Washington — President Obama will weigh in on a policy to free TV customers from having to rent their cable providers’ set top boxes. He announced his support for thinking outside the cable box in a blog post today and will file formal comments with the FCC, which has issued a proposal in February that would promote consumer choice for set top boxes.  Currently, cable companies reap $19.5 billion every year on this product.

Obama said the box is an important symbol of what happens in a market when consumers don’t have choice — consumers are forced to pay ever-increasing amounts for  inferior products.  When the FCC moved forward with plans to allow people to buy cable compatible boxes in February, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said this will not just save consumers money, but give them more choices in how they watch TV.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated on competition issues for more than 40 years. CCIA has urged the FCC to move forward with new rules as part of the Consumer Video Choice Coalition: consumervideochoice.org. The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black.

“President Obama is right that set top boxes are symbolic of the problems that arise when gatekeepers control a product. Cable’s set top boxes have been a $19.5 billion consumer rip off, but the problem goes beyond cost and people accessing cable on modern devices of their choice.  The tragedy, as we saw with old black rotary dial phones years ago, is not just that consumers get overpriced, inferior products — but that innovation stalls. If America is to remain an innovator and competitor in the world market, boosting competition is a no cost fix that offers choice and opportunities for consumers and innovative companies.  This is the type of pragmatic progressive step that can work both for consumers and for America’s innovation sector.”

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