Markey Hails FCC Proposal on Pay-TV Video Boxes

As co-author of the ’96 Telecommunications Act, Senator has long championed competition and choice in video programming

Washington (January 27, 2016) – Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler today circulated a proposal to increase choice and innovation in the video box market. The proposal would create a framework for device manufacturers and innovators to develop new technologies that allow consumers to access video programming without having to rent a box from their pay-TV provider. The FCC plans to vote on the Chairman’s notice of proposed rulemaking at the next FCC Open Meeting on February 18.

In 2015, Senators Markey and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) released findings from their investigation of the pay set-top box market that revealed that consumers have little choice in their pay-TV video boxes and that the average household spends more than $231 annually on video box rental fees. The investigation also found that approximately 99 percent of customers rent their set-top box directly from their pay-TV provider and the set-top box rental market may be worth more than $19.5 billion per year.

Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, released the following statement:   

“Exactly 20 years since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC is finally on its way to fulfilling the promise to American consumers of a competitive and robust video box market. Since Congress voted to repeal of the integration ban, I have called on the FCC to use its authority to promote a fair, competitive marketplace for video boxes. I commend Chairman Wheeler for his proposal to help ensure that consumers are not captive to bloated rental fees forever. Consumer choice should fuel the video box market, not cable company control. In the 21st century, consumers should be able to choose their set-top box the same way they choose their mobile phone.”

 

In November 2015, Senator Markey led seven Senators in calling on the FCC to use its authority and initiate a rulemaking to ensure that consumers can use set-top boxes of their choice to access MVPD (multichannel video program distributors) programming.  

 

Passed by Congress in December 2014, the STELA Reauthorization Act repealed the set-top box integration ban, which enabled consumers to access technology that allowed use of a set-top box other than one leased from their cable company. Without the integration ban, cable companies are no longer be required to make their services compatible with outside set-top boxes, like TiVo for example, bought directly by consumers in the retail marketplace.

 

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