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Comcast Facing Lawsuit Over Set-Top Box Rentals 200

Posted by Soulskill
from the fighting-the-good-fight dept.
Multichannel News reports that a woman from California has initiated a potential class-action lawsuit against Comcast for making customers rent a set-top box without giving them the option to buy it outright. Quoting: "The action, on behalf of Comcast Corp. customer Cheryl Corralejo, alleges that the set-top rental practice represents an 'unlawful tying arrangement resulting in an impermissible restraint of trade.' In addition to violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the suit alleges the practice violates business and professions codes. ... [It also notes] that premium video and the set-top descramblers are two distinct products, yet the cable providers require that the hardware be rented from cable companies, rather than permitting consumers to purchase the set-top hardware in the open market.
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Comcast Facing Lawsuit Over Set-Top Box Rentals

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  • by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:26AM (#26241097)

    they'll still tie you to their service; and then they can ask a ridiculous price for the box.

    It's a shame CableCard never caught on - then companies like TiVO could have offered a viable alternative to a set top box. Yes, I realize I'd pay an additional monthly fee; but Tivo2go is worth it to me. Plus; real competition might force cable companies to offer similar products for less.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Detritus (11846)
      From what I've read, the FCC is forcing the cable companies to "eat their own dog food" by mandating the use of CableCard in new set-top boxes purchased by the cable companies. With that mandate, the cable companies might finally start fixing their screwed-up internal processes for supporting CableCard devices.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dreamt (14798)

        unfortunately, while they are using the cable card in their cable boxes for access, there is still software in their cable boxes that is doing 2-way communication and other functionality, so while cablecard gets you access, it won't be until tru2way until there is true 2-way support where you can get On-Demand, etc. There are tuning adapters which are an external device to allow something like Tivo to support switched video, but of course, because their boxes use cablecard _and_ bi-directonal communication

      • From what I've read, the FCC is forcing the cable companies to "eat their own dog food" by mandating the use of CableCard in new set-top boxes purchased by the cable companies. With that mandate, the cable companies might finally start fixing their screwed-up internal processes for supporting CableCard devices.

        I hope so. Calls to my cable company's tech support on how to get a cable card for my cable card ready PC are met with a either "Huh?," "a what?," or "you don't need to insert a credit card in your cable box."

        I imagine the last response's tech support person probably has a new luser story - "guess what a luser asked about today? and doesn't even realize who the real luser is.

    • by blitzkrieg3 (995849) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:55PM (#26242217)

      It's a shame CableCard never caught on - then companies like TiVO could have offered a viable alternative to a set top box.

      Um, companies like TiVO do [tivo.com] offer alternatives. I'm using a TiVO HD with cableCARD right now, as a matter of fact.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by AmigaHeretic (991368)
        Hmm, do you have to pay a montly "rental" fee for that card from Comcast though or can I get the card anywhere?
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by david@ecsd.com (45841)

          Hmm, do you have to pay a montly "rental" fee for that card from Comcast though or can I get the card anywhere?

          No, and No. Comcast--at least here in Lansing, MI--offers teh first cablecard for free, and the second one for like $1.99. When I had digital cable installed, I specifically told them I wanted a multi stream card that way I wouldn't have to pay the fee for the second card.

          I also asked if I could install the thing myself, but they declined. I suspect less a technical issue than them wanting to charge the install fee.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by AmigaHeretic (991368)
      I think the point is she wants the market open so she could buy a cable box from any company not just Comcast.

      Sort of like telephones way back when. You had use to have to rent your phone from the phone company. The laws changed that tying arrangement too so now you go to K-Mart or BestBuy or wherever and buy any phone you want.

      Can anybody imagine a renting a phone these days from your phone company in order to use the service you pay for?
  • by noidentity (188756) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:35AM (#26241121)

    In addition to violating the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the suit alleges the practice violates business and professions codes.

    I think the plaintiff had better clean up her Sherman Anti-Trust Act violations first.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cbrocious (764766)
      What the hell, this isn't interesting, it's funny. Moderators these days...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Skapare (16644)

      To the extent that any agreement between the cable provider and the manufacturer prevents the sale of the box directly to the public, there is a violation going on. Comcast is not in the business of selling hardware, so they should not be required to do the selling. But they must not be allowed to interfere with the selling of such boxes by any means. The manufacturer must sell them to anyone willing to buy in the minimum quantity they will sell (e.g. at least as many as the smallest cable company has bo

      • by thethibs (882667)

        the manufacturer must sell them at the same pricing and quantities they sell to cable companies

        You don't really get this "free market" idea at all, do you?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Skapare (16644)

          If your idea of a free market is a company can arbitrarily discriminate against customers, then I don't want to get your idea of free market at all. And where monopolies exist, there is no freedom. I'm more in the the "fair market" system, if you need a name for it.

  • by rs232 (849320)
    "The action, on behalf of Comcast Corp. customer Cheryl Corralejo"

    I wonder just who she is fronting for? reading on .. :)

    "the claim is nearly identical to one filed on behalf of Missouri consumer Matthew Meeds .. one of the attorneys in the California case [slashdot.org] also filed the Meeds case"

    Aw, go on .. I think it's understandable for Comcast to want to rent boxes as, if the end-users buy directly from the media providers, what's in it for Comcast. Streaming Media is a huge hog of bandwidth, as the ISPs in
    • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:08PM (#26241845) Homepage

      Streaming Media is a huge hog of bandwidth, as the ISPs in the UK are discovering with the iPlayer [wikipedia.org] and other services. The ISPs and the content providers are currently in disagreement [theregister.co.uk] as to who should pay to upgrade the network infrastructure

      In the good old days, people minded their own business. If you had a hot dog stand where you sold the best hot dogs at a busy intersection, the butcher didn't come to your stand to whine and moan about how he can't produce more hot dogs unless you bribe him. He just took all the money he earned from his supply business and reinvested it to increase capacity, and you kept on selling hot dogs without worrying about anything else.

      If there is more demand on ISPs to deliver bandwidth to support their customer's usage, it is their responsibility to increase capacity to meet demand. If they cannot afford to do so, then it is the business model that is flawed. If they failed to account for future upgrades and the rather obvious explosion of telecommunications, that makes them poor businesspeople. It most certainly is not the fault of the customer nor anyone else.

      • That is one of the better analogies on this bizarre issue. If you don't mind, I will be telling it to a lot of non-tech people.
    • The ISPs and the content providers are currently in disagreement as to who should pay to upgrade the network infrastructure ..

      Jesus.
      Lemmy draw you a diagram:

      Customer <-----> ISP <----> Internet

      Do you see what's between the customer and the Internet? The ISP *controls* *each* of its users' Internet connections. If they can't handle the traffic that the customer is pulling through them, then the ISP can -if needed- stop that traffic... dead. Do you understand that? Do you understand the *implicat

  • This is obviously a violation of the Sherman Act, and now that the DOJ has a chance of being on the side of the law and not big business after Bush leaves, its time to start filing them. I say legally NUKE comcast to oblivion.

    As Americans, we need to retake control of our communications systems. That USED TO BE the job of the FCC!

    • by Chaos Incarnate (772793) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @09:56AM (#26241193) Homepage
      While it would be antitrust if their monopoly were one formed by conglomeration, cable is a bit different; in this case, each local city grants the company its monopoly. They chose to eliminate the competition; I don't think they have any ethical leg to stand on (though they may have a legal one) in claiming that there's no competition when it was deliberately eliminated by someone other than the cable providers.
      • by mlwmohawk (801821) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:20AM (#26241277)

        While it would be antitrust if their monopoly were one formed by conglomeration, cable is a bit different; in this case, each local city grants the company its monopoly.

        There is no such distinction in the law. In fact, back in the 70s and earlier, you HAD to rent your phone from the phone company and it remain the property of AT&T. This ran afoul of the same laws.

      • n this case, each local city grants the company its monopoly.

        Are you sure? In California, I know this isn't true. The monopolies are naturally occurring, because of the cost to run infrastructure in competition with other cable vendors (who already have infrastructure paid for). There is no state monopoly for cable in California.

        C//

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They're too busy policing boobies & f-words.

  • by Skapare (16644) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:23AM (#26241291) Homepage

    ... if it weren't such a piece of shit.

    1. Only one channel favorite set. The Comcast piece of shit box only has ONE set of favorite channels. I would actually use as many as FOUR of them just for myself (for different viewing moods). My brother and father each would probably use 2 or 3. It needs to have at least 9 or 10 channel favorites. This is NOT a hard feature to code and it takes very little flash memory to save.
    2. Video conversion modes. Programs come in a variety of video modes, both standard aspect and widescreen. The output mode setting does not always convert right for all program sources. And its very hard to change the video output mode and it kills any recording you were doing just to change the mode (because it requires a full power cycle, not just the "off" function, to get the menu to make the change).

    Comcast needs to demand that their box manufacturer let a real geek program the box and shoot the managers (though I would really much more prefer that they suffer a horrible lingering painful death) that try to interfere.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by GweeDo (127172)

      So leave Comcast and get some decent hardware. Might I recommend Dish Network and the DVR722 receiver?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tepples (727027)

        So leave Comcast

        And pay for cable TV that I'm not using, in order to maintain my Internet connection? (Comcast makes its high-speed Internet customers subscribe to at least "lifeline" TV.)

    • #1 is not something I could see a large fraction of customers wanting, so don't hold your breath. It may not be hard to code, but it will make it more difficult for Joe Consumer to set up favorites and to change favorite sets; so actually doing it may end up driving customers away rather than bringing them. Therefore it is a very bad value proposition for the cable company, even if it takes 5 minutes to code.

      As for #2...well, Comcast just uses shitty cable boxes. The Scientific Atlanta box that I have (o

      • #1 is not something I could see a large fraction of customers wanting,

        What do you mean?

        Joe Sixpack has his favorites (FSN, ESPN, SciFi).
        Jane has hers (Oxygen, FoodTV, WE).
        Little Johnny and Susie each have theirs as well (Nick, Disney, etc..).

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          The problem isn't whether Joe would want to use it, but whether he COULD use it. Remember some of these Joe Sixpack types can scare the hell out of you with how little they know and still function in society. So unless they coded it so simple that your average 5 yr old could work it the thing might end up giving them support hell from all the "I can't make this thing work!" calls. The only way I see it working is putting nice little icons on the remote, maybe a little daddy mommy and two kids icons, and hav

          • Exactly my point. And that's assuming that you could get Joe and Jane Sixpack to understand what was meant by "multiple favorite sets" in the first place - something that, having worked tech support for AOL for a few months back when it was the US's largest ISP, I have my doubts about.

          • Many folks seem to disengage their brains when you add a computer into even the simplest of scenarios.
            My grandmother was terrified of the "computer" in her Prius. Most non-techies *refuse* to perform even the most basic of UI exploration due to fears of "messing [the software|computer|whatever] up".

            How are we supposed to fix these people?

            • by hairyfeet (841228)

              I actually blame Win9X. Nearly everyone I have dealt with that was afraid of "messing up" the tech if they touched it or tried anything had experience of the bad kind with Win9x. For those of you that have never had that particular "pleasure" there were many models of PC out there that if you made a mistake in Win9X it would "break" the OS and render it a brick. I especially remember certain models of HP Pavilion(the old "Knuckle buster" mini towers) that were quite fond of corrupting system files if you da

              • I actually blame Win9X.

                That's all well and good and rather likely. I'll remember your "cure" for next time I run into some of these folks.
                Most of the folks that I've had personal experience with have never seen Win9x. They disengage their brains when working with *any* gadget that they think is computerized.

                So maybe just bouncing around the UI to show her she can't brick it would help your grandmother.

                Heh. Not anymore. ;) She developed Alzheimer's.

                In RE: bricking and corrupted system files...
                Was the system fixable? If so, it was useless for its owner, but not bricked. :) Anyway. Did these systems ship with a recovery disk?

    • by Lumpy (12016) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @02:34PM (#26242979) Homepage

      Comcast box is even more crappy.

      Do discreet on and off IR codes, no RS232 control port in back. PIP does not work, etc... as a high end theater integrator I hate it when my $50,000 theater install turns into a $25.00 piece of crap home theater in a box when it comes to the cable box control. The POS has video out on all ports if on or off, so I cant do a video detect. It uses the same power on or off so I cant use a current detect, and they have so many useless led's always on on the face I cant use a indicator detect. No ir in port in theback means running a ugly bug to the front.

      Even their newest box is utterly a festering pile of dog crap. AND they try and rape customers by telling them that it's a $900.00 box. It's barely worth $49.95 on the open market and they know it. Oh and finally most HDMI boxes give "USECURED VIDEO PATH" errors on many TV's causing people to revert to Component in instead of HDMI.

      There is not one box available from comcast that is not a total piece of junk that is not worth the cardboard box it was shipped in. This is the fault of Motorola making low end boxes (no cooling on the hard drives so they fail all the time in the DVR boxes)

      Problem is there is not other choices. DISH and DirectTV both have really crappy hardware, and all other cable companies have the same motorola or Scientiffic Atlanta crap.

  • by markdavis (642305) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @10:33AM (#26241333)

    Who wants to BUY a cable box they force you to use? The real issue is that the cable companies want to force you to use THEIR SELECTED equipment. Since there is little or no competition with cable, what consumers need and want is freedom to use the EQUIPMENT of their own choosing. THAT would make a far better lawsuit.

    I have a TiVo HD. Let me tell you, it was a nightmare trying to get it to work properly with Cox Cable. You think that CableCard solved the issues? Think again. There are different versions of the card and issues with resetting them and the techs are CLUELESS. But then Cox activated SDV (Shared Digital Video) the week after I FINALLY got everything working. Poof- I could then not access 2/3rds of the HD channels. Cox couldn't tell me WHY I couldn't get the stations, and kept sending out useless techs. Then they tried to charge me for the service calls. After many hours on the phone, I FINALLY got someone who actually knew what they were doing.

    They activated SDV without telling any customers or even training their techs what they were doing and instantly made it impossible for anyone not using Cox equipment to get many channels. It completely ruined the whole concept of CableCards. And Cox was not the only cable company doing it, either.

    Well, it was my great fortune that after a few weeks of that hell, Cox suddenly stopped using SDV and then everything worked again. I heard through my inside connections that Cox was having problems with some of their own equipment and SDV, so they temporarily stopped using it. It hasn't been a year yet, but rest assured that Cox will start using SDV again, and then every customer with an HDTV + cablecard, or TiVO + cablecard, or any other type of non-Cox equipment will be out in the cold yet again.

    • This is why... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Overzeetop (214511)

      ...the congress should change the law to prohibit any infrastructure provider from also selling service over that infrastructure. If the cable, telephone, electric, etc. utility plants were required to be run as an independent, stand alone business from the content provided (electrical generation, content sourcing, telecommunication connection backend) there would be fewer tying problems.

      Now, that said, there might still be other issues over interfaces and who's problem it is when things break, but physical

    • by Ucklak (755284)

      You can buy a cable box off Ebay for a fraction of the cost of rental for a year.
      I'm reserving that option when the cable co finally decides to be like the satellite companies and force decoder boxes for our 'enhancement of the experience'.
      I'm on board for satellite companies as their signal is free and 'out there' at a cost. The cable companies pay to have a cable directly wired to my home.

      In my market, a standard cable rental runs $5 a month.
      For HD, it's $10 a month.

      I get calls as to why I won't upgrade

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543)

      I'd buy the Scientific Atlanta DVR I have now if it were available for sale - it's a great DVR and handles switching aspect ratios and upcale settings very nicely. If it were available for outright purchase it would probably include more functionality, i.e., recordings would be available even when cable is out (in my town cable goes out more than power), I'd be able to manage files more easily, and transfer them to any firewire device, and would probably not be blocked from recording on demand video. The ca

      • by Big Boss (7354)

        You can thank the cable companies that you can't get Myth compatible cablecard tuners. They refuse the allow anyone to use cablecard in a computer if it's not DRMed all to hell and back.

        The only option for cable based HD right now is the Haupage HD-PVR. A component video capture device. It outputs h264 to a USB connection and is supported in Linux and Myth (Myth needs patches right now, the next version will have support).

        Try a modern Myth setup, it's a LOT easier to deal with than it used to be. I'm runnin

        • by kimvette (919543)

          Try a modern Myth setup, it's a LOT easier to deal with than it used to be. I'm running it as our sole PVR at this point with an antenna for OTA channels and it's working very well. I used Mythbuntu, it was as easy to set up as a standard Ubuntu install.

          The last time I tried Myth was just under two years ago. It was just WAY too much work. I finally got it working but the lag when using digital cable was just unbearable, to the point where the guide was unusable. Even just 500ms lag makes guides painfully s

    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Outside of premium pay channels there is no LEGITIMATE reson to force a home user to haveacable box.

      Clear QAM channels will work fine with almost all TV's sold in the past 2 years. also their reason to drop the analog lineup is a red herring. They do NOT need the bandwidth for anything else. They want to force every subscriber to use a cable box.

  • From 11 months ago [cnet.com]. Panasonic already has a tru2way television on the market already.

  • They should make all boxes rent to own with a cap on how much over there price they can bill you as rent fees. Also only have 1 HD and or DVR fee per house. Also they should let you buy it outright with them being forced to let you port it to other networks. Also they should let you put bigger hd in the with out being locked out for doing that.

    The Cable guard, Protection Plans and others cover replacing them at no cost , no rent time reset, and no 2 year re lock in.
    also mirroring fee / outlet fees / card fe

  • The future of Cable (Score:5, Informative)

    by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @11:40AM (#26241663)

    This will be a little hard to explain, so I'll try and be as sensible as possible. There are "must carry" regulations that control what Cables can and can't scramble. They have to Carry local channels and they have to carry stations like TBS in an unscrambled/unencrypted format. (my significant other and I have had many arguements about this.) "Scrambling" is an Analogue concept that applied to Analog NTSC Cable. Cable companies don't do this any more, they simply stick it on the "Digital Teir" and encrypt the shit out of it. Digital Cable" uses QAM. (Quadurature Amplitude Modulation.) QAM gets encrypted heavily by cable companies.

    Now, most Digital Televisions, and Digital VCRs (but not those cheap DTV Converters) have QAM tuners (call this "Digital Cable Ready") in addition to ATSC Tuners (Digital Terrestrial Tuners.)

    Now must of these "Digital Cable Boxes" that the cable company provides, output ONLY Analogue RF NTSC out, (at 480p) or Composite out. (also 480p.) if you want 720p or 1080i, you have to get one of their "HD" packages to get a "box" with Component or HDMI output. (so its the digital cable boxes that prevent just everyone subscribing to get "HD".

    Here is the problem. The Cable companies consider their QAM tier to be entirely Premium channels all 100+ of them. So they feel entitled to encrypt the whole thing. Not only that, they are moving regular NTSC Channels to the Digital Teir and encrypting them. Save the ones that under the US's must carry Rule. (I think Canada is as variation of the way.)

    Now here is the killer, while there is no hard and fast date for this like the Febuary 17th 2009 switch, its expected the Analogue Cable teirs will go dark some time in 2012 or 2013. So what we are likely to see sometime in that year, is a situation where maybe 20 local channels and must carry nationals are in Clear QAM, and virtually everything else is Encrypted. And there is no Analogue Teir at all. Without a set top Box rental, you will be better off watching OTA ATSC, and not subscribing to cable at all.

    That is the future of Television.

    • by DragonTHC (208439)

      great job of missing the point. Why are we forced into an endless rental contract with no option to buy the set-top box?

      2 reasons, one being that they enjoy the revenue stream. The other is that they simply do not wish to allow their encryption keys into equipment that someone else can own.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gallwapa (909389)

      Yes, Comcast is already trying to screw us in our area.

      http://thegreenbutton.com/forums/thread/315949.aspx [thegreenbutton.com]

    • I can stream content from Hulu.com to my Playstation 3, Xbox360, Popcornhour Box, etc. with a $30 media server package from Mediamall. Roku is pushing firmware out in the next 3 months to allow Youtube, Hulu, etc. to be played on their media box. I no longer pay Comcast for video, only internet. If they decide to lower my bandwidth cap from 250GB/month to prevent video over IP, I will push my local city towards municipal fiber.

      This is the future of Television. Anytime, anywhere, over IP.

      • by Sleepy (4551)

        Update your PS3.. you can stream from hulu.com to your PS3 via the browser since around December 10.
        The PS3 brower & flash is sometimes flakey though.... wait until after the first commercial before you try to set the video to full-screen.

        The whole hulu thing with the PS3 almost has us canceling cable to the savings of $100 a month.

        • Google for Mediamall PlayOn. It's totally worth the $30, since it'll stream Netflix and Hulu (the PS3 browser sucks, especially the Flash integration).

          After a while, you'll see you don't need cable =)

    • by not_anne (203907)

      It's actually simpler than this.

      Cable is an "always on" technology. To turn it off you need to physically unhook or trap the coax itself.

      The analog channels that are provided to the cable companies (NBC, PBS, etc.) are not encrypted and so do not need a box to decrypt the signal. Plug the cable directly into your tv, and you get analog channels.

      The digital channels (Biography, NFL Network, etc.) are encrypted, and so they need a box to decrypt the signal so you can watch it on your tv. To decrypt a channel,

      • Uh, no, three years is 2012. I have actually researched this. Heavily. The regulation just says that, only the primary channel must be carried, and it must be carried without conditional access.

        What I am saying is, the Cable companies should be forced by the FCC to decrypt the Non-premium stations to clear QAM. And that there should be an act passed stating tht the Cable monopolies CAN NOT encrypt what would not be encrypted on an Analogue teir. (like C-SPAN 1, 2 and 3)

        • by not_anne (203907)

          The regulation in question covers over-the-air "local" stations ONLY, which have never been encrypted. These are stations you'd get even if you didn't have cable. Get it now? The FCC already forces cable companies to do this. Unless you mean channels like MTV or LOGO. Then you'll have to convince those stations to broadcast over-the-air for free to everyone. Good luck with that.

          If only I had the motivation to muck through the horror that is the FCC website. Oh well, with your "heavy" research, I'm sure you'

          • But I sure wish I could at least get a QAM tuner on a PCI card that has a Cable Card slot on it. Once I finally make the plunge to getting HDTV myself I'll probably use this cute little guy [hauppauge.com] and route around the whole mess. But the problem with all those solutions is you are basically going from Digital -> Analog -> Digital when you can just record the feed right off the wire with no loss in quality. I'm also reading stories about how the some in the industry want to down-convert the analog ports to

      • and so they need a box to decrypt the signal so you can watch it on your tv

        By "so they need a box" you mean "they need a box blessed by the RIAA, the CIA, and The Pope". Thus if your idea of "needs a box" includes only boxes with tamper proof screws and protocols that encrypt the signal all the way to the controller on the TV, you are in luck I guess.

        Question. Does your fantasy world include my SageTV, or somebodies MythTV or Windows MCE? Will your fantasy world with leprechauns and gum-drop houses inclu

        • I can't tell if you drank too much coffee or if you're failing at trolling. Either way your inflammatory tone and language detracts from your message.

          Digital cable signals are encrypted so that people cannot easily steal cable from the cable company. Cable companies don't care if you download torrents or stream from NBC or steal satellite signals.

          Video on demand services are exactly what I was referring to when I mentioned the future of television. Video on demand is an idea that isn't limited to cable. Sat

          • by coryking (104614) *

            I dont think you fully understand the politics behind this.

            Digital cable signals are encrypted so that people cannot easily steal cable from the cable company.

            I understand this, and that is fine. What I do care about is that currently it is impossible to use anything but "blessed" hardware to receive all but a few HDTV channels I pay for. Your cable card is great for Tivo's, which are "blessed", but right now you can't just throw together a computer and install SageTV/MythTV/Windows MCE and get the same c

            • by not_anne (203907)

              I'm sorry you're so pissed off by all this. It really is a mess. Without going into specifics, I know full well how screwed up it all is. Really I do.

              You'd think I'd be pissed off too, since I'm on the inside. I've worked for a cable company going on 3 years now, and I've gotten to the point that while I do care, I don't get worked up about it much anymore. If you saw it from my perspective, and I'm not talking about brainwashing, I think you'd agree that you'd see it a bit differently.

              As you say, the inter

              • And I know that there are many sides to the coin.

                I know you are getting squeezed by the content producers who either want to play geographical "tricks" (i.e. opening ceremony of the Olympics + tape delay) or don't want their content on a torrent site. In many ways, your guys life would be easier if you didn't have all the fucking crazy encryption schemes, but the content guys wouldn't like that.

                I'm sorry you're so pissed off by all this

                It pisses me off because I think the HDTV industry is still very immatu

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper (135110)

      Without a set top Box rental, you will be better off watching OTA ATSC, and not subscribing to cable at all.

      I would go quite a bit further than that... Even now, you're simply far better off with OTA ATSC than Cable/Satellite. End of story.

      With the advent of high quality OTA broadcast TV, inexpensive DVRs, and DVDs, what purpose does cable TV serve?

      I haven't yet seen one cable/sat provider who isn't re-compressing the broadcast signal to hell and back, so OTA is now the choice with the highest picture qua

  • I just had. Why in hell can't I simply rent/buy a cable card for my PC that not only gives me CTV with Digital Access but also Broadband Modem Capabilities? Talk about finally getting some digital convergence as they've talked about for the last decade. How many people would be willing to pay for this kind of service/product and when you combine it with Vista/Windows 7, all of the DRM lovers would actually have a win situation in front of them. Producers would be able to draconically control media access (r

  • by twasserman (878174) on Saturday December 27, 2008 @12:40PM (#26242091)
    Once upon a time, when AT&T (Ma Bell) provided all of the telephone service in the US, you had to rent your telephone from AT&T for about $1 a month, which is at least $5 today. At first, phones were all black. Colors were a major innovation, and the Princess phone (see one on Mad Men) was downright revolutionary. But all phones were made by AT&T's captive subsidiary (Western Electric). You couldn't get them anywhere else, and you couldn't buy them outright.

    It wasn't until the 1968 Carterfone decision that AT&T was forced to give up this monopoly and allow other devices to be connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network. RJ-11 jacks followed, as did the flood of third parties making telephones. Today you can buy a phone very cheaply. You wouldn't be very happy if AT&T were charging $5/month for each phone and had the exclusive right to rent them.

    Comcast is following the old AT&T monopoly model, the only difference being that the manufacturing of the boxes is outsourced. Cable boxes are available only from them. You can't buy them, and they arbitrarily decide on the monthly rental charge. (For simplicity, we'll let Comcast represent the entire cable industry here.)

    Someday, perhaps soon, we will have a Federal Trade Commission that will use its enforcement powers to declare this arrangement to be illegal. Comcast will fight it in the courts, as did AT&T, but eventually they will lose, and will be forced to separate the cable box business from the television service. We consumers will then have the right to either continue renting our boxes or to buy it, with or without a service contract.

    The bigger threat to Comcast, however, is the competition for delivery of content, where they don't have a complete monopoly. (They do own some of the cable channels, though.) Today, we can legally receive programs over-the-air, by cable, satellite, and Internet. As more and more of us go to the Web for our video entertainment, Comcast and the other cable companies may become increasingly irrelevant and lose more and more of their market share. The Obama Administration is talking about universal broadband service, which would be a big blow to cable TV. When that happens, I'm guessing that HBO and Showtime will decide to sell monthly subscriptions to their shows over the web (or through the iTunes music store). If they are successful, it's not long until Game Over for the cable companies.

    • What I'd like to see the Obama administration do is demand that the 200 billion already given [pbs.org]to the telco's for 'universal broadband' be actually put into place. Force them to go forward with the plans they had originally stated before taking those billions of tax credits, fees, etc that they never delivered upon. If the monopolies are unwilling to play than force them to pay back their 200 billion to another entity that will do what was promised for that money.

      Otherwise the universal broadband is just fe

  • We have no need for these shitty things anymore. We're paying over $15 a month JUST FOR these HDTV cable boxes, and guess what? THEY DON'T WORK.

    Half of the HD channels we are supposed to have fail to come in properly. (I suspect it's due to Concast's horrible compression ratios), so we're paying $15 a month, PLUS the charges for HD service, for poor quality, horribly compressed, hardly ever works HDTV.

    I'd like to see another lawsuit concerning this...

    I just torrent all of the TV shows I watch, copy them to

  • "Here's the deal. You're going to rent this box from us if you want our service. But we're your only local option aside from satellite. Who, also, will be happy to rent you this box. If you're caught with one that you aren't renting, lets say you bought one from ebay, you'll be charged monthly for it as well."

    "But that's not fair."

    "What's fair is what we say is fair, because no one's going to stop us. They did it before with CableCard and look what happened. Didn't work out so well, did it? Now they'

  • ... the 'box' and the service are two separate contracts. Many people choose to purchase their own box, but most (like me) will simply take advantage of an offer from the provider which includes the box for 'free'. I know nobody who is explicitly renting their box. Of course it could be argued we all are without our knowledge, but then, that's how a smart business would operate - e.g. hide whatever costs were incurred from the box within the 'service' contract. It's so simple I'm amazed the stupid comp

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