Proposal aims to loosen pay- TV companies’ grip on set- top boxes
The Federal Communications Commission saidWednesday itwill vote Feb. 18 on a proposal to bring more competition to the lucrative market for television set- top boxes, amove that instantly set off a pitched political battle.
In a statement outlining the plan, the FCC emphasized that the proposal would create more choices for consumers, with the aim of lowering prices and giving viewers more access to Internet programming, particularly programs focused on minorities or featuring independent content.
Currently, the 99 percent of pay- TV subscribers lease set- top boxes from their cable or satellite providers, the FCC noted. These pay- TV providers tend to overcharge, critics say, and to favor their own content.
The proposal, the FCC said, “will let innovators create and then let consumers choose.”
The plan, advocated by FCC ChairmanTomWheeler, would foster competition by requiring more open standards, allowing independent device makers to obtain pay- TVcontent and channel listings.
But even before the FCChad officially rolled out its plan, cable and satellite industry advocates were announcing a newcoalition of more than 40 firms and groups that will oppose it.
The group, dubbed the Future of TV Coalition, said its members “are united in the belief that innovation and competition should drive the creative marketplace, not government mandates.”
The FCC will vote Feb. 18 on whether to move forwardwith Wheeler’s plan to develop the new rules. The vote probably will be followed by extensive public comments and frenzied lobbying.
Cable firms face a potential loss of billions of dollars in rental fees for the current set- top boxes. They alsoworry that the plan could disrupt various aspects of their business, including advertising agreements and channel assignments.