Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is introducing legislation today that would put streaming videos services on similar legal footing to traditional cable services, potentially prohibiting anticompetitive practices. Under the legislation, online video providers would be given the same protections that satellite providers were granted by the Cable Television and Consumer Protection Act of 1992, which was made to stop cable companies from blocking competition from satellite providers.
"My legislation will help foster a consumer-centric revolution."
Rockefeller's legislation, the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, would also place "reasonable limits" on contract agreements that seek to restrict streaming services from accessing their content within a certain timeframe. And though the act wouldn't directly bar providers of both cable and internet service from using their position to stifle competition, it would direct the FCC to ensure that their billing practices weren't anticompetitive.
"Consumers must be able to benefit from online video's promise of decreased costs, increased choice, and higher-quality video content," Rockefeller says in a statement. "And I strongly believe that my legislation will help foster a consumer-centric revolution in the video marketplace."
While Rockefeller's bill seeks to expand and clarify protections for streaming services, it doesn't directly touch on Aereo — a service that allows viewers to stream broadcast TV online — though it could down the road. According to Variety, if Aereo were found by the courts to be a legal service, Rockefeller's legislation would then clarify that it doesn't have to pay retransmission fees.
As chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Rockefeller certainly has an advantage when it comes to introducing this type of legislation, though there's little doubt that opposition would be heated. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) also introduced legislation this year that would push back against certain practices of cable providers, though according to Variety, it hasn't moved forward. Rockefeller too will be addressing a contentious issue — one that cable providers would rather see change in their own favor.