The Federal Communications Commission has put off voting on a new plan that would see cable companies create free apps, enabling customers to access the programming without set-top boxes.
The set-top box order was removed from the September agenda, but will go on the Commission’s circulation list and will “remain under consideration by Commissioners,” an FCC press release states.
“It’s time for consumers to say goodbye to costly set-top boxes. It’s time for more ways to watch and more lower-cost options,” reads a statement from Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
“That’s why we have been working to update our policies under Section 629 of the Communications Act in order to foster a competitive market for these devices. We have made tremendous progress – and we share the goal of creating a more innovative and inexpensive market for these consumer devices. 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.”
Under the new plan, which was put forth by Wheeler a few weeks ago, consumers would still pay their monthly subscription fees, but would be able to download an app to their devices, eliminating the need to rent boxes from their pay-TV provider. Pay-TV providers would also be required to allow customers to search their programming options in one place whether from their pay-TV provider, an over-the-top service or a programmer’s standalone app.
Wheeler’s app proposal would shelve the Commission’s original plan to unlock cable set-top boxes.
The FCC, earlier this year, said the price of cable set-top boxes were grossly inflated. The average American household, according to FCC stats, pays $231 annually to rent the devices, an increase of 185 percent over the past 20 years while the prices for other technology such as Smartphones and computers has decreased. The plan was to knock down anti-competitive barriers to pave the way for innovative solutions that could compete with set-top boxes.