The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) canceled its scheduled vote on its “Unlock the Box” proposal that would allow consumers to use third-party devices to access cable and satellite content instead of being restricted to set-top boxes owned by their MVPDs.
The FCC’s five-member leadership team was scheduled to vote on the proposal at its Open Commission meeting today. The next Open Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 26, but its agenda has not been published.
The move earned a swift response from the Open Technology Institute (OTI), a division of the nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank New America that promotes equal access to technology.
“We are disappointed by today’s delay,” said Joshua Stager, policy counsel for New America’s Open Technology Institute, in a statement. “Congress directed the FCC to end the set-top box monopoly in 1996, and consumers have been waiting ever since. We recognize the desire to get these reforms right, but consumers can’t afford to wait another two decades. The FCC must move swiftly and Congress should not stand in its way.”
Complicating matters, according to OTI, is the fact that FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, widely seen as the swing vote on the proposal, is having her nomination for a second term blocked by Senate Republicans.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler first introduced the proposed “Unlock the Box” rule changes in February, citing a study that pay-TV customers spend an average of $231 a year to rent set-top boxes, which adds up to $20 billion annually.
Earlier this month, Wheeler amended the proposal, adding a provision that would require pay TV providers to issue free apps that consumers can download to the device of their choosing that give them access to all the programming and features that they pay for.