Advanced Television

Obama weighs in for open cable set tops

April 15, 2016

The Obama administration has weighed into the debate over allowing consumers to switch cable television boxes for less expensive devices, urging the FCC to set an example for other parts of government to boost competition.

Consumers can often spend close to $1,000 over four years for renting cable set top boxes. Opening up the business to competition and allowing consumers to chose devices or apps they can own could mean quick savings, an official said.

A White House blog by Jason Furman, the president’s chief economist, said that “no corporation can unfairly squeeze their competitors, their workers, or their customers at everyone’s expense.” He then cited backing the set-top proposal as an example saying the president was “calling on the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition.”

The White House called the set-top proposal the “mascot” of a new initiative, saying it was the “stand-in” for “what happens when you don’t have the choice to go elsewhere—for all the parts of our economy where competition could do more.” It is understood the President intends to make executive orders to departments and agencies to make “further progress” in promoting competition across all sectors.

The demonstrates President Obama’s firm support for Title II reclassification by the FCC.

The NCTA fired back: “We are disappointed that White House political advisers are choosing to inject politics and inflammatory rhetoric into a regulatory proceeding by what is supposed to be an independent agency,” said its president Michael Powell in a blogged in response. “Consumers and regulated companies have the right to expect decisions affecting their businesses are made based on sound analysis of the record and not the political interests of the executive branch. To see the White House take political credit for the actions of the ‘independent’ agency and direct it to reach a specific conclusion even before the record has been assembled, shatters that faith and undermines the Commission’s credibility.”

“You could have a set of standards such that anyone could connect any box to their cable and those boxes could compete for lower prices and greater innovation,” Jason Furman, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers told reporters.

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed the rule opening competition in the multi-billion dollar television set-top box market. It set a 60 day comment period on the rule that could cost major cable companies. The rule would allow consumers to obtain video services from providers such as Alphabet, Apple and Tivo, instead of cable, satellite and other television providers.

Categories: Articles, Cable, Policy, Regulation, STB