Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, is introducing legislation to bolster the online video market, what he says is an effort to prevent cable and satellite companies from using their power to limit the growth of services like Netflix and Amazon.
The Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, which Rockefeller intends to introduce on Tuesday afternoon, would bar cable, satellite and large media companies from engaging in “anti-competitive” practices against online video distributors. It would do so in part by putting “reasonable limits” on contractual provisions in carriage contracts that limit online providers’ access to programming.
An aide to Rockefeller told Variety that the legislation would allow online video providers to choose to be considered like cable and satellite providers, giving them a “pathway to negotiate for content” the way that cable and satellite providers do. The 1992 Cable Act included regulations designed to prevent companies from limiting access to channels as a way to stifle competition. If an online service chooses to be treated like a cable or satellite provider, it also would face certain retransmission consent and must carry regulations over the carriage of broadcast signals.
The legislation also would limit the ability of a cable or satellite company that also provides Internet service to “degrade” competitive online video services. Specifics of the legislation have yet to be released.