#UnlockTheBox: The FCC is freeing up your selection of TV channels.

Suppose you could watch a cable TV channel from any provider of your choice and not be locked-in to only the channel selection from your provider’s set-top box. For example, imagine you can watch cable channels using your Apple TV. The result would be you have more choice of home entertainment and you wouldn’t have to pay a higher price just to rent the cable provider’s set-top box.

FCC Gershater post dvr image

You would experience freedom of choice. The FCC just voted to expand consumer choice, approving on Feb. 18 a proposal that would tear down anti-competitive barriers and pave the way for software, devices, and other innovative solutions to compete with the set-top boxes that a majority of consumers lease from pay-TV providers today. The vote paves the way for a framework to “unlock the box” for innovators to create competitive solutions – either hardware or software-based apps — that give consumers freedom of choice, according to the FCC. For some background and news reports, listen here or read this article.

Without realizing it, the FCC is employing one of the fundamental principles behind open source, freedom of choice. This freedom is coming to bear within the telecommunications industry with help from the Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) revolution. For years, service providers have been locked into sole source vendors of hardware and software and subject to their prices and upgrade schedules. But the future portends that service providers will be able to buy standard, off-the-shelf low-cost x86 or ARM servers, install a cloud operating system like OpenStack and run virtual network functions from providers of their choice. This should enable network operators to lower their costs and get freedom of choice.

Some telecommunications providers are even creating virtualized set top boxes for the home so that you would have one device to provide gaming, music, television and streamed video/movies. The days of one locked-in set top box for cable TV, and the restrictions and costs that come with it may be rapidly ending, thanks to Network Functions Virtualization and open source.

Red Hat is helping to lead the NFV revolution with significant contributions that include:

  • Red Hat is in the top five contributors to OPNFV, (the open source project focused on accelerating NFV’s evolution through an integrated, open platform).
  • Red Hat participates in five ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) Proofs of Concept.
  • Red Hat is the top contributor for the last five releases of the OpenStack project, the cloud operating system preferred by telecommunication vendors.
  • Red Hat has a large open NFV partner ecosystem which gives you freedom of choice to deploy and NFV infrastructure.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the FCC’s move, freedom of choice, open source and NFV. Share them in our comments section below.


  1. Hi Jonathan,

    I welcome this wholeheartedly. I’ve come to despise just about everything the cable providers have come to represent. Their awful UI’s, their pricing bundles that force you into services that you don’t want in order to get better price points, as well as the channel bundles. The record industry forced consumers to purchase entire albums of crap music in order get that “one song”. Cable companies force you to purchase entire bundles of channels in order to get the few channels that you actually want. I hope that the combination of Google Fibre, Netflix, Hulu, and others will force cable providers into modernizing their approach. For all of the quirks in iTunes, the ability to purchase “that one song” as opposed to the entire album is worth “the quirk”.


    Liked by 1 person

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