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FCC ‘unlocks cable box’

The Federal Communications Commission will allow consumers to swap cable boxes for cheaper devices

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to allow consumers to swap cable boxes in favour of cheaper devices.

The move, which was passed in a 3-2 vote, is set to significantly boost competition in the £14 billion pay-TV set-top box market.

The decision could have far-reaching consequences for how customers consume television, essentially allowing them to go through third parties for their set-top devices, rather than being forced to remain with the same company they use for their cable service.

Tom Wheeler(pictured), FCC chairman, said, “This is not complex. The law mandates it, technology allows it, the industry at one time proposed something similar to it, and consumers deserve a break and a choice.”

The proposal also suggested that satellite, cable and telecommunications companies should open up their video feeds to allow other companies to build competition.

Google have welcomed the decision, and are expected to develop their own products to compete with traditional cable boxes.

However, Bob Quinn, AT&T’s senior vice president of federal regulatory, said, “The FCC will have to establish an enormous regulatory infrastructure to create and oversee this new technology mandate that involves the creation of new technology standards and standards bodies.”

“While consumers are embracing an apps-based approach that offers a variety of content on more than 450 million devices, the FCC has chosen to go down a path that threatens the very competition and innovation that has led to this vibrant marketplace.”

The proposal will now be opened for public comment. Following this, the FCC will then vote again on the proposed rule before it is adopted.