FCC Proposal To Give Customers of Cable, Satellite TV More Options for Set-Top Boxes

BY Heather Greenfield
January 27, 2016

Washington — FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler offered a proposal today that is designed to provide pay-TV customers more options for the set top boxes they need to access their cable or satellite service. The proposal would expand and open up a market so consumers could choose which device they want to use for viewing pay-TV.   

The proposal is designed to help device manufacturers, app developers, and innovators maintain access to pay-TV content while also developing new services to enhance the customer’s experience.  Chairman Wheeler hopes to put this proposal up for a vote by the other Commissioners in February, which would begin a rulemaking process and additional public comment.

Evidence developed last year showed 99 percent of consumers lease a set-top box chosen by their cable provider. Most of these customers were being charged on average almost $232 per year just to rent their cable provider’s set-top box.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has long fought for competition and innovation throughout our industry and has most recently been advocating for more competition and consumer choice in this marketplace as part of the Consumer Video Choice Coalition (CVCC).  The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Unleashing the power of an open marketplace allows the competition which fuels innovation and drives down prices.  To date, third-party device manufacturers have essentially been locked out of the set-top box market.  With this effort, the FCC hopes to change that.

“Nearly five decades ago, the FCC untethered devices connected to the telephone network from the monopoly control of the phone company.  It unleashed a wave of innovation that paved the way for the modern consumer electronics industry and led to devices such as the answering machine and the modem.  This rulemaking follows in that great tradition of fostering competition and innovation.  If successful, this rulemaking has the potential to be historic. The impact of freeing the entire consumer electronics industry to revolutionize the set-top box market could be enormous.  With cable companies and device manufacturers aggressively competing with each other to provide the best home multimedia device, the clear winner will be consumers.”

“When customers have few choices, the result is typically a product that costs too much and doesn’t encourage the kind of innovation that happens naturally when there is competition.  Competition in the retail, set-top box marketplace would lower costs for consumers, give them more options for buying their own devices, and encourage them to discover new content.  We applaud the FCC for taking these steps to give pay-TV consumers more options for accessing content.”

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