FCC Poised to Break Up Big Cable's Chokehold on Set-Top Boxes

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a new set of rules to break up big cable’s “stranglehold” on set-top boxes, the devices that use source signals to transmit content onto television screens.

“[W]hen it comes to the set-top-box that delivers our pay-TV subscriptions, we have essentially no options, creating headaches and costing us serious money in rental fees. That makes no sense,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, noting that most cable customers pay an average of $231 a year to rent their set-top boxes from their providers, amounting to an annual tab of $20 billion in fees nationwide.

“We keep paying these charges even after the cost of the box has been recovered because we have no meaningful alternative,” Wheeler wrote.

The FCC’s new rules would require pay-TV companies to provide free apps rather than boxes that consumers can download onto their devices, where the programs they already paid for would be available.

Wheeler wrote: