The recent statement released by cable provider Comcast doesn’t seem like much, in terms of news about the TV business goes anyway. On Wednesday, the firm stated that they will be launching a new feature for their Xfinity service. In this new service, it allows users to watch their cable through Roku streaming boxes as well as Samsung Smart TVs. However, there is a world of tension behind that “would-be” small announcement as the cable giant and the Federal Communications Commission talk about the future of connected TV.
Comcast Tries to do an End Run on Set-Top Box Changes Around the FCC
To better understand why Comcast made the announcement, let us go back to an earlier statement that the FCC made back in February of this year with a campaign they call “Unlock the Box.” To summarize things, said campaign is designed to allow consumers to be freed from the need to shell out cash to rent a set-top box just to gain access to cable. President of the United States Barack Obama even signed an executive order which he agrees with the FCC’s proposal.
Tom Wheeler, the FCC chairman, talked about in the commission’s announcement on how users are locked in purchasing or renting out cable boxes. At that time, it had come to change an unfair situation. Hence, the proposal brought about by the FCC is targeted at forcing cable operators to open up the set-top box market which would allow others, such as Apple or Google, to provide devices that do the same or similar service.
Wheeler described the announcement in a post on tech news site Re/Code: “Altogether, U.S. consumers spend a whopping $20 billion a year to lease these devices. In fact, according to a recent analysis, over the past 20 years the cost of cable set-top boxes has risen 185% while the cost of computers, televisions and mobile phones has dropped by 90%.”
In response, cable company Comcast stated that they are doing exactly that, but have take a different path to arrive at that solution. The company talked about all the new developments and features for their Xfinity service. In effect, they have accused the FCC of fighting the last war. Company senior vice president Mark Hess has expressed his thoughts in a blog post in which he states: “In light of the success of the apps-based model in the marketplace, the far-reaching government technical mandate being currently proposed by the FCC is unnecessary. The FCC’s proposed set-top box mandate threatens to undermine this highly-dynamic marketplace, create substantial costs and consumer harms… all in an effort to achieve what apps are already delivering for consumers.”