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Bernie Sanders Slams Set-Top Box Market

Pay-TV set-top market critics Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have brought in the reinforcements, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Markey and Blumenthal asked for, and got, set-top box info from Comcast, DirecTV, Dish Network, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS Video, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems and Bright House Networks, then said the results showed that there continued to be a lack of competition in the set-top market.

That comes as the FCC works on a downloadable set-top security successor to the CableCARD after its integration ban was legislated away by Congress in the STELAR satellite reauthorization legislation.

In the letter Monday to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Markey and Blumenthal were joined by five other Democratic senators and Sanders.

They cited the $20 billion per year in set-top rental fees and, while they did not come out and say "all-vid," which is the proposal by computer companies for the FCC to require a universal box that weds video from various sources, they did say the time had come "for the FCC to enable millions of Americans to access an enormous amount of content in innovative, new, and less costly ways."

Now that the FCC-appointed Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), created by Congress to come up with a downloadable successor to the CableCARD, has released its final report—offering up a range of options—the senators want the FCC to move quickly to a rulemaking that insures that the successor will be "cheap, efficient, widely available and easy to use."

They suggested that without FCC intervention, MVPDs would be offering set-top choices comparable to the rotary phone rental days of Ma Bell.

They said they wanted an answer from the chairman by Dec. 4 on his plans to boost set-top competition and choice.