Cable could be losing its grip on your set-top box (FAQ) (C/Net)

From C/Net,

Tired of renting that anything-but-cutting-edge box from your cable provider? The FCC wants to open the market to competition. CNET tells you what you need to know and how long you’ll have to wait.

The Federal Communications Commission wants to liberate you from your cable company’s set-top box.

You probably didn’t even realize you needed to be freed from this tyranny. But that’s the message from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who’s on a mission to make sure consumers have choices when it comes to their set-top box.

Today, 99 percent of pay-TV subscribers rent set-top boxes and spend an average of $231 a year to lease these devices, according to a congressional study. This practice brings in about $20 billion a year in revenue to cable, satellite and telco operators. While prices for computers, TVs and mobile phones have dropped by 90 percent in the past 20 years, the FCC says pricing on set-top boxes has increased 185 percent.

“By introducing competition into the set-top market, as Congress has mandated, consumers will finally have options for how they access pay TV,” Chairman Wheeler said at a press conference Thursday. “Those competitive options will do what competition always does, which is drive better services and drive down costs.”

Consumer advocates have heralded the FCC’s efforts, but critics such as cable companies say a FCC mandate on set-top boxes could add costs, threaten consumer privacy and hurt smaller content producers. One thing is clear, the TV industry is in the midst of rapid change. To help you figure out what all this means, CNET has put together this FAQ.

Check out C/Net’s FAQ on their website.

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