FCC Votes to “Unlock the Cable Box” Over Republican Opposition
The Federal Communications Commission today approved a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that seeks to give consumers more choices in the set-top boxes they use to watch cable TV.
The vote was 3-2, with Chairman Tom Wheeler and fellow Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting in favor of the proposal, while Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly voted against. An NPRM is not a final vote. Instead, this will kick off a months-long public comment period leading up to a final vote that is likely to happen before the end of this year.
The FCC is essentially trying to create a software-based replacement for CableCard. Pay-TV operators from the cable, satellite, and telco industries would have to provide content and programming information to makers of third-party hardware or applications. Theoretically, customers could then watch their TV channels on various devices without needing to rent a set-top box from their cable company and without buying equipment that is compatible with a physical CableCard.
One possibility is that new set-top boxes could combine online video sources with cable TV channels.