Rural Advocacy Organizations Tell FCC to Pass Set-Top Box Proposal

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Today, eight rural advocacy organizations filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission in support of Chairman Wheeler’s proposal to open up the set-top box market for consumers. The letter emphasizes the importance of competition and choice from cable and satellite providers for rural communities, which often have limited access to to over-the-air broadcasters and broadband access.

The letter is addressed to Chairman Wheeler and signed by representatives from Access Humboldt, Appalshop, Center for Rural Strategies, National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Akaku Maui Community Media, California Center for Rural Policy, Institute for Local Self Reliance, and The Utility Reform Network.

The letter includes the following statements:

“For rural consumers, a cable or satellite subscription is often a necessity. Rural consumers generally have few over-the-air broadcasters available to them. Even these may be hundreds of miles distant. For the most part, broadband access is either non-existent, or slow and expensive. Unfortunately, the lack of competition in the pay-TV market makes it easy for providers to jack up prices not only for the subscription services, but for set-top box rentals.

“As a result of this anti-competitive market structure, rural subscribers to satellite services and cable services have no choice but to lease set-top boxes. The lack of choice for either video services or set-top boxes allows pay-TV services to continually raise the rental fees on these devices. Rural subscribers therefore end up paying higher and higher prices for equipment that has long since been paid for, without seeing any improvement in equipment or service.

“We therefore fully support your proposal to bring competition to the set-top box market, or eliminate dependence on set-top boxes altogether. This will provide tremendous economic relief to the poorest rural customers – many of whom do not have access to affordable broadband fast enough or reliable enough to allow them to ‘cut the cord’ and receive over the top services.

“We hope that the FCC will approve your proposal at the open meeting on September 29, and bring us the competition in set-top boxes we desperately need.”

You can read the full letter here.

Regina Costa, Telecom Policy Director at The Utility Reform Network, can be reached for comment at rcosta@turn.org.

Sean McLaughlin, Executive Director at Access Humboldt, can be reached for comment at sean@accesshumboldt.net.

Marty Newell, Chief Operating Officer at Center for Rural Strategies, can be reached for comment at 606-632-3244.

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