Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Set Top Boxes and the FCC

The FCC today noted:

Ninety-nine percent of pay-TV subscribers are chained to their set-top boxes because cable and satellite operators have locked up the market. Lack of competition has meant few choices and high prices for consumers – on average, $231 in rental fees annually for the average American household. Altogether, U.S. consumers spend $20 billion a year to lease these devices. Since 1994, according to a recent analysis, the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185 percent while the cost of computers, televisions and mobile phones has dropped by 90 percent. Congress recognized the importance of a competitive marketplace and directed the Commission to adopt rules that will ensure consumers will be able to use the device they prefer for accessing programming they’ve paid for. Today, FCC Chairman Wheeler is circulating for a vote a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices and other innovative solutions to compete with the set-top boxes that a majority of consumers must lease today. The proposal will be voted by the full Commission on February 18, 2016. This proposal is about one thing: consumer choice. Consumers should have options created by competition. The Chairman’s proposal will let innovators create and then let consumers choose.

This could allow homes to get their own cable box at the cost of a wifi router and save $250 per box per year. It may also eliminate a great deal of dust which these boxes seem to accumulate! Just don't hold your breath, it is the Government after all. Just watch Comcast, they will be seen kicking and screaming all the way!

We should remember the Carter Phone decision, better yet the Hush a Phone ruling. See my 1989 Harvard paper.