digital. The telephone networks of the 20th Century have become broadband networks, providing a critical pathway to the Internet," it said. "And, in our January Technology Transitions Order, the Commission encouraged experiments that assess the impact on consumers of the coming transition from traditional copper facilities to new telecommunications networks composed of fiber, copper, coaxial cable, and/or wireless connections."