President Barack Obama is making it easier for American consumers to control their own TV viewing destinies. Today, he announced that he will be signing an executive order calling for the FCC to open up the cable and satellite industry to set-top box competition.
“Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years to lease a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want — including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps — in one, easier-to-use gadget,” said a White House statement announcing the decision.
The president won’t be getting any blowback from the FCC. In February, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced that his agency would be moving forward with the very same rule changes outlined by the president, allowing consumers to use third-party devices to access cable and satellite content (think Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc.) instead of being restricted to set-top boxes from their MVPD providers.
The White House referred to the unbundling of the set-top box as the “mascot” for a broad range of initiatives in the executive order encouraging competition in American business, from cell phone unlocking and net neutrality to cracking down on conflicts of interest in retirement advice.
“The idea is that whether we’re talking about financial services, whether we’re talking about products like the box on your cable TV — across the board if we have more players who can potentially participate, fewer barriers to entry, the rules aren’t rigged, then you get more people trying to get your business and you get better products at cheaper prices,” said the president in an interview with Yahoo Finance’s Nicole Sinclair (above).
Like Wheeler and others, President Obama used the break-up of the Bell phone monopoly in 1983 as an example of the benefits of opening up a previously closed-off industry to competition.
“As soon as we broke that connection between the phone and the service provider, suddenly, all kinds of folks poured in and innovation occurred in the phone industry,” the president told Sinclair. “So the potential here is for cheaper, more effective services that are provided, and this is one example of what we can do all across the economy.”
(Image: official White House photo by Pete Souza)