FCC regulators scrap vote on TV industry’s set-top boxes

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday pre-empted a scheduled vote about whether cable companies should be required to offer an alternative to traditional TV set-top boxes that earn them hundreds of thousands of dollars from customers every year. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI

SILVER SPRING, Md., Sept. 30 (UPI) — The top U.S. media regulator delayed a vote Thursday to determine whether cable television providers must provide an alternative to traditional set-top boxes that earn the companies hundreds of thousands in additional revenue each year.

The Federal Communications Commission was expected to vote on the issue Thursday, but removed the event from its Sept. 29 agenda due to potential copyright concerns.

Subscribers must pay programming companies for use of the cable boxes to receive service, but some have questioned whether that affords providers too much authority. The average American pays $231 every year for their cable box rentals.

The commission, then, was supposed to vote on whether companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable should be forced to offer an alternative.

The reasons for the delayed FCC vote vary, but they include recently-stated concerns that the agency may not have the regulatory authority to mandate such a change.

“It’s time for consumers to say goodbye to costly set-top boxes,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel said in a joint statement Thursday. “We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country.”

The proposal, intended to spur more competition in the industry, now goes to the commission’s circulation list to remain under consideration, the FCC said.

Rosenworcel said this month that the FCC’s mandating an alternative from programmers might exceed its authority and be too meddlesome for the agency. Commissioners are also concerned about the potential for copyright violations.


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