White House Backs FCC Push For Cable Box Competition

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The President has thrown his support behind the FCC’s quest to bring greater competition to the cable set top box market. Back in February the FCC voted to create new rules that would force cable companies to deliver their content via third-party set tops without a CableCARD, theoretically opening the door to set top box competition, and by proxy cheaper, better, cable boxes. Right now, consumers pay on average $231 annually in set top rental fees for clunky, often-outdated cable boxes that are usually not worth half of that.

The cable industry has unsurprisingly been throwing a bit of a hissy fit about the proposal, given the captive set top box market nets them $20 billion in captive revenues each year.

Of course the cable industry can’t just come out and say that they’re just trying to defend their set top monopoly, so instead they’ve been pushing any number of entertaining tales about how set top box competition will hurt diversity, damage consumer security and privacy, and otherwise destroy the known universe.

The cable industry has also been pushing an endless number of editorials like this one (or this one, or this one, or this one) claiming the FCC’s plan is some kind of cabal by Google and “big tech” to steal cable content.

For whatever it’s worth, the White House says it has the FCC’s back. In a blog post the White House said it’s throwing its full support behind the FCC’s push as a broader effort to shore up competition in some key lagging markets.

“Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years to lease a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps in one, easier-to-use gadget,” wrote White House economic advisors Jeff Zients and Jason Furman.

The FCC’s going to need all the help it can get, given that the cable industry has made it abundantly clear it plans to battle the FCC’s plan tooth and nail.


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