The FCC is about to make a decision about whether third-party companies can market their own alternatives to the set-top boxes provided by cable companies. Under the proposed rules, instead of using the box from Comcast, you could buy your own from a variety of different manufacturers. It could even have features that Comcast wouldn't dream of, like letting you sync your favorite shows onto your mobile phone or search across multiple free TV, pay TV, and amateur video sites.
We've been closely following the "Unlock the Box" proposal since it was first introduced in February, but its history goes back much further. Congress first authorized the FCC to enact rules bringing competition to the set-top box market 20 years ago, as a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. We're so close to finally unlocking the box, but pay TV providers and big content companies have been throwing out every distracting argument they can to stop it.