FCC adopts 'Unlock the Box' proposal to open set-top box competition

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV
The Federal Communications Commission will force cable providers to ensure interoperability for third-party set-top boxes, paving the way for companies like Apple to integrate linear television programming into their offerings.




The commission was predictably split on the issue, which cable and satellite operators vehemently opposed. Cable companies stand to lose millions of dollars in rental fees and -- perhaps more importantly -- direct control over their relationships with customers.

Consumers would still be forced to pay a subscription fee for access, but would otherwise never have to interact with their cable provider. A set-top box purchase from Apple or Google could serve as the front end, making those companies into de facto content gatekeepers.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler believes this will foster competition to create the best experience.

"[Cable companies] and competitors should be able to differentiate themselves and compete based on the experience they offer users, including the quality of the user interface and additional features like suggested content, integration with home entertainment systems, caller ID and future innovations," Wheeler's proposal reads.

Under the plan, cable companies will be required to give set-top box manufacturers access to program listings, content, and information about how the programming can be treated -- for example, whether a specific show can be recorded. It does not grant third parties any rights with regard to content licensing.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    bring it. a landline phone works with any set of pipes, why not tv boxes?
    williamlondonlostkiwi
  • Reply 2 of 38
    "The commission was predictably split on the issue, which cable and satellite operators vehemently opposed."

    They (cable and satellite operators) get a vote?


    williamlondonlostkiwiIanMC2
  • Reply 3 of 38
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,959member
    Someday Apple TV set-top box could add more integrating live cable TV programming.
    edited February 2016
  • Reply 4 of 38
    That's fantastic news. The days of market monopolies (yes, many markets today are served by only one provider) are over. Why cable operators have had preferential treatment for years is beyond me, but suspect it has everything to do with campaign contributions.


    williamlondononeof52lostkiwi
  • Reply 5 of 38
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,435member
    wood1208 said:
    Someday Apple TV set-top box could add more integrating live cable TV programming.
    Only if they are supplying the content.

    And I can't really imagine that the Cable companies won't be able to charge a fee for the program guides and schedules to third party vendors. In fact, I don't think there were any reasons third party manufacturers have not been able to manufacture compatible boxes presently, other than the licensing issues.

    Also, this is bad for Apple, especially if they get into original programming, since they will likewise have to offer their services to third party set-top boxes. SO I could theoretically buy a box from Amazon and watch my iTunes and Apple content on it.
  • Reply 6 of 38
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,098member


    “[Cable companies] and competitors should be able to differentiate themselves and compete based on the experience they offer users, including the quality of the user interface and additional features like suggested content, integration with home entertainment systems, caller ID and future innovations," Wheeler's proposal reads.
    The current user experience on the typical cable or satellite STB is atrocious. I am a Charter Spectrum subscriber and the UI on their STB is downright medieval. Can’t wait for this to order to be implemented. But the Cable/Satellite operators will undoubtedly file lawsuits to block it. It could take years.
    lostkiwiwilliamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 38
    Apple Bud said:
    That's fantastic news. The days of market monopolies (yes, many markets today are served by only one provider) are over. Why cable operators have had preferential treatment for years is beyond me, but suspect it has everything to do with campaign contributions.


    Blame your federal and state governments for establishing this type of structure.
  • Reply 8 of 38
    anomeanome Posts: 1,270member
    badmonk said:
    "The commission was predictably split on the issue, which cable and satellite operators vehemently opposed."

    They (cable and satellite operators) get a vote?


    In theory, the same way everyone else does, by participating in the democratic process.

    In practice, they can afford to buy a few extra votes both directly and indirectly.
  • Reply 9 of 38
    Requiring a subscription fee for access kind of defeats the purpose of cutting the cord. If I'm purchasing internet access from AT&T, that's all that should be needed for me to watch TV.
  • Reply 10 of 38
    bdkennedy said:
    Requiring a subscription fee for access kind of defeats the purpose of cutting the cord. If I'm purchasing internet access from AT&T, that's all that should be needed for me to watch TV.
    I don't think simply having an internet connection entitles you to free HBO for life...
    awilliams87nolamacguy
  • Reply 11 of 38
    About time.....

    Damn rip-off artists.
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 12 of 38
    volcanvolcan Posts: 1,789member
    The FCC actually passed laws like this in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2006, 2007, etc. It never got enforced and the cable companies only support open standards with respect to live TV data, so there are still all the technical challenges to solve, such as network delivery methods, subscriber side devices with multiple versions of control and physical layer transport, data decrypting / decoding, etc. 

    Don't look for solutions anytime soon. This will probably fizzle out just like the numerous times before that the FCC tried to open the market. Any real solution will have to be global. Right now there are hundreds of 
    propriety set top box manufacturers worldwide. For Apple to enter this industry it will need a much broader scope than just the US and they will still need licensing agreements with all the carriers. Personally I have zero confidence this will happen. Seems like an extreme uphill battle. What we need is more competition in carriers, not set top boxes. Most of the US only has one choice for a cable provider. By the time set top boxes are standardized everything will be delivered over the Internet anyway.
  • Reply 13 of 38
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member
    mac_128 said:
    Also, this is bad for Apple, especially if they get into original programming, since they will likewise have to offer their services to third party set-top boxes. SO I could theoretically buy a box from Amazon and watch my iTunes and Apple content on it.
    Rubbish. This has nothing to do with that.

    -KeithP
  • Reply 14 of 38
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,694member
    It's about time. Why can't a buy a box for $150 instead of opening my wallet to Comcast for $10 per month forever! 
    awilliams87
  • Reply 15 of 38
    Great.... Maybe now we can see some true innovation .
  • Reply 16 of 38
    levilevi Posts: 344member
    badmonk said:
    "The commission was predictably split on the issue, which cable and satellite operators vehemently opposed."

    They (cable and satellite operators) get a vote?


    No vote. As a regulatory commission, they receive comment from the public, special interests and industry representatives alike. The goal is to find the best solution for all, in light of existing regulations and statute. These issues are rarely clear cut. 
  • Reply 17 of 38
    Paves the way for yearly product releases costing $600+ for "new features".
  • Reply 18 of 38
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    Apple Bud said:
    That's fantastic news. The days of market monopolies (yes, many markets today are served by only one provider) are over. Why cable operators have had preferential treatment for years is beyond me, but suspect it has everything to do with campaign contributions.


    Municipalities, like the United States before it with railroads, was too cheap to build out the cable infrastructure itself: so it left that to "the private sector" and since the cablers paid for the cables they had exclusive rights to their use in return for their expenditure in buying and installing them.

    No magic cable fairy just made every household in a community be connected. That cost money, a LOT of money.
  • Reply 19 of 38
    About time. It is sad that the consumer has had to suffer crappy interfaces for decades. Cable and Satellite providers could have easily created a good user experience. Now they will have to if they want consumers to even think about using their stuff.
  • Reply 20 of 38
    rhinotuff said:
    bdkennedy said:
    Requiring a subscription fee for access kind of defeats the purpose of cutting the cord. If I'm purchasing internet access from AT&T, that's all that should be needed for me to watch TV.
    I don't think simply having an internet connection entitles you to free HBO for life...
    I agree but at some point there needs to be a consolidation of services. I pay for internet, I pay for cable, I pay for phone data...on and on. I understand I do not have to but in reality I do if I want all of those types of services that are fueled by data.
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