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US advocacy groups call for competitive STB market

The Consumer Federation of America and public interest body Public Knowledge have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission urging the agency to begin a rulemaking proceeding to reform the video set-top box market.

According to Consumer Federation of America’s analysis, pay-TV subscribers are overpaying somewhere between $6 billion and $14 billion annually. They contend that the FCC should promote a competitive set-top box market to reduce this financial burden on consumers, create opportunities for more innovative devices, and encourage the growth of diverse and independent programming.

“Cable company abuse of market power in the set-top box market has probably cost consumers over $100 billion in the past two decades, but the pocketbook impact is only part of the story,” stated Mark Cooper, Director of Research at Consumer Federation of America. “This is the most egregious example of the failure of federal policy to deliver the competition promised by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, precisely because similar markets that were competitive—like cell phones, computers and TV sets—delivered so much higher quality at a fraction of the cost.”

John Bergmayer, Senior Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge, suggested that reforming the set-top box market by adopting the competitive navigation proposal Public Knowledge and others have put before the FCC would benefit consumers in a number of ways. “It would give them more and better access to diverse and independent programing on devices that are more intuitive and innovative than the set-top boxes most viewers are forced to rent from their pay-TV providers. As the analysis in our letter shows, it could lead to significant cost savings, as well. To realise these benefits to consumers, we urge the Commission to quickly move forward with a rulemaking proceeding to implement reforms in this area,” he concluded.

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