Continuing the process that began earlier this year, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has issued a proposal to the Commission to implement the deregulation of cable set-top boxes.
Wheeler’s proposal will require cable and satellite system operators (MSOs) to offer subscribers access to their services by means of a free app. Consumers could keep their boxes or download the app to an alternative device such as a smart TV, Apple or Roku box, or an XBox or Playstation console. In an LA Times op-ed piece yesterday, Wheeler cited two key benefits to cable customers of his proposal . First, he noted that 99% of customers pay an average of $231 annually to lease their set-top boxes, even long after the provider has recouped its cost. The second benefit is that an app-based system would permit integrated search, in which a single search would show the availability of a program over all platforms, whether broadcast, cable or streaming.
Wheeler also addressed the concerns expressed by opponents of the plan that it would harm copyright owners. Wheeler argued that because the MSOs will maintain control over program delivery from end-to-end, they will be able to manage their obligations to their program suppliers.
Wheeler’s proposal does not end the controversy, which now goes to the full FCC for consideration.