The FCC is considering a rule change to guarantee Internet video providers access to cable programs as well as local television. Chairman Tom Wheeler has circulated a proposal that aims to treat so-called “over the top” video providers the same as cable and satellite TV providers.

"Consumers have long complained about how their cable service forces them to buy channels they never watch. The move of video onto the Internet can do something about that frustration – but first Internet video services need access to the programs", Wheeler said in a blog post, adding that the goal is to give consumers more alternatives so they can buy what they want. 

The proposal only applies to multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD), like Dish Network, that offer pre-scheduled programming, and not to on-demand streaming providers like Hulu, Netflix, and others.

Back in 1992, in an effort to encourage the then-nascent satellite industry, Congress made it mandatory for cable companies to give video competitors access to their programming. Wheeler said the new proposal extends the same concept to providers of linear, Internet-based services. He noted that a cable system would continue to be regulated as a cable system, even if it migrates to IP delivery.

If implemented, the proposal would also infuse a new breath of life into the now-dead Internet streaming service Aereo, which has recently changed its legal argument, and is pushing the courts and regulators to treat it like a cable provider.

Quite understandably, Aereo CEO and founder Chet Kanojia was all praises for the proposal. "By clarifying these rules, the FCC is taking a real and meaningful step forward for competition in the video market", he said. "The FCC recognizes that when competition flourishes, consumers win".

Back in January this year at CES, Sony announced its plans for an Internet video service that it said will provide live television, video on demand, and even DVR. In May, Dish and Walt Disney signed a deal, allowing the No. 2 satellite TV provider to deliver ESPN, Disney Channel, and other networks through an over-the-top pay TV service.