FCC poised to drop set-top box alternatives proposal under commissioner Pai

The FCC won’t be considering a proposal to open up access to pay TV services via third-party hardware under newly appointed commissioner Ajit Pai, Variety reports. The proposal, originally put forward under FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler, at first sought to create an open-standard to make it possible for third parties to build their own set-top boxes ready to receive and display content from third-party cable and satellite TV services.

It was later modified to require only that pay TV providers make free apps available for streaming devices, which would’ve included over-the-top hardware like the Apple TV or Nvidia Shield, through which subscribers could access their content. Even that faced resistance and challenges from industry stakeholders on the TV provider side, leading to delays that left it still unresolved at the end of Wheeler’s tenure.

Trump appointee Pai has been very vocal about wanting to roll back regulations introduced under President Obama and Wheeler, including net neutrality protections, so it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would also end this attempt to enforce through regulation more open third-party access to pay TV services. The satellite and cable industry obviously does not want to give up control of hardware access points for its service, since that represents a lucrative revenue stream.

Streaming services are still springing up in surprising places, with hardware-agnostic apps and endpoints arising in response to market pressure, so this isn’t catastrophic news for cord cutters. Still, forcing providers to open up would’ve accelerated availability of options for those who don’t want to be bound by archaic media delivery methods.