FCC Drops Plan For Alternative Cable Set-Top Boxes

The final stages of an auction for wireless spectrum previously licensed by television stations will complete on Friday, though with less interest than was expected.

The Federal Communications Commission has removed a proposal to allow third-party set top boxes and services for cable and pay TV providers from its agenda, according to Variety.

The proposal has been put on hold and will not be up for a vote, but an FCC representative told Variety it could come back in the future.

For the FCC, the initial version of the proposal focused on the proprietary set top boxes cable providers require users to rent with their service agreement. Typically, these boxes have an additional rental charge users have to pay in addition to their standard monthly cable rate.

While an early version of the proposal would have allowed third-party manufacturers to produce their own boxes that could access pay TV services, a later update only required pay TV services to have apps available on streaming devices like a Roku or Apple TV. However, policy disagreements and challenges delayed the proposal, which was a focus for former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

The move falls in line with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s expected approach to the department. Pai, who previously served as an FCC commissioner, has been a vocal critic of past high-profile FCC moves under Wheeler, describing the cable box proposal as a “ 20th-century approach to a 21st-century problem” during its initial vote.

Pai also looks to take a similarly aggressive stance towards the FCC’s net neutrality policy and past regulations. Pai has been a staunch opponent of the FCC’s previous moves to support open internet and net neutrality standards and in a December speech, promised to “fire up the weed whacker” for regulations on the telecommunications industry.

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