A rule designed to let consumers ditch their set-top cable TV boxes in favor of media-streaming devices was delayed indefinitely on Thursday by federal regulators who decided it wasn’t ready for prime time.
The Federal Communications Commission was scheduled to vote on a rule that would have required cable companies to make their packages available to customers to use with “smart” internet-ready televisions or streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and some game systems.
Commissioners pulled the proposed rule from their agenda after concerns were expressed by the cable industry, which makes billions of dollars a year on cable-box rental fees. Some content producers had also objected, worried that the proposal could limit their ability to control and get paid for distribution of their shows.
In Wichita, Cox Communications’ cable box charges range from $1.99 a month for a basic digital converter to $8.50 for a digital receiver, depending on the type of TV the customer has, according to a price list on the company’s website. Those devices allow the customer to watch, but not record, programming.
With optional digital recording services, the monthly charge can rise to as much as $28.49 for a box that can record six shows at once and hold 1,000 hours of programming.
The proposal to open cable TV to streaming apps was proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a Democrat, and supported by the Obama administration.
The three Democratic members of the five-member commission issued a joint statement Thursday expressing continued support for the goal of opening the cable market to competitive devices.