But some Republican members of a U.S. House of Representatives committee and DirecTV questioned a need for FCC action to promote competition to set-top boxes generally provided by video programming providers. There's already "robust" competition among video programming providers, with telecom carriers and satellite-based providers competing with traditional cable TV providers, Representative Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, said during a hearing of the communications subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Despite an FCC proposal to set standards for a video gateway device that would allow multiple devices in a home to connect to a video programming service, many new TV sets already have broadband connectivity built in, Stearns said. Some analysts project that more than 70 million Internet-enabled TV sets will ship in 2012, he said.
"Being able to access the Internet from a television is certainly an appealing idea to many consumers," Stearns said. "As such, the market already seems to be delivering this service without any government assistance."
The FCC, in a national broadband plan released in March, set a goal of requiring all video programming providers to install gateway devices along with set-top boxes by the end of 2012. Two manufacturers control 90 percent of the set-top box market in the U.S., and efforts from the '90s to encourage set-top competition have largely failed, the plan said.
The FCC acted on the set-top recommendations quickly by moving forward on two set-top box items during its April 21 meeting. The commission voted to launch a notice of inquiry on how to encourage set-top box competition, including creating video gateway device standards. Commissioners also voted to launch a further notice of proposed rulemaking to fix problems with CableCard devices, which allow video subscribers to connect third-party devices such as TiVo boxes to video services.