FCC Shouldn’t Force Gov’t-Approved Design for Set-Top Cable and Satellite Boxes
Last night, like many nights, our family experienced what more and more American families experience when it comes to video entertainment at home: option overload. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Who wants to return to the days of three major networks dictating the limited number of things we can watch? Today we enjoy a wealth of options unimaginable even five years ago.
Despite our ever-increasing wealth of options, some continue to ignore reality and push for government-imposed regulations that will only interrupt continued innovation and future choice for consumers.
These parties are urging the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to revisit an embarrassing chapter in its regulatory past to force a government-approved design for the set-top boxes that allow cable and satellite TV customers to view programming. The FCC’s previous regulation of these devices cost consumers tens of millions of dollars, and never created the market in alternative set-top boxes envisioned by regulators. Specifically, some companies who would like to see the FCC engage in another attempt to “create” a market for their set-top products – products consumers stubbornly refuse to demand — are pushing for FCC regulations that would define the technologies cable and satellite companies use in manufacturing their set-top boxes.
The video marketplace has never had more choices in the number of devices and the number of platforms over which consumers can view video products. There are gadgets and apps available for any number of devices to view any number of offerings, and yet there are those who would lock in the very set-top boxes that may be on their way out if the government would only leave the market to its own devices.
The FCC’s Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC, pronounced “DEE-stack”) issued a report in August which made no collective recommendation for any new FCC technology mandate on set-top boxes. The panel reported what most younger video viewers have known for some time, namely, that there is “wide diversity” in networks, security, and communication technology choices across all pay TV platforms.
Although there is no doubt that interested parties will call for the government to regulate technology for set-top boxes, we urge the Commission to let consumers in the thriving market for video services sort out what devices and what technologies best serve their budgets, tastes, and viewing preferences. To have the government lock in any present technology means cutting off future innovations.
We also need to respect the interests of content providers who have a right to negotiate the terms under which their content can be viewed. And here again, apps can serve an important advancement for consumers and content providers, as the services provided by apps have exploded over the past few years as rights become available from content providers.
Simply put, consumers today are viewing video content using Amazon, Apple TV, Netflix, Roku, Cable and Satellite Apps, smartphones, tablets and web browsers. The video market is thriving without government regulation and intervention.
Let’s hope the FCC can help video consumers by resisting the temptation to regulate in this exciting and rapidly changing world.