So Long Cable Box. New Rules May Allow You To Bypass the Box

You may soon have more options for a cable box than renting one from your cable company. The Federal Communications Commission has a plan to make cable companies provide apps that could be used on devices made by tech companies like maybe Roku or Apple. It says Americans spend billions each year renting boxes and believes there is a better way.

The FCC says the new rules mean more choices and will make it easier for TV lovers to search for and find video they want.

Its January proposal was opposed by the TV and cable industries, criticized by the U.S. Copyright Office and dozens of lawmakers. A revised plan released Thursday adopts some cable-industry suggestions.

The FCC's five commissioners will vote on the plan later this month. If approved, most cable customers could choose another device to watch cable within two years.

The changes would succeed the CableCard, which consumers were supposed to stick into another box like a TiVo to get cable channels. But the CableCard proved to be unpopular with consumers and it largely flopped.

You can use a cable box to watch TV today, but you usually also need another device, like a Roku, Xbox or Apple TV, to watch video from Netflix, Hulu, HBO's app or other internet-based services. The FCC wants popular gadgets to also have access to the cable channels you pay for. That would mean you could search for "Seinfeld" in one of those devices and see what video you could watch from cable channels, other services you subscribe to, like Hulu, and free versions available online.

Initially, the FCC wanted to force cable and satellite TV companies to provide feeds of video and channel information to such gadgets, but that led to fears that device makers wouldn't respect agreements between cable operators and entertainment companies on terms...

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