In an attempt to provide consumers with more options for viewing cable television the FCC has just approved a proposal to eliminate anti-competitive barriers that have been in place for years. The “unlock the box” proposal will allow for more competitive solutions to deliver cable to TVs across the country, whether that is through hardware or software, ultimately giving the consumers more choices on how to watch TV.
The FCC states that currently 99% of pay-TV subscribers have limited choices when it comes to television and are leasing their set-top boxes from either their cable or satellite providers. This lack of competition is leading to inflated prices for consumers, not only through equipment rental, but cost of the services as well. The FCC believes that the the average cost per household for renting equipment to watch TV is $231 a year which equates to Americans spending over $20 billion a year just to lease devices to be able to watch TV. The FCC also points out that since 1994 the cost of computers, mobile phones, and televisions have decreased by 90% whereas the cable set-top boxes have increased 185%.
This change will allow consumers to use alternative set-top boxes from companies such as Amazon, Apple, Google, or anyone else who wants to get into the market which will bring much needed competition to the table. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler released a statement explaining how the cable TV system shouldn’t be the way it is and how this will benefit consumers.
When consumers connect to a pay-TV service they should have the same ability to choose their equipment, just as they do when signing up for phone service. That’s not just what common sense and free-market economics tell us. That’s what the law mandates. But when it comes to the set-top boxes mandated by pay-TV providers, consumers essentially have no choices, and they are literally paying the price for this lack of alternatives. Today, the Commission begins the process of unlocking the set-top box marketplace and unleashing the benefits of competition.
Consumers should have more choices for innovative ways to access video content on the device or app they prefer. By introducing competition into this closed market, today’s proposal will provide those options.
Specifically, we propose establishing open standards for set-top boxes, the same way we have standards for cell phones, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, routers, and other devices. Replacing closed standards controlled by the pay-TV industry with open standards will tear down the barriers that currently prevent innovators from developing new ways for consumers to access and enjoy their favorite shows and movies on their terms.
These new changes should definitely shake up the cable television market quite a bit. It will make the current cable and satellite providers have to evolve to keep up with the new innovative competition that will be threatening to take part of their user base away from them. It should be interesting to watch as this unfolds and changes this system that has been in place for years. Tom Wheeler also said that this is a situation that the FCC has dealt with before.
Decades ago, if you wanted to have a landline in your home, you had to lease your phone from Ma Bell. There was little choice in telephones, and prices were high. The FCC unlocked competition and empowered consumers with a simple but powerful rule: Consumers could connect the telephones and modems of their choice to the telephone network. Competition and game-changing innovation followed, from lower-priced phones to answering machines to technology that is the foundation of the Internet. Should pay-TV continue to be an exception? I believe, and Congress has made clear, the answer is no. You should have choices in how you access the video programming you are paying for, as well.
As someone who does not currently have cable I am really looking forward to seeing what changes this new competition will bring. I have always wanted to be able to have a service where I pay for the specific channels that I want to watch and not $100 for 200+ channels when I only use a handful. I’m not sure how close we are to a service of that kind being created but I feel like this is bringing us one step closer.
In the end, this proposal is about one thing: putting the future of TV in consumer’s hands. You should have options that competition provides. It’s time to unlock the set-top box market — let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose.
What do you think of the FCC unlocking the box? Would you gladly ditch your current set-top box from your cable/satellite provider to go with something like an Android or Apple TV box? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook, Google+, or Twitter.Source: Federal Communications Commission
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