FCC Likely To Scrap Open-Standard Proposal For Set-Top Boxes

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seems to be preparing to scrap the open-standards plan for set-top boxes after the new Chairman Ajit Pai removed the item from the voting agenda earlier this week. The original proposal was made by the ex-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler a year ago, but Wheeler was unable to enact it due to massive pressure from numerous industries and ultimately stepped down once the new U.S. administration assumed its duties on January 20. Wheeler's proposal is still not officially terminated but the fact that it's now been removed from the FCC's voting agenda suggests it doesn't have a future in the agency's rulebook. Mark Wigfield, a spokesman for the FCC told Variety that the controversial item may be returned to the voting agenda in a revised state, adding that removal of items from circulation is an expected byproduct of administration changes.

The original proposal was designed to allow third-party manufacturers to create their own set-top TV boxes, which would give consumers an alternative to leasing devices from cable and satellite providers. The former FCC Chairman previously claimed that the current rules regulating this industry are archaic, adding how his proposal would end the need for multiple remote controls and benefit consumers due to extra competition in the market, which would lower the overall product prices. The proposal was met with strong opposition from all cable and satellite companies, music labels, Hollywood studios, and various unions. Critics argued that opening up the market to third-party manufacturers would endanger current copyright policies, stifle innovation, and result in new business expenses which would consequently be passed onto consumers and negate any potential end-user savings.

In addition to scrapping the open-standards plan for set-top boxes, the new FCC Chairman is also expected to revert a number of other regulations enacted under Wheeler. Pai often advocated for a more relaxed regulatory landscape in the telecommunications industry, claiming that too many rules stifle innovation which consequently discourages investments and job creation. Rules imposing net neutrality in the U.S. are also expected to soon be reviewed and possibly undone by the FCC, under the Trump-appointed Chairman.

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