FCC Votes to Open Cable Boxes, Goes to Public Comments

What if cable companies just offered streams? You paid Comcast a subscription fee, not unlike Netflix, and then could stream channels to a set-top box produced by Google or Apple instead of renting an expensive cable box? That’s part of a proposal that the FCC has made which would standardize the cable format and allow third parties to create their on cable boxes. Google, a company already producing Google Fiber, has expressed interest in this plan.

FCC 2016

The FCC on Thursday voted in support of this plan in a 3-2 vote. Now the proposal is moving to a period for public comments. Once this period is over and the comments are read, there will be a final proposal the FCC will vote on.

Tom Wheeler has been portraying this as a win for competition, saying that consumers will have more choice and competition in the market which should improve quality and lower prices. FCC comissioner Mignon Clyburn said,

While the cost of other technologies have fallen as competition increased, the cost of a set-top box has risen at more than three times the rate of inflation for American paid-TV subscribers over that same period.

The cable companies are not supportive. Not only do they not want to lose the money made from cable boxes and the data they collect from users, but they argue the future are apps which stream content to any device. It should be mentioned that many of the TV apps that use cable authentication won’t always support Comcast.

This is an interesting point in the TV industry as it could definitely provide a great benefit to companies already making set-top boxes and further blend traditional TV with web TV (like what Live Channels does). At the same time, it may cause cable companies to make significant changes to the way cable is supplied. We can only speculate what will happen in the coming months.

You can read the proposal now if you’re interested.

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Nick Felker

Nick Felker

Nick Felker is a student Electrical & Computer Engineering student at Rowan University (C/O 2017) and the student IEEE webmaster. When he's not studying, he is a software developer for the web and Android (Felker Tech). He has several open source projects on GitHub (http://github.com/fleker)Devices: Moto G-2013 Moto G-2015, Moto 360, Google ADT-1, Nexus 7-2013 (x2), Lenovo Laptop, Custom Desktop.Although he was an intern at Google, the content of this blog is entirely independent and his own thoughts.

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  • Hodor

    Hodor!!

  • Alex

    Android boxes will take over… there should be one in every house! a friend referred me to this box http://www.zoomtak.org, this is the future of TV

    • Kawshik Ahmed

      Just to know you know, that box doesn’t run ‘Android TV OS’ but ‘Standard Android for tablet’ so you will get some VOD app like Netflix only show 480P.

  • Pedro Verdugo

    I don’t get why google want some of this, from my understanding cable is dying? it might take a while but VOD is the future.

    • Millions of people still use cable boxes. It’s going to continue to be relatively successful. Plus, it gives Google a way to enter people’s homes/TVs and upsell them on Google’s ecosystem.