T-Mobile pushes FCC to review policies for video providers

T-Mobile urged the FCC to reconsider several key provisions and practices regarding video distribution, saying they're unfair to players looking to deliver content on devices other than traditional TVs.

In a document filed earlier this week with the FCC, T-Mobile noted the soaring consumption of video on mobile devices, citing as one example the success its Binge On offering. Binge On users have streamed more than 57 petabytes of data, the carrier said, and users are watching twice as much than before the program's launch.

That uptake is largely because the service is zero-rated, enabling customers to watch without incurring data charges. "Binge On represents T-Mobile's initial foray into the video marketplace and shows that it can bring innovation and disruption to this industry segment too if it is not blocked by industry practices that discourage entry and meaningful competition," the carrier wrote.

But T-Mobile said some important topics "are worthy of additional Commission review." It said current most favored nation (MFN) and alternative distribution method (ADM) provisions "make it difficult for mobile and OTT providers to gain access to programming," unfairly giving an edge to traditional TV providers.

MFN provisions enable multichannel video programming distributors such as cable companies to incorporate more favorable rates and contract terms than other players, T-Mobile said, while ADM policies can restrict a company's ability to distribute content through alternative platforms.

T-Mobile also questioned program bundling practices "that serve to require distributors to take and package program services that consumers do not want," and noted that new entrants face challenges in negotiating programming rates that enable them to compete with larger providers.

Finally, T-Mobile questioned "the impact that set-top boxes have on competition and diversity."

"T-Mobile urges the Commission to review whether historic practices present impediments to consumers' ability to access the video programming content that they want over the devices that they choose."

T-Mobile's filing comes in response to a notice of inquiry issued by the FCC in February "promoting the availability of diverse and independent sources of video." The Commission is seeking comment regarding challenges independent video programmers face in building businesses that distribute video across both traditional and emerging distribution platforms.

The notice underscores the ever-increasing tension between traditional TV providers such as cable companies and players looking to deliver online content to mobile devices and other non-traditional platforms. The FCC continues to seek comment from the public, and the topic is not on the agenda for the April Commission meeting scheduled for next week.

For more:
- see this FCC filing

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