For Immediate Release
November 15, 2006
Consumer and Public Interest Groups Ask FCC To Enforce Set-Top Box Choices
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should make certain consumers will have the benefits of long-overdue competition for cable set-top boxes, a group of public-interest and consumer organizations said today in a letter to the Commission.
Consumers were promised this competition 10 years ago in the 1996 Telecom Act, and the FCC adopted regulations to implement it eight years ago, but the cable industry has yet to comply, according to the letter signed by the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Project on Technology, Consumers Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Free Press, Media Access Project, Public Knowledge and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG).
The cable industry is seeking waivers to prevent consumer choice in set-top boxes from going into effect on July 1, 2007, part of yet another series of delays. The letter said: “Congress was right when it sought to promote competition in the set-top box market. The cable industry's continuous efforts to postpone this mandate are anti-competitive and anti-consumer. The Commission should no longer condone them.” The full text of the letter is here.
Gigi B. Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, said: “The Commission has been far too lenient with the cable industry, and consumers have suffered as a result. This time the Commission should enforce the rules, and give consumers the benefits of competition and innovation.”
“The lock that cable has on cable set-top boxes is antiquated and anti-competitive,” said Jeannine Kenney, policy analyst for Consumers Union. “But unless FCC holds firm on the integration ban, it's clear the cable industry will continue to drag its feet, denying consumers meaningful retail alternatives to the outrageous monthly box 'rental' fees.”
“Cable monopolists have unfairly used proprietary devices to jack up prices and limit consumer choice,” said Amina Fazlullah, U.S. PIRG media reform attorney. “At the end of the day, cable consumers will pay less and be better off with the new set-top box rules.”