Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Government Television Your Rights Online

FCC May Pry Open the Cable Set-Top Box 222

Posted by kdawson
from the otherwise-known-as-pandora's dept.
awyeah writes "The NY Times reports that the FCC is finally looking into the practice of cable companies requiring use of their set-top boxes to access their digital cable and video on-demand services. The inquiry (PDF) states: 'Consumers can access the Internet using a variety of delivery methods (e.g., wireless, DSL, fiber optics, broadband over powerlines, satellite, and cable) on myriad devices made by hundreds of manufacturers; yet we know of no device available at retail that can access all of an MVPD's services across that MVPD's entire footprint.' Yes, there are a few devices out there — for example CableCARD-enabled TVs, and CableCARD/Tuning Adapter-enabled TiVos and Windows Media Center PCs, but only the cable companies' set-tops can access services other than broadcast TV, such as video-on-demand and pay-per-view. Is it finally time to open these devices and embrace actual standards and competition?" Lauren Weinstein has a cautionary blog post about the world we may be entering if this FCC initiative comes to fruition, which concludes: "I have difficulty seeing how this universe can be made to function effectively in the absence of some sort of regulatory regime to ensure transparency and fairness in situations where the Internet access providers themselves are providing their own content that directly competes with content from the external Internet."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

FCC May Pry Open the Cable Set-Top Box

Comments Filter:
  • There you go, some good bait to get the /. crowd all riled up.

    To get it out of the way, we need the regulatory institution because the cable providers have a monopoly, are transitioning to digital only signals across the wire, and we don't have any way to set up our own HTPC to record TV shows for viewing/commercial skipping later.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      There you go, some good bait to get the /. crowd all riled up.

      That run-on sentence from her blog is a fresh fish in a pile of cats.

      • by Big Jojo (50231)

        That run-on sentence from her blog is a fresh fish in a pile of cats.

        That's "his" blog.

    • And their remote controls that you're forced to use, along with your real remote that always works with everything except their box, usually have their biggest, largest buttons devoted to buying crap. They're like Verizon phones.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rlds (849683)
      Verizon lets me use a M-Card on my Tivo HD. They had to install it when they came to remove my cable set to box, and configure it themselves. Then they charge me $2 less for the card per month as compared to the STB. Why can't I just buy the card? Why do they have to install it? (For now they are not charging for the truck rollout). The Tivo HD also gives me access to internet content, like from Netflix. That's my video on demand. So my virtual STB is working fine. I don't miss any of Verizon's extra serv
      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        That's what I've pointed out before - for some people, even paying for Tivo monthly(*), it can be cheaper than paying for a cable STB. (Thus over the very long run, even making up the difference of having to pay for the Tivo hardware.)

        Some people can 'install' cablecards themselves nowadays. After Comcast locally changed extended basic to digital, I got cablecards for one of my Tivos.. I was able to just go get them and install them myself.

        I didn't RTFA (but I skimmed it). Doesn't OCAP (http://en.wikiped [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by rtfa-troll (1340807)

      we need the regulatory institution because the cable providers have a monopoly,

      No no no; we don't need more regulation. This whole problem is caused by excess regulation. See the only business model allowed is the cable TV model of delivering signal to the home. Obviously the first one to get their gets the network effect and wins. Now if the corporations were allowed to round up their customers and bring them to their corporate office, more competitors would be able to even up the market. Alternatively, if they were allowed to bomb competitors customers they would be able to per

      • by stinerman (812158)

        Not usually.

        In most cases the monopoly is not statutory but natural. I'm lucky enough to live in Columbus, OH, where we have 2 cable companies (Insight and WOW). There won't be a third because of the up-front costs of rolling out and maintaining the infrastructure. Most everywhere else there is only the one, and no one bothers to compete with them because it would be unprofitable to do so.

        Econ 101 tells you that if the monopoly is natural, the government ought to own the infrastructure (see sewers and ro

  • One idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:00PM (#30359636) Journal

    "I have difficulty seeing how this universe can be made to function effectively in the absence of some sort of regulatory regime to ensure transparency and fairness in situations where the Internet access providers themselves are providing their own content that directly competes with content from the external Internet."

    I see only one way that we, as consumers of content, will get a good outcome from this. And it's a messy one... We'd need to be able to have multiple content providers simultaneously. They'll competing on their service on shared content, and on the unique content they provide. It would end up being like TV before cable... you had the big networks in VHF, and a few fringe stations in UHF.

    I really don't think this is a feasible solution due to infrastructure requirements (unless the infrastructure is common), but I think it's the only way the [Internet access|Content providers] can be involved in fair competition that benefits the end-consumer.

    Say Microsoft enters into an agreement with Comcast, and Comcast starts delaying packets for google searches. Fine... not much harm done, since I could "change channels" and use another ISP.

    • Re:One idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sanosuke001 (640243) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:02PM (#30359654)
      split the content providers into two companies; one that owns the infrastructure and another that supplies the content. Then, require the infrastructure company to lease access to any company who wants it at the same price regardless of who is leasing the access.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gsarnold (52800)

        I agree that the FCC is not seeing the real problem here, but I have a better solution.

        Video=Voice=Data. It's all bits. Barring (maybe) wireless we will not ever have actual competition in the current system because the market has a naturally high barrier to entry: the high cost and difficulty of pulling physical cables. (permits, zoning rules, capacity/buildout planning, "who really wants five cables from five different providers running into their house?!", etc...) That's why there is no mom and pop broad

        • by afidel (530433)
          Hmm, here I have the option of:
          Two cable providers, 3 CLEC DSL providers, AT&T U-verse, Wireless internet, satellite,and three 3G services. All of them have tradoffs between cost, bandwidth, convenience, latency, and support. Of course as time goes on the DSL providers will be forced out by the fact that AT&T took billions in public money and then asked for and received from lawmakers exclusive rights to the same lines they were being paid to upgrade.

          Did I mention that my neighbors are a farm, a h
      • by lapsed (1610061)
        You'd still have a monopoly -- there would be only one cable infrastructure provider.
        • by Itchyeyes (908311)

          True, but at least then the cable company doesn't have a vested interest in serving up content from their affiliated provider over a 3rd party provider like Amazon or Netflix.

    • I have to say I'm a little mystified by all this. Her argument seems kind of antiquated and quaint. Doesn't the internet prove that such as system can and does work? All it seems like the FCC is doing is trying to limit the ability of cable companies to lock customers into a set top solution. Probably their aim is to create an environment where we can get convergence between set top boxes and internet routers. If DDWRT could let you order pay-per-view, then the world is functioning correctly, right?

      As long

  • cablecard is dead (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lead Butthead (321013) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:07PM (#30359694) Journal

    In case nobody noticed, there hasn't been any new models cablecard enabled TV set since 2006. Cable companies has worked hard to make sure cablecard will never ever take off, and for the most part they appear to have succeeded. FCC investigation is about four years late.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      I worked call center at Comcast and during training the support supervisor told us how much of a PITA it was to support CableCard boxes and how kludgy they were. I think 2.5% of the cable boxes in our support area were CableCard. I got to trouble shoot a few calls, and yea, they required alot more work to troubleshoot and enable for an account.

      • by Chyeld (713439) <chyeld&gmail,com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:31PM (#30359904)

        Odd isn't it. It isn't as if the cable companies chose the specs and design of the card themselves or anything (sarcasm alert, they did), how odd that supporting one would be such a PITA to them. Almost as if they were doing things half-assed just so they could say "We told you it wouldn't work and you need to use our locked down stuff instead."

      • Re:cablecard is dead (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:38PM (#30359950)
        That's kind of funny since the last two Crapcast boxes I've had have what appears (through the vent holes) to be a CableCard stashed inside...
        • by afidel (530433)
          Because the FCC forced them to eat their own dogfood, which probably has something to do with the rash of "CableCard is dead" stories...
      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        I have no idea when you worked at a call center. July 1, 2007 was the deadline for all _new_ cable boxes from cable companies to use cable cards inside them. (http://news.cnet.com/Set-top-shakeup-is-in-the-cards/2100-1033_3-6194323.html [cnet.com]) Existing stock that was Cable Card-less could still be deployed. (There are waivers for very very small cable companies for Cable Cards at all..)

        There's been some shakeup lately wrt. the "DTAs" that cable companies are giving people so they can go all (or virtually all) d

    • Re:cablecard is dead (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:15PM (#30359772) Homepage
      That's Cable's fault. Here is my cable card experience.
      • Get Cable Cards. Despite being plug-and-play, this required an appointment with a Cable idiot.
      • Pay extra per month for my CCs so I can use the service I already pay an ungodly amount of money for
      • Have a problem with channel or two. Call up to have them fix it. It requires a reset signal be sent, which only happens once there is a tech at my place.
      • Move out, get my own place. Need CCs transferred to new account. They can't do that. They come out to replace my two cards with two NEW cards, because they are idiots. Those cards don't work, so they give me my old cards back, just like I asked in the first place. This took TWO tech visits.
      • Have cards fail, get the replaced. This requires a tech. Comcast won't let me swap them myself.
      • For the time I don't have my service? They'll give me free VOD/PPV. But I can't use that, I have Cable Cards.

      That's the short version.

      By the way, my cards, which are basically PCMCIA cards, may need replacing again. You'd think they'd know how to build a solid-state device that doesn't move for two years without it dieing, but they don't.

      Cables has gone out of their way to make things as difficult as possible. I'm guessing 90% of people don't even know the things are available. And with the deficits Cable has put in place (like no PPV/VOD), I'm not surprised people aren't rushing out to use them. And they don't work with Switched-Digital-Video, so any day now I may lose the option to use them.

      It failed because the FCC didn't force things nearly hard enough. They let cable drag their feet WAY too long.

      • Re:cablecard is dead (Score:5, Informative)

        by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:26PM (#30359858)

        They require a visit because they have to check to make sure they're installed only in authorized secure devices. If they let it into just one unsecured device, all their digital encrypted programming will be available for copying.

        Though when I got my second TiVo HD, I called up and the person on the phone told me I could pick them up and install them myself and save myself the roll-out cost. Turns out the people who handle the local number are not local. They handle the national call center, they don't know local policy, and just didn't want to have to do anything at the end of that day. They were even wrong about the local branch's hours.

        Also they don't have any clue about cable boxes with IEEE 1394/Firewire ports and disavow their existence.

        • by Jared555 (874152)

          They require a visit because they have to check to make sure they're installed only in authorized secure devices. If they let it into just one unsecured device, all their digital encrypted programming will be available for copying.

          I have never delt with this so I wouldn't know. Is there any way for them to detect the transfer to another device? If not this is as stupid as half their other policies

          • Re:cablecard is dead (Score:4, Informative)

            by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday December 07, 2009 @09:12PM (#30360184)

            The card must be paired with the Host ID of the slot in which it is inserted by the head office, requiring a phone call. Once paired with a slot, it can't be used with any other slot in any other device.

            Also there's a quality problem with the cards, causing many not to pair properly to the device, and it can still take over an hour for the device pairing authorization to go out over the network.

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              I don't have personal experience with this, but apparently not all cable companies actually pair Cable Cards with the device. (This from what I've read on discussions at tivocommunity.com.)

              I do wish that they'd set up a web site to "hit" your box/device to reset it if needed (though I personally haven't needed it).

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spectro (80839)

      Not only late but obsolete. The cable industry resisted and killed cablecard so we all looked for a way to bypass them: the internet.

      Youtube proved the tech and bandwidth are there when they netcasted U2 live from the Rose Bowl to millions around the world.

      For $150 you can buy blueray players with plugins to play live streams from providers such as netflix.

      It is just a matter of months before cable channels start bypassing the cable industry and sell direct subscriptions to their live HD stream (is Mark Cub

      • Youtube proved the tech and bandwidth are there when they netcasted U2 live from the Rose Bowl to millions around the world.

        YouTube proved that they could serve one video stream to an estimated 10 million viewers, which is a remarkable feat. However, there are an estimated 110 million households with a TV in the US alone, watching dozens or even hundreds of different shows, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.

        Don't underestimate Cable. In the US, they are still the fattest pipe entering the most households,

      • by mattack2 (1165421)

        The cable industry resisted and killed cablecard

        How did they kill it? Except for small cable companies, they are legally required to provide you with cable cards. Many of us are successfully using cable cards in our devices.

        (Yes, I wish the satellite companies did not have an exemption from the cable card requirement.. and things like SDV and 'on demand' can be a pain, but there's already a workaround for
        the SDV issue with another [free] device.. and IMHO, if you have a PVR, do you need On Demand?)

      • At the $150 price point, the only thing you need to plug in to some of those blu-ray players is patch cable.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by TheOldBear (681288)

      The old CableCard standard was one way only. The newer 'MCard' and the OCAP / Tru2Way boxes are much more capable, and [speaking from the inside of the cable industry] a bit puzzling to deal with.

      We are looking at revamping our entire provisioning infrastructure to permit the new generation boxes to function, but that has run into some comical snags. For example, we can't get a Pannasonic Tru2Way set delivered to our lab, because the distributor will only ship to areas served by a Tru2Way compatible cable p

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Please let me know when I can get one to work with myth until then they are useless.

        Why the thing can't just use usb and be dealt with that way I will never know.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          Nevermind MythTV. Let us know when ANY of these standards have PC hardware available for purchase at your local Frys or Microcenter.

          This cablecard nonsense is pretty much effectively locking EVERYONE out except for Tivo.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

      there hasn't been any new models cablecard enabled TV set since 2006

      Yet now there are Netflix-enabled TV's. The market is routing around the damage that is the telco hegemony.

      Currently Netflix TV shows are time-delayed by several months. That's a policy decision, not a technical one, though.

      Anybody know if radio broadcast and IP unicast are still converging on price-parity in 2015? That was the prediction in 2005. After that, TV stations are too expensive to run.

    • Just asking about your sig really, but who is Eloi and why are you asking why they did something from a s-b-ch root to you?

  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted AT slashdot DOT org> on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:14PM (#30359754)

    TV is dead anyway.

    eztv.it, bittorrent and companies with their own streaming sites (daily show, south park, etc) is all I need. I haven’t watched TV or touched a remote for at least five years. And I see more and better shows than before.

    If I want to pointlessly procrastinate, there’s always Slashdot with more stories than I can read in a day (including *all* comments. ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gilbert644 (1515625)
      You do realize that if everyone did what you do there would be no TV shows to pirate?
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        You mean we would be stuck feeding off the rotting corpse of Hollywood content to watch 50+ years of back catalog material?

        What was it you were talking about again? Internet piracy or cable TV?

    • by Nerdfest (867930)

      there’s always Slashdot with more stories than I can read in a day (including *all* comments. ;)

      Well that's fine for you, but what does someone do if they're not a masochist?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by icegreentea (974342)
      TV is dead to you. Stupid shit. I'm sorry about the language, but this type of attitude is fucking stupid. "I don't use it, therefore it's useless". For fucks sake. You and your immediate acquaintances don't drive cars? 'Driving is end. I can just bike and take transit wherever I want'. And it's worst! This is like saying 'theatre's are dead! I just torrent the movies anyways'. That's just fucking stupid.

      How the fuck did you get rated insightful? For fucks sake.
      • Fucking morons think AOL, stagecoaches, and bardic poetry are dead too.
      • by dbcad7 (771464)
        Well for him TV is dead, just not Television shows.. There are people like him, (I am pretty much there myself).. I suppose he could have worded it better for you.. Your point, that there would be no Television shows if there were not Television was a good one.. your delivery however sucked.. and such worry over mod points.. I mean, 5 mod points and a 50 cent coupon on Midol, and hey you've saved 50 cents !
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        No, he means TV is ACTUALLY dead. In 10 years time the internet will have killed it. How can this old broadcast medium compete with the vast, on demand and free (beer and freedom) network that is the internet. Lots of people are just hooking up large LCD screens to their home server full of torrented media. This is just the beginning. Studies have shown (citation needed) that young people are already watching less television than previous generations, reversing a long established trend to the contrary. In
    • by Palshife (60519)

      -1 In The Minority

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:18PM (#30359798)

    When I got my first CableCARD-enabled TiVo, I was overjoyed to finally be rid of Time Warner Cable's Scientific Atlanta cable box with its mystro software designed to penalize you if you use an external device to control it to change channels precisely on time. If you started changing channels before the guide data updates for the timeslot but don't finish until after it does, you find it throwing out the initial or all the digits and either changing to the wrong channel or not changing channels at all. Though that cable box was still useful as a conduit over Firewire for recording to my desktop computer.

    OK, so maybe there were a few problems now and then, but the CableCARD experience had settled down... until TWC decided to use Switched Digital Video and required TiVo users to use their Tuning Adapters to watch certain channels. Not IR controlled though. These use USB, so at least they could handshake to ensure that the device switched properly, yes?

    No, of course not. For many of my HD channels I now have to have a second unit also recording the non-HD version of the same program in order to be sure I at least get to see the shows I want.

    Meanwhile broadcasters like Fox (KPTM 42) are setting broadcast flags on their prime-time shows, preventing me from playing back my recordings made through the cable box on my computer, their being flagged "Copy Once" instead of "Copy Freely". And this after last season doing something else that made their video non-standard so I could only access the audio stream with the computer. At least the TiVo not only still records and plays back those shows, it also still lets me transfer them to the computer for burning to DVD.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Perhaps you should not be paying for a device that honors such things?

    • by mattack2 (1165421)

      Meanwhile broadcasters like Fox (KPTM 42) are setting broadcast flags on their prime-time shows

      This is against the law. Contact your cable company and/or cable franchise board and get them to fix it. Other people have gotten this fixed.

    • just don't watch. it's all crap anyway. the only programs my wife and I watch are mad men and big bang theory via p2p. once in a while, daily show.

      life's too short to remain glued to the tube...
  • Digeo worked on Charter's network along with the Moto boxes. Of course, they were bought by Arris a few months ago, but still.

  • by Buelldozer (713671) <cliff@ g i n d u l i s . net> on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:29PM (#30359886)

    What the FCC is proposing is making the DCTV systems function like the ACTV system used to. You know, it's the reason why every new TV / VCR / ETC that came out had an analog cable box built right into it. I don't see why this ended when DCTV systems appeared on the scene. CableCards where a completely unnecessary and unneeded detour AWAY from the functionality and choice that the consumer previously had.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by h4rr4r (612664)

      ClearQAM would be fine, if the sons of bitches would stop moving the damn channels around.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Obfuscant (592200)
      What the FCC is proposing is making the DCTV systems function like the ACTV system used to.

      YES! DO IT. It is a no-brainer.

      Until November 11, Comcast distributed every basic digital cable channel IN THE CLEAR. All of my ClearQAM devices worked with this signal just fine.

      On Nov. 11, Comcast started encrypting everything except the must-carries. Every channel that you cannot receive without the lowest level digital subscription, gone.

      When asked why they don't just trap lines that don't have basic digital

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        You don't understand the motivation. The cable companies are trading analog "channels" for digital bandwidth, which is something they can pretty easily do. For the most part, this means they can accomodate more digital bandwidth from the neighborhood node to the home/STB. They need this because the more TVs that are being served by digital services, the more bandwidth they need because there is little commonality between users of digital services.

        Analog channels, on the other hand have unlimited bandwidt

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:38PM (#30359946) Homepage Journal

    Until digital cable TV works, I won't be paying for it.

    If the FCC "forces" them to work with my HDHomeRun, I'll likely become a monthly-paying sap. I think it's funny, though, that they won't choose the more profitable (for them!) course on their own.

    I get this image of the FCC holding a gun to Comcast's head, saying, "have customers, collect revenue, stop screwing over your stockholders," and a Comcast lobbyist saying, "No, we don't want money! Please, nooo!! Customers, ick!! The bastards pay us every damn month and we don't know what to do with the money, so please, please don't force us to supply a service that people will be willing to pay for. We had to buy NBC with our excess cash, and if you make us more profitable, we'll have so much money that we'll be choking on it. For the accountants' sake, at least, have mercy!" So far, FCC has considered this to be a good argument.

    • I have an HDHR also. I bought mine when I still had clear-qam on my cable.

      that went away. and my sat tv NEVER had it (and so I canceled my sat-tv). been biding my time until its time to move and see if the new location has clear-qam. until then, my HDHR sits mostly unused (antenna use is not possible for me, being in an apartment).

      I'd pay for cable IFF they let clear-qam (at least for the useful channels) thru.

      until then, I rent from netflix and that's my ONLY video fix. cable doesn't even exist in my

  • by brxndxn (461473) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:45PM (#30360006)

    The future is:

    ONE DATA PIPE!

    Voice, cable TV or the idea of 'channels', video, program guides, on-demand, the Internet.. It's all just data. The future is paying for one Internet connection.. and then paying for whatever services you want from whatever company. For example, one person might decide to have 7 cable channels they like from 7 different providers for nominal monthly fees, Internet access to accomodate, and a voip phone also.. all delivered (except for the actual Internet link) from various states or even other countries. Mr. African-American can actually watch African channels in America! Another customer might feel better having a 'package' deal where everything is delivered by one company (exactly how things are done now). Another customer might prefer Internet access from one company and a package of select channels from another company..

    So, imo, the easiest way to accomodate this is for 'cable' boxes to require Internet access. Hell.. with a decent Internet connection and a computer on every TV (getting less and less expensive or different in price than a cable box), I could just pay for cable channels I want if the damn media companies were willing to sell it directly to me.

    And, as technology progresses, the argument that it is 'innefficient' becomes more and more moot because the bandwidth required becomes more and more nominal in relation to availability.

    Of course, the entrenched entities such as Verizon and Comcast will fight against this.. because even in 'competition' they duopolistically screw the consumer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by supernova_hq (1014429)
      Except they will never EVER entertain the idea of making 100% of the profit on the 3 channels you want when they can still make 10% of the profit on the 200 channels you need to buy through a 3rd party company in order to get those 3 channels.

      Ever notice how the channels you want are never in the same package? Yeah, that's not a coincidence!
    • And, as technology progresses, the argument that it is 'innefficient' becomes more and more moot because the bandwidth required becomes more and more nominal in relation to availability.

      Doesn't IPV6 also have broadcast capability built-in, making live-streaming type applications (TV) drastically more efficient?

  • Obama (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WiiVault (1039946) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:48PM (#30360036)
    Say what you will about the man, but his FCC seems to have significantly more teeth than the last administration's. Between this, the Verizon ETF, and the Gvoice/Apple thing they seem to actually be doing their job.
  • Regulatory solution? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by earlymon (1116185) on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:50PM (#30360050) Homepage Journal

    "I have difficulty seeing how this universe can be made to function effectively in the absence of some sort of regulatory regime to ensure transparency and fairness in situations where the Internet access providers themselves are providing their own content that directly competes with content from the external Internet."

    I'm neither trolling nor taking cheap shots here.

    TFS is right if the implication is that things only change from market forces or regulatory ones.

    Market forces are held back when there are few choices - such as that faced by a large number of TV consumers that can't get decent over-the-air (OTA) reception - or their favorite shows via OTA. For many people, it's a take it or leave it option for cable OR satellite.

    Now enter streaming video. Market forces - especially among /.'rs - might well prefer that - but then, we hit the take-it-or-leave-it ISP download options - and in many markets, the tech is apparently running well behind the demand due to payoff (return on investment?) considerations for the various network providers.

    Now - add in TV and ISP interests and hope for regulatory salvation. While laudable theoretically, it's a formula for even more special interest lobbying.

    FWIW - note that cable companies seem to successfully lobby many states for an added tax on satellite TV, as one example of infighting hitting the consumers.

    Don't forget the ever-present MPAA and programming conglomerates for cable / satellite - they want the cable feeds to be hard to copy, or circumvent.

    Like it or not - cable or sat can with present tech deliver a LOT of programming in their respective pipes - streaming is not ready to fully compete in terms of delivery systems, DRM that the industry will allow, and ease of use for the consumers.

    I, for one, do not see a viable solution to this situation.

    But - I shudder at the word "regulatory."

  • Competition... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Monday December 07, 2009 @08:50PM (#30360054) Homepage

    That's what the government ought to be working on: ensure competition. Everything else is not only useless — for even the slowest-moving corporation will outrun and outsmart a government bureaucrat — but dangerous, because trying (and failing) to outsmart a corporation, the bureaucrats will trample over freedoms and liberties.

    The entire idea of giving entire regions over to one or two companies — in exchange for "stricter" regulation — was a disaster. It is as if somebody wanted Capitalism to fail, so they crippled it with government-assured mono- or, at best, duopoly. Why am I stuck choosing between Verizon and Comcast?

    That ought to be stopped. Allow anyone to run their cables to any home, if they want to. Then you can stop mandating this and that and let the competition sort it out. Which consumer would rather be calling FCC (Monday through Friday, 9-4 EDT) to complain and wait for the bureaucracy deal with company's skilled lawyers, instead of simply calling the competitor to switch?

    Of course, this would diminish the Government's power, so FCC will never voluntarily release this control and will keep finding reasons and examples of its own usefulness...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GlassHeart (579618)

      Allow anyone to run their cables to any home, if they want to.

      No, this makes no sense at all. It's a waste of expensive cables and they may have to dig up roads unnecessarily. Instead, the monopoly that owns the cable should be divested of its content arm, so that anybody can send me their content through the cable to my house.

      • by mi (197448)

        It's a waste of expensive cables and they may have to dig up roads unnecessarily.

        It is a waste, but the cables are a one-time expense and, are minuscule compared to the ongoing costs of human-hours (frustrated consumers', the company employees', and the regulating bureaucrats').

        Instead, the monopoly that owns the cable should be divested of its content arm, so that anybody can send me their content through the cable to my house.

        That's a violation of that company's (or, rather, its owners') freedom. And they

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          They maybe they should not have used regulation to avoid competition? Or perhaps not taken tax money and right of ways?

          If the cable companies want to negotiate with every land owner whose property they cross then they can be free of this government interference you fear.

    • Re:Competition... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jvkjvk (102057) on Monday December 07, 2009 @11:10PM (#30361104)

      The entire idea of giving entire regions over to one or two companies -- in exchange for "stricter" regulation -- was a disaster. It is as if somebody wanted Capitalism to fail, so they crippled it with government-assured mono- or, at best, duopoly. Why am I stuck choosing between Verizon and Comcast?

      ?

      It's quite funny to me how you answered the unspoken "who" in your second sentence with the question you pose in your third sentence, yet still don't seem to be able to connect the two occurrences, and that the answer to both is the same, and actually stated quite plainly by you, yourself.

      Regards.

  • My video cable box is a standard Motorola. There's nothing proprietary about it.

    And my Internet cable adapter is my own Motorola Surfboard, that I picked up at Goodwill for $4. Even though it was old enough that someone threw it out, it is a newer model than the ones the cable company rents to customers.
  • How much do you want to bet cable companies dont want to be supplying the boxes either. Maintaining all those boexes is expensive and cable companies at best get exactly what they paid for from the rental fees. The problem is there is no real way to not need a box right now. Also the problem is every company has their network laid out differently. Also Verizon would have to be included in any legislation since they now have fios tv.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      There is a fine way to not need a box now, it is called clearQAM. From the users endpoint it works just like the old analog cable did.

      Mind you the cable company fuckers move the channels around once a month or so, but if the FCC would fix that we would be in the clear.

      • Clear QAM has no conditional access, so either everyone would get HBO for free (oops) or anyone who wants HBO would have to rent a box anyway (oops). Clear QAM also doesn't support VOD, which is a cash cow for the cable companies.

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          They can use traps just like in the old days. This way the customer does not need to be burdened with their crap box.

          VOD is called netflix. Very cheap too!

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          They wouldn't have to rent 'a box', cable cards can already provide this functionality.

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            Please tell me how to get a cablecard working with mythtv or any open solution.

            So far it seems they will not work and are therefore useless.

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              I have no idea how. Go through the requirements to get mythtv "or any open solution" to fulfill the CableLabs requirements. (I realize that is probably technically impossible.)

              I was simply responding to the idea that everyone needs "a box", which is not true, since one can use CableCards instead. Plus, I am not saying that I agree with this, but if you are referring to using an IR blaster to control a cable box, that requires the "analog hole".. If all of the cable boxes theoretically went HDMI, that w

  • Cable companies don't use public airwaves. The FCC should have anything to say about them beyond regulating spurious emissions. If a cable company offers you a deal where you use their services in exchange for using specific hardware then so be it.

    Cable companies do, however, use public right of way's which are probably owned by the city. I say let the cities add contract/lease terms for open access when they allow the cable companies to run the wiring.

    Cable companies do have competition already - at my

  • Clear the QAM!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Randall311 (866824) on Monday December 07, 2009 @10:18PM (#30360726) Homepage
    Clear QAM. If the cable companies designed and supported CableCARD properly like they should have in the first place, then they wouldn't be in this mess. Nobody wants STBs attached to every TV in their home, drawing more electricity and wasted energy, when their TVs already have perfectly capable digital tuners in them (and have for years). You see, back when TV was analog and TVs only went up to 13 channels were when STBs made perfect sense. They were delivering value by enabling so much more content to be accessed then you ever could without a box.

    New TVs from ~2001 up until 2006 all had support for CableCARD built in. It was the very thing to liberate us from the stupid (and unnecessary) STBs the cable companies would force you to rent. Yet the cable companies did everything they could to kill it, including charging more for the card then they do for the damn boxes. Eventually TV manufacturers realized that nobody was using the CableCARD slots so they abandoned it as an unnecessary cost.

    Fast forward to now and we have a myriad of download-able, streaming content to enjoy direct from the networks. The cable companies did this to themselves. More and more people are canceling their subscriptions as they realize the absurdity of it all. In order for cable to survive it will have to do the only thing they will never do. Clear their QAM. Provide a digital signal that is un-encrypted to the consumer. People will actually buy back in if this were to happen. They would be overjoyed that they would have the freedom to use MythTV, Windows Media Center, or whatever they wanted to as a DVR. Freedom of choice is the best way to get customer loyalty. Sadly, we all know that this will never happen, and we will continue to be forced into a model we do not want. The content delivery medium will continue to move from Cable to the Internet, until it is all over. Encryption and lock-down will be the death kneel to the cable industry. I suppose that the big Cable companies don't even care, since you're likely to still be paying them as your ISP.

    Maybe I'm in the minority, but I completely refuse to pay the cable company more money just so I can have a clunky box that they own taking up space in my living room. Fortunately I live close enough to the broadcast towers that I can get free OTA HD from all the major networks, and I'm happy with that. I'll never be happy with the cable companies until they provide unencrypted content to my home. Send us the signal that our built-in digital TV tuners can decode! To hell with all the encryption, DRM, and lockdown that the digital era has bestowed upon us. Lord how I do miss the good old days of analog sometimes.
    • by cdrguru (88047)

      Analog cable can use signal traps which block specific channels, thus eliminating the need for encryption.

      Digital cable cannot use such things - the information is present on the cable in packets and you can't use a simple electrical device to block some packets while passing others through. This is the function of the STB - block the content that you aren't paying for. Without the encryption, there is no blocking of premium content.

      Or is it that you do understand and feel the cable company should just pr

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        If simple traps don't work, build digital traps.

        Basically a simple fucking box that decodes what I pay for and outputs a coax cable with what I did pay for in clearQAM.

      • Umm, last I checked, the cable companies were still using RF to send us their signals. A digital trap would still work quite nicely wouldn't you think? Let the people who love the on-demand crap deal with the boxes. I just want the same basic (2-72) cable that I've always gotten just fine without any set top boxes thank you.
  • Here is the biggest problem for consumers... Support Most Cable Companies already refuse support for anything out of their core product offering. Examples include mail clients(Outlook Express Only), no third party routers, no linux/unix, or other operating systems, cable card ready devices aren't supported...

    If you have 100 different makes/models of HD PVR's your cable co will only support the ones they sell. Consumers will get frustrated with the lack of support, and the whole idea of an open network will

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      So make the damn thing a usb device. With a command set like AT.This works fine for my Verizon 3G card, works great in linux.

      There is no reason a simple usb dongle could not handle this. Then any computer could be the cable box. Even a tiny dedicated one, in a cablebox box.

  • by danwesnor (896499) on Monday December 07, 2009 @11:49PM (#30361398)

    The only way to get cable boxes into retail is to make them more attractive than the rental boxes from the cable cos. The only way to do that is to stop the cable cos from lying to customers and saying the boxes are required and that retail boxes (and Tivos) won't work on their systems. And the only way to do that is kill the atrocious profits the cable cos make from renting a $50 box for $10+ a month for years. And the only way to do that is stop the cables cos from providing boxes at all. And then the cable cos will just add the $10+ a month into their regular fees.

    Or, you can educate consumers, but that's harder than doing the above.

  • "Lauren Weinstein has a cautionary blog post about the world we may be entering if this FCC initiative comes to fruition, which concludes: "I have difficulty seeing how this universe can be made to function effectively in the absence of some sort of regulatory regime to ensure transparency and fairness in situations where the Internet access providers themselves are providing their own content that directly competes with content from the external Internet.""

    Yes, indeed. There are few parallels.

    Eventually,

One small step for man, one giant stumble for mankind.

Working...