The Obama administration wants set-top competition, and it’s asking the FCC to act. That’s according to a new blog posted this morning at whitehouse.gov, “Thinking Outside the Cable Box: How More Competition Gets You a Better Deal.”
“Today the president announced that his administration is calling on the FCC to open up set-top cable boxes to competition. This will allow for companies to create new, innovative, higher-quality, lower-cost products,” the post says, which is credited to Jason Furman, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, and Jeffrey Zients, director of the National Economic Council and assistant to the president for economic policy.
Starting with a short history lesson on set-tops, they go on to say the administration wants to see consumers have a lower-cost option than leasing, and the ability to own devices that will integrate cable/satellite content as well as online streaming apps.
They further say that the set-top box is “a mascot for a new initiative we’re launching today. That box is a stand-in for what happens when you don’t have the choice to go elsewhere — for all parts of our economy where competition could do more.”
President Obama announced a broader initiative through an executive order today that “calls on departments and agencies to make further progress through specific, pro-competition executive actions that empower and inform consumers, workers and entrepreneurs.” More information on that is available through a brief, which can be accessed here.
National Cable & Telecommunications President Michael Powell fired back at the administration this morning in a blog. “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,” he says. “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.”
Other early response includes a statement from the Consumer Video Choice Coalition, which won’t be shocking given the group’s name: “We are pleased President Obama is calling for an end to the set-top box monopoly. Being forced to rent an old box is costing American families $231 dollars per year. The pay TV industry controls 99 percent of the set top box market, and prices have risen by 185 percent over the past two decades.”
John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at Public Knowledge also sent kudos the administration’s way. “Creating new competition in the devices and apps viewers use to access their pay TV subscriptions will give viewers better, more integrated experiences by allowing them to combine cable and online video using more modern devices, while saving them money,” Bergmayer says. “A more competitive market with fewer gatekeepers will also create new opportunities for the programmers and creators who can’t get cable carriage, or who balk at the onerous terms, to more easily reach an audience.”
CED will continue to cover both pro and con opinions as they’re revealed.
Filed Under: Industry regulations