For years the Federal Communications Commission has operated as if it was owned by the cable television industry. Now FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who was once a cable lobbyist, has asked the commission to consider a proposal that would disrupt the current cable model enjoyed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, and others. Wheeler last week issued a formal proposal asking the rest of the commission to consider new "technology-neutral" rules which would update the FCC's definition of what counts as a pay TV service or a "multichannel video programming distributor." The rules would give digital services the same access to channels that cable and satellite companies have at market-rate prices. The rules would extend a practice that began in 1992 when Congress forced channel owners to provide the same broad access for satellite companies. "Congress mandated access to cable channels for satellite services, and competition flourished," Wheeler wrote. "Today I am proposing to extend the same concept to the providers of linear, Internet-based services; to encourage new video alternatives by opening up access to content previously locked on cable channels." If the rules pass it would pave the way for Internet-based cable providers to offer alternatives to the current cable and satellite model. Think of those potential services as pick-what-you want cable products delivered like Netflix More via Fool.com.
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