Aereo wants to reinvent itself, and the Federal Communications Commission is willing to help.
As it prepared to face the Supreme Court, Aereo argued that its streaming television service was fundamentally different from cable TV, and therefore it shouldn’t have to pay broadcasters to transmit their content over the Internet. The court rejected that argument, and it looked like Aereo was going to be forced to shut down, so it made a 180-degree turn and started arguing that because it was a lot like a cable company, broadcasters couldn’t simply refuse to license their content to it. On Tuesday the chairman of the FCC said he agreed with Aereo and began the process of changing the rules to accommodate it.
In a blog post, Tom Wheeler echoed many of the things Aereo has been saying for years: People don’t think they should have to buy cable channels they’ll never watch, and regulations shouldn’t get in the way of new Internet television services. Twenty years ago, Washington kept the cable companies from smothering their satellite-TV rivals by saying the incumbents couldn’t simply refuse to license their content to the upstarts. Wheeler is proposing to further expand the definition of what the FCC calls multichannel video programming distributors, or MVPDs, and thus extend the same protections to Internet TV players. Wheeler is referring only to linear video businesses like Aereo, not on-demand services like Hulu or Netflix.
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