Opening up the cable box

The US Federal Communications Commission is proposing to break cable and satellite companies’ iron grip on the set-top boxes through which your TV shows arrive. With an “open system” box, viewers could access HBO, Netflix, Hulu, low-power local stations, and other networks and programs that giant telecoms companies won’t carry – all through one appliance.

Proponents liken the revolutionary move to early competition between Apple and Microsoft. Apple’s software remained a closed system, using only programs the company provided. Microsoft opened its system to independent developers, making its computers far more useful to a wider range of folks.

Cable and satellite firms, and many Republican members of Congress, oppose the plan to open set-top boxes. In February, however, FCC commissioners voted 3-2 to begin a multi-month public-comment period to gather reactions. If adopted, the new rule could come in spring 2017.

TRENDPOST: Technology’s natural tendency is to democratize and decentralize.  Although telecom companies will oppose anything that weakens their control of content and the dollars consumers spend for it, the merging of the Internet, television, phones and other devices renders opposition ultimately moot and the FCC’s proposed move inevitable.

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