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FCC Pulls Vote on App Alternative to Set-Top Box

29 Sep, 2016 By: Erik Gruenwedel

A controversial proposal by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler that would mandate pay-TV operators move from the conventional set-top box to app-based distribution was pulled from the Sept. 29 meeting.

Facing opposition from Republican commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel, Wheeler tabled the proposal for future consideration.

The “Ditch the Box” proposal sought to circumvent what Wheeler called a $20 billion windfall to multichannel video program distributors, whereby the average American spends $231 a year renting a set-top box to access pay-TV.

“While consumers will still pay their monthly subscription fees for the service, they will be able to download an app to devices they purchase or already own to access pay-TV service, so they are no longer forced to rent boxes from their provider. Of course, a consumer may choose to keep their set-top box and enjoy their pay-TV programming as they do today,” Wheeler wrote in the proposal.

But the proposal faced challenges, including objections from smaller cable operators who said the move away from the set-top box would be cost-prohibitive.

In a July subcommittee meeting with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rosenworcel, who held the swing vote on the five-member commission, answered in the affirmative when asked whether the initial FCC set-top proposal was flawed.

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