FCC Takes Huge Step Toward Killing The Cable Set-Top Box For Good

2016-09-09-01

Ding, dong, the box is dead.

For years, consumers have been trapped renting set-top boxes from their television providers to watch cable TV at home. But on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC ) put forward a revised set of rules to let consumers get rid of those set-top boxes and instead watch cable TV on other devices like Apple AAPL -2.23% TV, Roku, Xbox or phones and tablets. Right now 99% of TV subscribers in the U.S.  pay an average of $231 a year to rent cable set-top boxes, according to a blog post by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

“If adopted, these consumer-first rules would pave the way for a competitive marketplace for new devices that enhance the TV-watching experience,” Wheeler said in the post. “Bottom line: consumers will no longer have to rent a set-top box just to watch the programming they already pay for.”

While a likely win for consumers, the new proposal also takes into account earlier criticisms from major cable companies. In February, the FCC had introduced its “Unlock the Box” proposal, which would have required cable providers to let third-party apps access their content. Under the new rules, cable companies will just need to provide a free app to let consumers play cable content using other devices.

FCC Takes Huge Step Toward Killing The Cable Set-Top Box For Good