Set-Top Box Market Battle Heats Up

Set-top box
Yesterday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler published an editorial over at Recode, insisting that consumers should have more set-top box (STB) choices than are currently available.

“You should have options that competition provides,” Wheeler wrote. “It’s time to unlock the set-top box market — let’s let innovators create, and then let consumers choose.”

This message is seemingly a direct response to a letter submitted to the FCC last November by a group of senators demanding action in regards to this industry.

Many cable companies did not exactly react well to the initial senatorial missive, it’s doubtful much has changed on that front in the past few months.

Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass), who participated in the group, was quick to issue a statement, lauding Wheeler.

“Consumer choice should fuel the video box market, not cable company control,” Markey said. “I commend Chairman Wheeler for his proposal to help ensure that consumers are not captive to bloated rental fees forever.”

Randolph J. May, president of the nonprofit Free State Foundation, believes everything is fine as-is.

"The video marketplace indisputably is now subject to effective competition, and this includes the navigation device market segment," May told the LA Times.

Meanwhile, others praised Wheeler’s move.

“It’s a triple play that the cable companies will hate, but fans and creators of award winning streaming programming will love,” said Chip Pickering, CEO of advocacy group INCOMPAS. “We can’t truly realize the golden age of television while consumers are stuck watching TV on the set-top box of the past … by ending monopoly control and breaking open the set-top box market, Chairman Wheeler and the FCC have the power to present a free market solution for video devices that will bring both competition and innovation and more video choice to consumers.”

“The fact remains that you’re in a walled garden controlled by the cable company,” stated John Bergmayer, a senior attorney at consumer group Public Knowledge.

“With the ever-increasing price of cable and all of the advances in technology,” added Marta Tellado, president and chief executive of Consumer Reports, “why should consumers have to keep renting a set-top box?”

On February 18, 2016, the FCC will be hosting an Open Commission meeting where new STB rules and technical standards will be voted on by the commissioners. Expect to hear much more from voices on both sides of this debate over the course of the next month.

Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock.

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1 comment:

  1. A modern mobile phone bought by a person who is not signed up to a Network is sold at market price - and in the range of 500-1000 dollars. A STB today costs around 200 dollars for a good one...With phones usage fees are added on. The consumer is filling the pockets of the Telcos who make lots of profit...The Telcos are not losing money on the phones...This argument about the STB/CPE is a bit strange because you will have to buy a Router to have Broadband access and router rental is a Telco game too...Why is the FCC picking on the Cable industry...