White House Hits Cable Providers Over Set Top Boxes

WASHINGTON – (NewsBlaze) – The Obama Administration last week unveiled a “core priority” regulatory initiative through the Federal Communications Commission designed to promote competition to bring down the cost consumers pay to rent cable tv set boxes monthly from Cable Providers.

“We have seen the administration, over the course of the presidency, look for opportunities to actually promote competition in markets because we understand that competition is good for our economy. It promotes innovation and leads to positive results for consumers,” stated White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.

Earnest further pressed reporters on Friday about the importance that the White House placed on the initiative “I wanted to make sure that you all understood that this is a core priority of the administration, something that we intend to continue to move in the direction of over the course of the last nine months here that the President has remaining in office.”

The administration’s proposal would give the average cable television subscriber who is spending several hundred dollars a year for the boxes a chance to remove the leasing of the boxes. Those consumers could then choose to buy their own boxes. The proposal will undergo a sixty day public comment period.

“When it comes to set-top boxes, people are spending hundreds of dollars a year to essentially rent a box that cost less than that to make in the first place. And the only reason that they have to rent that box from their cable provider is because that’s what the cable provider requires in order to get the signal. So if we can standardize the signal, allow other companies to provide the box, it then means that cable companies are just providing the service. That could cut costs. That could also enhance innovation. Those set-top boxes are occasionally clunky and have to be replaced in their own right anyway. So it probably is an area of technology where innovation would be good for consumers, to say nothing of the broader impact it could have on the economy if you can give other companies the opportunity to develop products that would allow them to compete with the big cable providers,” Earnest noted.

The White House however was hard pressed to describe another time in which other proposals had such a short comment period which Josh Earnest could not recall “off the top of his head.”

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Cable Providers Miffed

Cable Providers were not happy, and the Cable Industry reacted to the White House’s Proposal by calling it “inflamatory rhetoric.”

“We are disappointed that White House political advisers are choosing to inject politics and inflammatory rhetoric into a regulatory proceeding by what is supposed to be an independent agency,” stated Michael Powell CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

Powell went on in his statement as noted by USA Today White House Correspondent Greg Korte, to say only companies such as Google, Amazon, and Netflix, and had worked with the Obama White House would benefit from the initiative.

The White House was pressed on whether this was political.

“The people who stand to benefit the most are consumers, millions of them across the country who right now are being charged an unfair price for their cable service. That is what’s driving the President – that’s what’s driving the decision of the administration and the President to state an opinion on this,” Josh Earnest noted.

Powell, responded in the official NCTA blog, in a post called “White House May Think Weighing in on Boxes is Good Politics, but It’s Bad Government” He wrote: “By reading the White House blog, you have to wonder how they could ignore that the world’s largest tech companies – which are often touted in other Administration initiatives – including Apple, Amazon, Google, Netflix and many others are providing exactly the choice in video services and devices that they claim to want. In fact, you would be hard pressed to name another private market in the US that is seeing more disruption and change all to the benefit of consumers.”

Randy Foreman
Randy Foreman is the NewsBlaze White House Correspondent, reporting from inside and outside The White House and around the beltway in Washington, D.C.