AT&T’s plans to invest half a billion dollars in an Internet video service (“AT&T joins crowded field with online video plan” CDT, April 29) are further evidence that 1990s-era regulations that single out the cable industry have outlived their useful life and that Congress is right to consider repeal.
As companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon introduce innovative devices for viewing online video, FCC rules developed in 1998 are preventing traditional cable companies from developing smaller, less costly and more energy-efficient cable boxes to keep pace.
These rules force cable companies to place the central nervous system of the cable box on a removable card-like device. The FCC intended to foster alternatives to renting a cable box — and about 600,000 customers use devices such as a TiVo to channel surf — but the tens of millions of households that still rent boxes have absorbed more than $1 billion in additional costs related to the rule over the past six years, missing out on the high-tech advancements common among Internet video devices.
When the government mandates specific technologies rather than promoting R&D from job-creating small businesses, we can expect lackluster results.
With cable companies losing more than 10 million subscribers to satellite providers, companies such as AT&T and Google Fiber (all of which are exempt from the “CableCARD” rule) and a number of homes cutting the cord, it’s clearly the right time for Congress to undo this costly and unsuccessful rule.
The writer is president and CEO of the Minority Business RoundTable.