After Losing In The Supreme Court, Aereo Turns Its Sights To Congress

When the Supreme Court ruled Aereo was illegal last week, many thought it was the final nail in the coffin for the nascent cloud-based antenna service.

But it seems even though CEO Chet Kenojia said he didn’t have a Plan B, he came up with one. On Tuesday he sent a letter to subscribers, calling them to demand action from their representatives in Congress.

“Today, I’m asking you to raise your hands and make your voices heard,” Kenojia wrote. “Visit the updated, find your representatives and send tweets, emails and Facebook messages asking them to take action to protect your right to use the antenna of your choice to access live free-to-air broadcasts, including the ability to use a cloud-based antenna.”

Aereo spokeswoman Virginia Lam declined to disclose the number of subscribers Aereo has or how many people the email was sent to. The New York Times reported the service had fewer than 500,000 subscribers.

The Protect My Antenna website allows users to find their representatives and then automatically generates a message that can be sent via Facebook, Twitter or email.

Lobbying Congress was one of the few options experts said Aereo had after the blow it suffered in the Supreme Court. The company suspended service over the weekend as it figures out its next move, according to another letter from Kanojia.

Some lawmakers used the news of the Court’s ruling and negative public reactions to bolster their legislative initiatives.

The same day the Supreme Court handed down the ruling, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-MO, announced a push for a law “aimed at bringing transparency and fairness to cable, satellite, and other pay-TV billing practices.” The leader of the Senate panel on consumer protection said cable companies rank the worst in customer satisfaction. She called on her constituents to tell her about their experiences using the “Submit Your Scam” tool on her website.

Leaders from the House Energy and Commerce Committee also released a statement Wednesday promoting changes to the Communications Act, an 80-year-old piece of legislation that has not been updated since 1996.

However it’s not likely that the current polarized Congress would be able to muster the support to pass significant reforms.

Immediately after the ruling, Harry Cole, an attorney who has specialized in broadcasting and represented clients before the Supreme Court, told me Aereo might have some weight in Congress, considering many subscribers and reviewers have had favorable reviews of the service.

“Moving Congress right now to undertake some kind of significant legislation is a tough order,” he said, expressing skepticism that such a measure would pass.