[MONOPOLY] Cable Set-Top Boxes
The FCC threw a $20 billion scare into the cable TV industry on February 18, 2016. On that date, the Commission began making new rules that would allow cable customers to get their set-top boxes from vendors other than their cable TV service providers. Read on to learn how much money you could save as a result…
Busting Up the Set-Top Box Monopoly
Check your latest cable TV bill. How much do you pay every month to rent your set-top box(es) from the cable company? Most households pay about $20/month, in addition to all the other charges on that bill. Have you ever wondered why you can't just buy a set-top box, instead of paying that fee, month after month, year after year?
Consumers already have the freedom to attach any FCC-compliant phone, cable modem, or other device to the telecommunications networks they use. Why not allow the same choice for the box that decodes cable programming, changes channels, fetches on-demand programming, and provides other interaction with the cable service? The answer is, “money,” of course.
Ninety-nine percent of cable and satellite TV customers lease set-top boxes from their service providers, spending an average of $231 per year http://www.markey.senate.gov/news/press-releases/markey-blumenthal-decry-lack-of-choice-competition-in-pay-tv-video-box-marketplace according to a survey commissioned by U. S. Senators Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). That adds up to a $19.5 billion revenue stream for service providers. (DirectTV allows customers to use third-party equipment, but charges a “network connection fee” that effectively eliminates any savings.)
Set-top boxes are just small computers, so they could easily be programmed to provide other services for which cable companies could charge. Home security and automation systems are examples. The set-top box could serve as the household hub for the Internet of Things. My research indicates these boxes would sell for under $100 if available in a competitive marketplace. Naturally, the cable companies will fight tooth and nail to maintain control of those boxes.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the Commission is responding to consumers’ concerns about choice and what they get for their monthly rental fees. Wheeler cited a FCC study that found “over the past 20 years, the cost of cable television set-top boxes has risen 185 percent, while the cost of computers, televisions, and mobile phones has dropped 90 percent."
The Empire Strikes Back, Feebly>/h2>
If you're tired of shelling out a fat wad of cash every month for 500 channels you never watch, and a set-top box that ends up costing 5 or 10 times what it should, you can join the ranks of "cord cutters" who are cancelling their cable TV. They're using inexpensive streaming media devices to bring their favorite TV shows and movies direct from the Internet to their TV screens. See my article Streaming Media Gadgets: Is it Time to Cut the Cord?
Cable companies are flinging bushels of mud at the proposed rule, little of which sticks.
"The proposal, like prior federal government technology mandates, would impose costs on consumers, adversely impact the creation of high-quality content, and chill innovation," wrote Comcast.
If the new rule takes effect, it “will ignore contractual freedoms, weaken content diversity and security, undermine important consumer protections like privacy, and stall the creative and technical innovation that is driving positive changes in today’s TV marketplace," added the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the biggest cable lobby group. Opening up the set-top to competition would somehow deprive content producers of their copyright protection, added the NCTA.
In fact, the proposed rule would still require customers to pay for what they view. It imposes no new costs; indeed, it would make it possible, but not mandatory, to do away with hardware and view the cable content for which you pay on any digital device via an app. That’s a bit more compatible with today’s mobile lifestyles than being tied to the TV set in the living room.
How You Can Get Involved
The FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The next step is up to consumers, who are encouraged to submit their comments on the proposal via the FCC’s web page for Proceeding 16-42. Note: you must prepare your comment in a word processor or text editor file, then upload it via the “Submit A Filing” link on the page.
I was surprised to see that as of today, there are only a handful of comments. The FCC needs to hear, loud and clear, from consumers all across America, that the monopoly on cable set-top boxes should end. Tell them you agree with their 'Unlock the Box" proposal, and you want the freedom to purchase your own equipment, instead of paying exorbitant monthly lease fees.
It may take up to a year to finalize this important rule. But once it’s in place, we can expect lower monthly bills, more choices, and more innovations in cable program viewing.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 29 Feb 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [MONOPOLY] Cable Set-Top Boxes (Posted: 29 Feb 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved