White House backs FCC set-top proposal as 'mascot' for larger pro-competition agenda

The White House says the pay-TV set-top is the 'mascot' for a new executive order, signed by President Obama, meant to spur competition and innovation across numerous sectors of the U.S. economy. 

"Across our economy, too many consumers are dealing with inferior or overpriced products, too many workers aren't getting the wage increases they deserve, too many entrepreneurs and small businesses are getting squeezed out unfairly by their bigger competitors, and overall we are not seeing the level of innovative growth we would like to see," said Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Ecumenic Advisors, and Jeffrey Zientz, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, in a statement.

In announcing the executive order, the White House took aim at the FCC's proposal to "unlock" the leased pay-TV set-top business.

"Instead of spending nearly $1,000 over four years to lease a set of behind-the-times boxes, American families will have options to own a device for much less money that will integrate everything they want — including their cable or satellite content, as well as online streaming apps — in one, easier-to-use gadget," the statement said.

The White House compared the pay-TV set-top leasing to pre-1980 telephones.

"Phones had little variety, evoking the famous Henry Ford quote — "You can have any color, so long as it's black" — and only the most basic functionality. Worse yet, households had to pay a fee each month to rent these phones that added up over time to many multiples of what they would have paid to purchase a similar (or fancier) phone themselves.

"Then, all that changed when the FCC and others took action to open up phones to competition," the statement added. 

According to the White House, the executive order "calls on departments and agencies to make further progress through specific, pro-competition executive actions that empower and inform consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs. In 60 days, agencies will report back on specific areas where we can make additional progress."

The Future of TV Coalition, the pay-TV industry group set up to fight the FCC proposal issued this statement in response: "We all agree on the goal of greater consumer choice in video devices. But we disagree strenuously (as does so much of the television ecosystem) with Google's viewpoint that the only way to get more choice and innovation is through a FCC technology mandate that will decimate the creative industry, rip up licensing protections, tear down the value of content, and strip away consumer privacy protections. The video marketplace has never been more dynamic or competitive, and consumers have more choices for services and devices than ever before. It's exactly the wrong time for the FCC to get into the business of designing set-top boxes and locking consumers into outdated technology."

For more:
- read this White House statement

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