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Web Users Deserve Local TV Access Without Cable: Diller

IAC/Interactive Corp. Chairman Barry Diller, who’s distributing television channels online, urged U.S. legislators to rewrite communications laws to reflect blurring lines between Internet, cable and broadcast providers.

“You’ve got to rewrite the communications act” of 1996, Diller, whose company has invested in a service that lets users watch broadcast TV on mobile devices, said at a hearing today before the Senate Commerce Committee. “It’s overdue given the Internet.”

Diller was among witnesses called to a hearing to examine how new Internet-driven technology is changing television viewing. Also asked to appear were executives from Microsoft Corp., whose Xbox gaming platform can be used to watch movies and TV shows, and Inc., which offers online video for purchase or rent.

Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the committee, told reporters after the hearing that the rapidly evolving communications landscape “will require legislation.” No telecommunications update will pass this year, Rockefeller said.

“It’s not a simple business,” in part because many devices and networks are involved, Rockefeller said. “It raises a lot of questions which we’re not able to legislatively answer at this point.”

‘Escalating Bills’

Video delivered online is a “disruptive technology,” Rockefeller said during the hearing.

“We’re paying for so many channels, though we usually only watch a few,” Rockefeller said. “So I want to know if the emergence of online video will do more than improve content and expand choice.

‘‘I want to know if it’s going to bring a halt to, or at least a slowdown, to escalating bills’’ for cable and satellite services, he said.

Diller has invested in closely held Aereo Inc., a service based in Long Island City, New York, that lets users access broadcast TV on mobile devices for $12 a month. The service is delivered via quarter-inch antennas placed in data centers. The technology uses existing broadcasting signals, letting consumers bypass cable or satellite providers.

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC and other networks said in two complaints filed March 1 in federal court in Manhattan that Aereo has no right to any of the programs that it offers through its subscription-only Internet service. Aereo has said its service is lawful and called the lawsuits ‘‘meritless.’’

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