Wheeler: Comcast ‘Proving Our Point’ With Its New Set-Top Box Plan

Comcast Corp.’s announcement last week that it would allow some customers to stream cable content without renting a set-top box is the “essence” of the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to open the market for third-party manufacturers, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Thursday.

“What Comcast just did by doing that is proving our point that you can take a third-party device, put set-top box functionality into it and protect copyright, protect the economic ecosystem, not have to rebuild the network, and all these other horrible things that the industry has tracked up,” Wheeler said today in a press conference following the agency’s April meeting.

Comcast last week said customers with Samsung Smart TVs and Roku boxes would be permitted to stream Comcast’s cable content without needing to pay an extra fee or rent a set-top box from the company. The FCC’s proposal would let manufacturers sell devices that let customers access cable content and other online video platforms.

Wheeler highlighted the importance of the FCC’s set-top box proposal, even with Comcast’s new program.

“The challenge here is that this is for one company’s device and one cable company,” Wheeler said. “So if you have proven the concept that you can put set-top box functionality safely into third-party devices, then let’s make sure that that applies to all cable operators. Let’s make sure that it applies to all TVs. Let’s make sure there’s an opportunity for anybody who wants to change their set-top box.”

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