The Obama Administration says the average American household should not have to spend nearly $1,000 every four years to “lease” a TV cable set-top box.
Families should have the option 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.”
The financial black hole tied to TV cable set-top boxes may not be on the list of the most vital issues facing American families — but it is an antiquated and costly system for the consumer in the digital age, argues the White House in a lengthy blog post.
According to a recent study, 99 percent of all cable subscribers lease a set-top box to get their cable and satellite programming.
“It sits in the middle of our living rooms, and most of us don’t think twice about it,” the Obama Administration says. “But that same study found that the average household pays $231 per year to rent these often clunky boxes. And, while the cost of making these boxes is going down, their price to consumers has been rising.”
Obama has already called upon the Federal Communications Commision to open up competition between set-top cable boxes to allow consumers functions such as on demand movies and premium channels without the need for a steep cable bill. The FCC approved in February a proposal to let consumers switch from pricey cable boxes to cheaper devices and apps. That pending change should boost competition in the huge $20 billion television set-top box market, and that’s good news for consumers. At the same time, it’s bad news for the major cable TV companies.
This week President Obama announced a broader new initiative through an Executive Order which requires certain federal agencies to come up with strategies for promoting “greater competition” and “improve consumer access to information needed to make informed purchasing decisions” regarding such issues as the delivery of programming — via the Internet or cable/satellite — to American homes.
The White House says that: “These new steps will build on pro-competition progress we’ve made—from cell phone unlocking to net neutrality, from cracking down on conflicts of interest in retirement advice to efforts to free up essential technologies so that big incumbent companies can’t crowd out their competitors.