More reports on: Entertainment

FCC's new plan to free consumers from cable set-top boxes

09 September 2016

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed extensive changes to its plan to overhaul cable boxes, dropping much of what it initially planned in favour of having cable companies make new apps.

Under the new plan large cable providers would create apps that offered access to all their programming, including live and on-demand content.

Those apps would need to be made available on "all widely deployed platforms," which including iOS, Android, Windows, and Roku. Both native and web apps would be accepted.

TV providers would need to open their catalogue up to universal searches, to for instance, allow an Apple TV, search through a provider's live and on-demand programming right alongside Netflix, to allow users to see results for both at once.

The updated plan would however, still be able to address a major issue with the cable boxes - freeing consumers from unnecessary cable box rentals, which typically required a monthly fee and also cable service. While consumers would still be able to buy and rent cable boxes, the commission hoped that consumers would just buy a cheap streaming box and download their cable provider's app instead.

Commentators  say though the proposal, if approved later this month, would not open up the marketplace to third-party manufacturers, according to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler it would still be a win for consumers as it would allow them to stop spending money every month renting a set-top box.

''The choice is yours,'' he said in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. ''No longer will you be forced to rent set-top boxes from your pay-TV provider.''

Wheeler's proposal yesterday, comes after a protracted debate over his initial proposal. His earlier plan entailed pay-television companies opening their feeds to third-party manufacturers.

He had argued that making it easier for companies - TiVo or Google, for example to manufacturer boxes that accessed live programming would lead to more and better choices for consumers while lowering prices.

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