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.
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 (@TomWheelerFCC) February 18, 2016
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.