Unlocking Pandora's Set-Top Box: The FCC Flirts with Disaster, Again

17 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2016

See all articles by Larry Downes

Larry Downes

Aspen Institute; Larry Downes Consulting Group

Date Written: April 15, 2016


In February, the FCC approved a plan to require Pay TV providers to adopt new technical standards for set-top boxes, one that would open multiple “Information Flows,” including licensed programming and the viewing habits of consumers, to unregulated third parties.

While the Commission’s stated goal is to lower the cost of set-top box rental fees for consumers, the likely outcome of the plan will be to raise prices for all consumers, including the millions who never had a box or who long ago cut the cord.

The FCC’s effort to “unlock the box,” will, like the mythological Pandora, unintentionally release new demons into the marketplace — demons over which it will be hard, if not impossible, to regain control.

This Policy Paper reviews the FCC’s newest video navigation proposal in the context of its long history of attempts to reshape the Pay TV market through technical mandates that either failed or were abandoned by the agency after years of neglect.

Keywords: FCC, set-top box, video navigation, regulatory, AllVid, DSTAC, CableCARD

JEL Classification: D40, K23, L14, L22, L43, L51, L86, L96, O33

Suggested Citation

Downes, Larry, Unlocking Pandora's Set-Top Box: The FCC Flirts with Disaster, Again (April 15, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2772177 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2772177

Larry Downes (Contact Author)

Aspen Institute ( email )

Aspen, CO 81611
United States

Larry Downes Consulting Group ( email )

245 Willamette Ave
Kensington, CA 94708
United States

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