The FCC has rejected Comcast's request for more time to make changes to the set-top box it offers, which means that cable TV or telco TV providers will have to allow third party set-top boxes to work with their services. The decision builds on Congress' ruling more than a decade ago to require cable companies to provide a credit-card sized device to make it possible for viewers to receive television services without the need to rent a set-top box. While early models of the workaround did not include two-way features like VOD, newer models do. Comcast may be required to begin supporting third party STBs sooner than smaller providers, but the company said it plans to appeal the decision since it amounts to "an FCC tax of hundreds of millions of dollars on consumers with no countervailing benefits."
This decision could have a serious impact on the set-top box industry if it manages to survive Comcast's appeal. STB makers wouldn't need to concentrate their marketing efforts solely on service provider deals, which is the only way to break into the market today. STBs would take their rightful place on the shelf of electronics stores everywhere, right next to the router and flat screen TV.
For more on the FCC decision:
- see this article from the WSJ (sub. req.)