FCC Votes to Free Up Set-Top Boxes
Sorry, cable companies: The Federal Communication Commission on Thursdayvoted to "unlock the box."
The proposal, introduced last month by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, aims to spur innovation, competition, and choice in the set-top box marketplace by allowing anyone — from Apple to Netflix — to create devices or services that compete with traditional set-top boxes. According to the FCC, 99 percent of U.S. consumers lease a set-top box from their pay TV provider, in large part because of outdated government regulations.
"Lack of competition has meant few choices and high prices for consumers — on average, $231 in rental fees annually for the average American household," the FCC said. "Altogether, U.S. consumers spend $20 billion a year to lease these devices."
The cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent since 1994, while at the same time the price of computers, TVs, and mobile phones has dropped 90 percent, the agency said.
The new rules would basically open up TV data to innovators so they can create new hardware or software consumers could buy instead of a traditional set-top box; another box or even an app on your tablet, for example. That data includes information about programming (a channel listing and video-on-demand lineup), entitlements (how that content can be used, like recording), and delivery (the actual content).
The vote was 3 to 2, with Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly dissenting.
The proposal will now be opened up to public comment, after which the agency will take a final vote.