FCC proposes rule change to open a la carte internet television streaming

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Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler floated a proposal Wednesday that would give Internet-based video services the same access to live content from cable and local stations as traditional television broadcasters.

The proposal, which seeks to alter the definition of "multichannel video programming distributor" (MVPD) to be technology-agnostic, would pave the way for consumers to subscribe to channels à la carte from internet services. Fans of Breaking Bad, for instance, could subscribe to AMC without also paying for channels like Lifetime, in which they are not interested.

"Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch," Wheeler wrote in a blog post. "The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration - but first Internet video services need access to the programs."

The definition of MVPD is one of the items that got "antenna subscription" service Aereo into trouble with federal authorities. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo had no right to rebroadcast content under the provision.

If the rule change is eventually implemented, prospective streaming providers would still need to reach financial agreements with the content owners. They also would not be allowed to provide programming on-demand — only "linear channels, which offer the viewer a prescheduled lineup of programs," would be covered.


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