FCC Delays ‘Unlock the Box’ NPRM Vote

The cable television industry is waiting with bated breath on a final vote from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on its “Unlock the Box” Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

The Unlock the Box plan, in case you’re out of the loop, would require cable operators to make content available on devices other than traditional set-top-boxes (STB). Under this plan, cable customers would be able to access shows on devices like Apple TV.

The wait, however, just got a bit longer. Last week, the FCC delayed the vote until a future time.

So, what caused the delay?

“It was simply a matter of running out of time,” explained FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler following last week’s meeting.

According to the New York Times, the vote is still on the table. More discussions will be needed, however, before the final vote is passed.

As is to be expected, the cable industry is largely opposed to the Unlock the Box plan. STBs are currently a major source of revenue for cable providers. Consumers, after all, pay an average of $231 in annual STB rental fees.

There are also concerns that the Unlock the Box plan would create complications and copywrite infringements for advertising deals. And last but not least, the plan would blur the lines between cable content and over-the-top content. There are widespread concerns that the Unlock the  Box plan would fuel cord cutting.

For now, cable operators can breathe a sigh of relief. But the general consensus is that sooner rather than later, the industry will change and STBs will be replaced with applications and third party devices. Cable operators are therefore encouraged to start forming plans now to compensate for potential losses.

What are you doing to prepare for this change?