YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
IF YOU’VE WALKED through the television aisle at Costco you’ve probably noticed
something: TVs have gotten thinner, bigger, brighter and cheaper. That’s the power
When you get that TV home, the story changes. If you want cable, you have to
plug it into a set-top box the cable company forces you to rent. Cable uses that box to
control what and how you watch that TV, forcing you to watch commercials and
blocking access to internet streaming content, including award-winning programs on
Amazon, Hulu, Netflix and You Tube.
The boxes aren’t cheap. Families pay $231 per year to rent them. It’s a cost that
has risen year after year—185 percent since 1995. Meanwhile, prices for other competitive electronic devices, such as cellphones, computers and TVs, have dropped 90
percent. With 99 percent of cable subscribers renting a box, it’s safe to say this is a
monopoly run amok.
The irony is that set-top box competition is already the law, and has been since
1996, but the cable companies have pulled every trick in the book to keep consumers
locked into a bad deal, protecting their $20-billion-a-year “boxopoly.” Shocking,
really, when 84 percent of Americans say cable prices are too high and 69 percent say
more competition is the answer.
But the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is giving consumers new
hope. The FCC has launched a proceeding to unlock the box and unleash innovation.
It gives consumers the power to choose and lets them watch both cable and internet
content on any device, such as an Apple TV, Chromecast or Amazon Fire, and
empowers competition to deliver box-free solutions.
Unlocking the box will save consumers money and open new opportunities for
hundreds of independent and minority-owned programmers who want a larger
audience. In support of the FCC, the White House noted that ending the rotary dial
phone monopoly unleashed a wave of innovation, new companies and millions of
jobs. Unlocking the box has the same potential.
Consumer Reports and leading consumer groups have endorsed the effort. Now
is the time to unlock the box and let competition turn on a brighter future. C
THE INTERNET OFFERS vast new opportunities for the creative community.
Creators distribute their works to all kinds of online services, resulting in the success
of popular services like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Xbox Live.
This includes creators of TV programming. Hundreds of creative professionals
work behind the scenes to make this happen.
Directors, writers, actors, composers and film crews composed of set designers,
costumers, grips and cameramen receive direct payments and contributions toward
health and pension benefits whenever a program airs. Additionally, songwriters and
recording artists license the right to include their music within TV programs and are
then paid for subsequent performances of such programs.
This past March, the FCC proposed forcing cable and satellite TV distributors to
let third parties distribute television programming. This would allow third parties,
who haven’t paid a dime to license TV programming, to offer their own commercial
video service including that programming. In other words, third parties would make
money from something they haven’t paid for. Given such a great deal by the FCC,
what incentive would they have to create their own new services and license their
own programming? None, of course.
If companies can simply piggyback on existing deals between programmers and
cable/satellite distributors by putting their own box on top of a TV, who will want to
license TV programming? Call it what you want—a race to the bottom or the tragedy
of the commons—but no matter the name, the FCC’s proposal would hurt creators
and the public that enjoys their work.
Innovative apps-based approaches that respect contracts and content security
may offer consumers a constructive alternative. App-based approaches could allow
them to watch their television content on a wide variety of devices using apps from
multichannel video programming distributors—basically, offering all the benefits
that supporters of the FCC’s proposal are seeking, while at the same time respecting
the rights of creators, producers, and workers. C
Opinions expressed are those of
the individuals or organizations
represented and are presented
to foster discussion. Costco and
The Costco Connection take no
position on any Debate topic.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Should your cable
company’s set-top box
be unlocked to other
AUGUST DEBATE RESULTS
Should homework be
eliminated in elementary
Percentage re;ects votes received
by August 18, 2016.
Results may re;ect Debate being
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Chip Pickering is
the CEO of INCOM-PAS ( incompas.org),
an internet and
networks association representing
Keith Kupferschmid is the
CEO of Copyright
org), dedicated to
that promote and
preserve the value
of copyright and
to protecting the
rights of creators