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Obama: Americans Shouldn’t Have to Pay Hundreds of Dollars for Their Cable Boxes

The White House is giddy for competition, and it’s starting with an FCC proposal aimed to set your cable TV box free

President Barack Obama is throwing his weight behind a regulator proposal that would open up consumer choice for the set-top box that delivers your cable TV, one that may be costing you hundreds of dollars a year.

In a rare move, the White House on Friday endorsed a draft rule at the Federal Communications Commission that would open up competition in set-top boxes, essentially letting people decide for themselves whether they want to rent the box providing by their cable company or opt instead for something built by the likes of Apple, Roku or Google.

The White House and FCC have both cited a study that found the average household pays $231 a year to rent the boxes from its cable provider.

“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,” White House officials Jeff Zients and Jason Furman said in a blog post.

Michael Powell, the head of the cable industry’s trade group, said the White House was “choosing to inject politics and inflammatory rhetoric into a regulatory proceeding by what is supposed to be an independent agency.” He said it “shatters” consumers faith that an FCC decision is “based on sound analysis of the record, and not the political interests of the executive branch.”

Concerns about the FCC’s proposal include copyright harms, damage to minority programmers, consumer privacy protections and unnecessary costs to re-engineer networks, he said in his own blog post for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

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