FCC Proposal Aims to Make Subscription TV Available on Any Set-Top Box


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

United States Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler introduced a proposal [PDF] this afternoon that would de-couple cable subscriptions from cable set-top boxes. Under the proposal, cable and satellite subscribers would be able to access and watch cable content on any set-top box of their choosing, including the Apple TV, rather than being limited to the set-top box provided by the cable company.

While allowing customers to access the full content provided with a cable subscription through the Apple TV is not quite the cord-cutting solution Apple has been aiming for, it is a step towards a more open relationship between technology companies and cable companies. Such a system would not give Apple control over content, but it would allow Apple to build an interface for that content.

The new rules would create a framework for providing device manufacturers, software developers and others the information they need to introduce innovative new technologies, while at the same time maintaining strong security, copyright and consumer protections. Nothing in this proposal changes a company's ability to package and price its programming to its subscribers, or requires consumers to purchase new boxes.
As The Verge points out, the FCC faces a tough battle attempting to get this proposal passed and implemented due to resistance from cable companies who want to have control over content and how and where it's displayed.

A similar plan for the CableCard, which allows companies like TIVO to offer cable content, has largely failed because of its complexity and because many cable providers refused to make the process simple enough to be widely adopted. Cable companies are against the proposal because of the loss of control and the loss of the revenue from rented cable set-top boxes, and more than 40 telecommunications groups have already formed a coalition to oppose the FCC's plan.

Cable companies argue it would give technology companies unfair access to customer data and potentially disrupt deals that have been established for channel positioning, giving some programmers better spots in the lineup for higher payments.

Having continually failed to reach deals with content providers and cable companies, Apple has settled on focusing on its tvOS operating system and the App Store available on the fourth-generation Apple TV. The tvOS App Store model allows for cable companies to create apps and deliver cable content to consumers on the Apple TV, but it's a fragmented system that's less than ideal because it still doesn't give Apple full control over the interface. The FCC's proposal has the potential to greatly improve the cable watching experience on the Apple TV, at least for cable subscribers.

Article Link: FCC Proposal Aims to Make Subscription TV Available on Any Set-Top Box
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Reactions: AntonLee


macrumors member
Jun 17, 2009
Dallas, TX
If they wind up allowing this, it should include language that forces STB's that want to participate (like Apple TV), must implement the FULL cable interface (even if through a programming interface), which would allow the cable companies to maintain control of what and how they offer the content and give the STB's a way to also provide other methods of content accessing (Hulu, Netflix, Network Apps, etc)...

Essentially, this would allow the cable companies to keep providing DVR services, On-Demand services, etc. and also allow for the full LIVE TV features.
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macrumors 68040
Feb 15, 2010
Boston, MA
Good cable companies are the devil with all those box fees. Verizon was completely deatroying me with add on fees so I switched back to Comcast. Comcast sucks but since we switched from Verizon it's over $100 less a month for more channels than we got from Verizon atleast for the next years after this contract I'll switch back to Verizon if they offer a similar deal......unless something changes by then
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macrumors 65816
Aug 10, 2015
San Diego, CA
This is a prime example of how screwed up our government is. The government allowed these mega cable company mergers to create geographic monopolies (yes, it's a monopoly, try getting a satellite in San Francisco or New York or Chicago high-rises, it's cable or nothing). They allow them based on the cable companies making promises to not raise rates or degrade service. Then when the monopolistic mergers go through, the FCC who approved the merger to begin with all of a sudden is interested in introducing regulation to fight what they themselves approved. But by this time, the cable companies are so big and have so much money their lobbyist machine buys their way into the government hush club.

It's really so screwed up. All I can say is thank god the DOJ didn't allow TMO and ATT to merge, because had they, we'd have a cellular industry that looks just like the cable TV industry.


macrumors Sandy Bridge
Oct 17, 2011
All this nonsense makes you wonder why anybody cares about TV to begin with. It truly is becoming an idiot box.
I wonder if similar essentially inane things were said about other forms of media throughout history, like music or even books at some point.
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Craven Morehead

macrumors newbie
Jan 1, 2016
this is a fantastic idea with almost zero chance of passing. if you know the cable lobby, you know they are one of the most powerful and corrupt in the country. we dont need cable boxes now, but cable companies use them as a pure profit center. i was a COX subscriber for years in San Diego and they never required set-top box for basic cable...until just recently when they decided to find more ways to make up the money they are losing from all of the cable cutters. very soon, you will be REQUIRED to use one of their boxes even for basic cable. thats taking technology backwards all in the name of profit...

that said, i hope it passes, just have very little hope in it....


macrumors 65816
Aug 10, 2015
San Diego, CA
I have 2 TiVos with Cable Cards from Comcast. It was not difficult at all. I can even watch xfinity on demand on my TiVos.
I have the same setup. It's empowering owning my equipment. I think before TiVo (years ago mind you) I was paying something like $21 a month per box for HDDVR service... that's $504 per year for antiquated technology. Shameful. So I got the TiVo and yeah, dealing with Comcast to get everything paired the first time is annoying, but quite simple once you get someone on the line that knows what they're doing.

My gripe with Comcast is I have the Tripple Play. Every 6 months I have to call in because my bill will go from $130 to $180 because "the promotion expired" and I have to threaten to leave then have them dial it back.... and the bill goes back down but usually $5 more per month... then the next six months, repeat.

I have phone\cable\internet... I don't WANT phone, but they say if I cancel my phone line my bill will go up $10... which made sense back in the day when it was pay per use calling, but there's no logic to it today.

I'm at the point now where I don't like the idea of ditching my cable TV and going to just internet, because then I'd have to download and\or stream my shows, which the cable company also is Comcast NBC Universal so they control the TV shows I like too. Makes me insane!
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macrumors 6502a
Dec 16, 2010
Cable companies argue it would give technology companies unfair access to customer data and potentially disrupt deals that have been established for channel positioning, giving some programmers better spots in the lineup for higher payments.
Waah, waah, waah. If cable companies didn't price gouge, strong-arm, and bully their customers, and actually provided great services, then it wouldn't have to come to this.

I also find it hilarious that they are calling this plan "unfair" when they themselves are being unfair when it comes to net neutrality, price hikes, lobbying and eliminating competition.

Bring it, FCC.


macrumors G4
Feb 10, 2011
Hopefully they'll open up Apple's walled garden so OSX, iOS and all the apps are available to use on any platform. Why allow Apple to make all the money?


macrumors regular
Mar 23, 2014
The FCC needs to stay out of this. I hate the cable companies but it seems whenever we see one of these mandates things just get even more screwed up.
How is it a mandate, tho? Seems if anything it is relaxing an otherwise protected monopoly. This is a case where the market will function better for consumers. That has to be a good thing.
i hope it passes, just have very little hope in it....
The FCC has had its share of victories....

Black Belt

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2007
They should force the breakup of content and infrastructure. They were given basic monopolies to do business, that should be restricted to wire service not the stuff that goes on it. This ******** about disallowing unbundling should be an instant anti-trust lawsuit.
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