Why You Still Can't Ditch Your Cable Box, Despite Alternatives

Not that long ago, the clunky cable box looked like it was on its way out. The federal government was pressuring cable companies to open up their near-monopoly on boxes to more competition, and industry leader Comcast promised apps that could render some boxes obsolete.

That was then. Today, the vast majority of customers still need to rent a box to get full service from cable providers, and those box-replacing apps remain elusive. Here’s what happened.

Ditching the Box

In 2015, tech companies and consumer advocates were pushing the Federal Communications Commission to open up the cable-box market. The goal was to let you buy a cable box the way you’d pick up a new smartphone, sparing you the expense of leasing them from cable companies for about $6 and up a month.

The cable industry and Hollywood hated the FCC’s February 2016 plan to “unlock the box.” They pointed out that TV-watching apps were already available — more on that below — and laid out an industry proposal for new apps that could replace cable boxes.

Amid industry pushback, the FCC’s proposed rules languished ahead of the 2016 election. Afterward, President Donald Trump’s new FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, shelved them permanently.

The industry is no longer pushing its app proposal with the FCC, said Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the cable lobby group NCTA. And he noted that some cable and satellite companies have launched apps that let customers watch video without a cable box.

Where, oh Where, Are Those Apps?

But most cable TV customers still need a box. The industry has little motivation to get rid of rented cable boxes or to keep its promises without pressure from regulators, said John Bergmayer, senior counsel of the public advocacy group Public Knowledge, in a filing to the FCC.

Comcast said in April 2016 that it was working…
Source: Mobile Tech Today

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