Arguments For and Against The FCC Set-Top Box Proposal

Set-top box
Today the FCC will be holding a hearing to vote on a proposal to open up the set-top box market. Changes could occur by the end of 2016.

As we predicted back in January, many on both sides of this heated issue have waded into the fray, vocalizing their support or expressing opposition for the proposal.

Here, we provide a look at the intense debate being made by technology and TV industry experts. Will the STB ultimately become unlocked?


“This proposal could actually make that set-top box an interesting product … something has to change. Because none of the options on offer have proved so far to be the perfect solution; in fact, it often feels like a stopgap. Apps, for example, aren't necessarily the greatest solution for video streaming, since they're really just aggregating lots of little buckets into the same place, rather than creating one great menu of all your options.”

“If the industry had its way, we would still be renting phones from the old Ma Bell … requiring cable-TV systems to make room for competing devices should similarly lead to a boom in new types of services and technologies … the F.C.C. should move as quickly as possible. Americans have waited long enough for more and better choices than the cable box.”

“First and foremost, injecting new competition into the marketplace will save consumers money and pave the way for innovative retail alternatives to set-top boxes leased by pay-TV providers.”

 “Despite much of what’s been written about the FCC’s open set-top box proposal and its potential impact on minority-led channels and programmers, this issue is not an issue about minorities …

An open system could mean that two guys in their basement could create a new set-top software model that makes it easier for anyone to launch a new channel, and out of those new channels, a few smart people are going to get it right … That is the promise of innovation. No promise of winning, but a shot to try on a more even playing field. This is precisely why the FCC, against a strong tide of pay-TV systems, should move forward with its set-top box proposal.”

“We agree with the Consumer Video Choice Coalition that huge yearly savings for consumers could result from an opening of this market. But beyond this, we believe the Commission has an opportunity to improve consumer access to local program information as a result of the proposal, and to strengthen and revitalize local programming across the United States … PEG organizations are systematically prevented from providing program guide metadata by cable providers which control access to the navigation systems on their set-top boxes … We look forward to the NPRM so that Americans can discover local program information that matters to their lives.”

“In my opinion, this is the best decision that the FCC has made to increase minority diversity in media content distribution since the Commission championed the tax certificate which allowed for the increase in minority ownership of media properties … If you have a good program idea, some financing and access to the Internet, you can find your audience. But your audience can only find you if they have a modem or a set-top box or software that lets them know you are there and gives them access to your programs unconstrained by the network gatekeeper.”


“If the FCC truly believes it must ‘do something’ to accelerate the demise of the set-top box, it should simply accelerate the ongoing shift from set-top boxes to video apps. An apps-based approach to set-top box regulation would leverage existing, industry-wide standards to provide cable and satellite video consumers with the same type of access to video programming that is offered by over the top video services like YouTube and that consumers already love.”

"[The proposal] would let tech companies raid [licensing] agreements, ignore their terms, or pile on layers of new advertisements of their own. That would further devalue diverse programming and make it harder for networks serving communities of color to find an audience and survive.

Given the significant concerns regarding these proposed rules, and the rapid innovation occurring in the marketplace, it would be unwise to implement sweeping changes to the system currently in place. We urge the FCC to abandon these proposed new rules and protect viewer choice and diverse programming for all communities.”

“The FCC should not upset this process by unfairly supporting a proposal that does not have the burden of paying to keep the industry working well for our nation. By the FCC’s support of the ‘Allvid’ proposal the burden of cost that would be forced on MVPDs would be counterproductive to the business it is intended to grow. Independent and minority networks, who are already last in line, would simply get no resources, no opportunity, and no path to the audiences we serve.”

“While I support the objective of enabling competition and innovation in the market for set-top boxes, any new FCC rules in this area must not harm the production and distribution of video content. The FCC’s rules should not allow third-parties to do more with programming content than has been done through negotiated arrangements between content owners and their partners.”

      Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee

“The Chairman’s approach creates a gaping hole in consumer privacy where none exists today, and leaves our personal viewing histories at the mercy of vast businesses built almost entirely on mining, exploiting, and profiling our personal data. It would be the biggest step backwards for consumer privacy ever enacted by the FCC. This makes absolutely no sense, especially when cable and satellite providers are already covered by strict statutory privacy protections and a robust “apps” solution is already working in the marketplace to deliver video to hundreds of millions of viewers and devices without compromising our privacy at all.”

      Future of TV Coalition

“Too many questions remain, and too much is at stake, to plow ahead and let Google’s proposal drastically impact an already competitive and wildly innovative marketplace. It seems way too early for the FCC to be picking the winners and losers in this debate ... When all the misinformation is cleared away, the apps approach is the best way to achieve our common goal of providing an alternative to the leased set-top box model that ensures privacy rules are followed and that minority voices are heard.”

Author: Brian Cameron

Image via Shutterstock.

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1 comment:

  1. Open the gates. The dramatic increase in cord cutting shows that the big players need some competition.