The FCC Wants Set-top Box Competition 
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Written by Dick Ward   
Friday, 18 December 2009

Cable set-top boxes are, for the most part, a pretty standard piece of hardware for anyone with a television.  Even though they provide a huge amount of content, the boxes themselves are quite dull.  Aside from a few minor tweaks, one is pretty much like the other.

The FCC isn’t happy with that.  They want boxes to improve, and they want set-top box makers to innovate.  To that end, they’re considering a change in the set-top rule book .  The current regulations on boxes are pretty stringent, which is why we’re not seeing much that’s shiny and new.

One of the ideas being tossed around is to require cable and broadband providers to give consumers a small, low cost device to bridge modems and cable boxes.   The hope there, according to the FCC is to spur consumers to jump on the broadband bandwagon.  “Improved boxes could be an important driver of broadband adoption and utilization,” says a report by the FCC.

The FCC isn’t the only one that wants some change.  Consumer advocacy groups submitted a petition to the FCC recently that calls for them to create rules making cable and satellite operators to use a standard platform.  Currently, each company has separate standards for their set-top boxes which means that there’s a limited amount of choice.  

Art Brodsky, the spokesman for the group Public Knowledge, says that they want to see set-top competition reach the store front.  Brodsky says that new entrants to the set-top race have an unfair disadvantage.  "Right now, the guys who want to make devices are thwarted at every turn."

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