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Time Warner Cable Box Rental Inspired Antitrust Lawsuit

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the but-they-lobbied-hard-for-this-territory dept.

Television 291

EmagGeek writes "Matthey Meeds, a real-estate agent, was so irritated about having to pay the monthly rental fee that on Tuesday he filed an antitrust suit against Time Warner Cable and its 84 percent owner, Time Warner Inc. The suit alleges that, by linking the provision of premium cable services to rental of the cable box, the companies have established illegal tying arrangements. 'Time Warner's improper tying and bundling harms competition,' Meeds' lawsuit states. 'Since the class can only rent the cable box directly from Time Warner, manufacturers of cable boxes are foreclosed from renting and/or selling cable boxes directly to members of the class at a lower cost.' I pay Comcast over $25/mo for my two DVRs. I'd love to just be able to buy them or build my own. I can't wait to see how this unfolds."

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FIRST POST (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613007)

FIRST POST

Re:FIRST POST (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613573)

Wow, you got a first post and you didn't even use the word nigger once or tell anyone to suck your dick. COMPLETE FAILURE. Fuck off and try again.

Beware (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613009)

A nigger bit off my penis.

Re:Beware (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613135)

If a nigger bit off my penis it could feed Africa for a hundred years. Fuck it, the niggers can starve.

Better solutions are out there.. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613025)

Tivo and Vista Media Center both offer cablecard solutions. These bypass the need for cable boxes for most users. And before you start, there are solutions for switched video coming as well.

This will all be supplanted by VOD over the Interweb.

Bringing the lawyers in is really weak. Enjoy your 3 months of free DVR rental as part of your settlement offer.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

Enry (630) | about 6 years ago | (#24613061)

Switched video's been a problem for over a year (I remember worrying about it before buying my Tivo HD). The 'solution' from Tivo has been 'coming' for months - I want to say this was announced in January.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

azadrozny (576352) | about 6 years ago | (#24613089)

Do you happen to know what the solution is supposed to be? My understanding is that the cable cards do not provide two-way communication with the cable company, and that the FCC and cable companies still cannot agree on a two-way cable card standard. If this is all true the solution is more like years away.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

Enry (630) | about 6 years ago | (#24613287)

Last I heard, it was a dongle you plug into the USB port on the back of the Tivo. Engadget [engadget.com] reported it was supposed to be available 2Q2008.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

Sponge! (127360) | about 6 years ago | (#24613601)

OCAP (now Known as "Tru-2-Way") is finally in silicon now. Its just a royal PITA for the cable cos to rework their systems to handle 2-way capable non company owned devices. Billing for example. Comcast's archaic system would go NUTS if it saw a cablecard serial number purchasing OnDemand stuff. Also, they now have to debug their interface software on a zillion devices. Which will probably bite the consumer in the ass with something like "VoD is only supported on these 3 tru-2-way devices, all other devices will not be able to perform 2-way signaling until we can develop a software solution."

Bleh. I need to get *OUT* of the cable industry.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

afidel (530433) | about 6 years ago | (#24613955)

Why would the software go nuts? Is the field length fixed with the length of the cablecard serial different from the company provided equipment? If so that's a classic mistake ala y2k, if it's something else I can't understand since you should be able to do a lookup between the serial number and the account number and use the account number as the unique ID throughout the system.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (5, Insightful)

Icarium (1109647) | about 6 years ago | (#24613191)

Naughty. You used the word "Vista" and "solution" in the same sentence without a negative. This is Slashdot, what were you thinking?

Anyways:

Enjoy your 3 months of free DVR rental as part of your settlement offer

The point here is not to make a quick buck in a settlement. It's to get the cable company to unbundle thier service from thier hardware. If the company won't give you access to thier premium services without renting thier cable box, your alternatives don't help.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

drbrooks (669763) | about 6 years ago | (#24613233)

I have COX service, and they don't offer a Cable Card - so I'm stuck with their solution only.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

PsyciatricHelp (951182) | about 6 years ago | (#24613387)

I have cox and a TIVO HD series 3. I got 2 cable cards from cox at $1.99 a month. I love it. I can then transfer the recording to the PC for later use.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (3, Insightful)

Albanach (527650) | about 6 years ago | (#24613613)

So you're paying almost $50 a year for two cards that costs cents each to produce. They've done exactly the same thing by forcing you to rent cards rather than cable boxes.

What exactly is the monthly fee supposed to be covering? It may even be that their margin on cable box rentals isn't much different than that on card rentals.

Once, the card is issued all it is is a number in a database to them. This is like a hotel charging you per night for the room key.

Why on earth aren't they charging you a couple of dollars for the card and then being done with the charging? Perhaps you should join the suit or start your own?

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (2, Insightful)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | about 6 years ago | (#24613927)

Because they it makes it harder for them to claim they still own the card.

Subscription pricing makes it clear it isn't yours.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

uglyhead69 (186990) | about 6 years ago | (#24614053)

Cable companies are required by law to allow you to rent cablecards for use with their service.

The point made in the post below is well taken however that the rental fee, while low, is exorbitant compared to the cost of the cards.

Re:Better solutions are out there.. (1)

rally2xs (1093023) | about 6 years ago | (#24613647)

Some solution - I wanted to go TIVO a few months ago. The TIVO box requires 2 cablecards, plus it is $300 for the box. The cablecards are only available from my cable company, they will not rent them at all, and they want $150 for each one. $600 for TIVO? Nope, no sale. Solution: No DVR at all. If I really, really, really want to record something, I'll set up the old VHS, but for now, I just watch whatever is on, and if I miss something, I miss something. This will make a future decision to unhook from cable and either go satellite, or get all my entertainment over the internet more appealing.

As an Ex cable industry insider.... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | about 6 years ago | (#24613033)

I really hope this goes a bad way for cable companies. They have had a tight lock on cable boxes for too long, we have been stuck with the crappy quality cable boxes from motorola and SA for too long.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (5, Insightful)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 6 years ago | (#24613231)

And the reason those boxes are of such crappy quality is because the cable companies have such a tight lock. The cable companies want to keep the box cost down to maximize their own profits. If Motorola and SA could sell directly to consumers, they would suddenly have an incentive to improve the quality.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 years ago | (#24613659)

And the reason those boxes are of such crappy quality is because the cable companies have such a tight lock. The cable companies want to keep the box cost down to maximize their own profits. If Motorola and SA could sell directly to consumers, they would suddenly have an incentive to improve the quality.

If consumers would grow a pair of balls and realize that TV isn't really worth this much money Time Warner would eventually have to lower their rates or be content with less subscribers. I remember when basic cable (roughly 40-50 channels back in the day) cost $20/mo around here. That was as recent as nine years ago before the local cable company got bought out by Time Warner. Now it costs $60/mo for the same number of real channels and about a dozen home shopping channels that weren't available before.

I dumped my cable down to 'lifeline' (local stations only) four years ago and haven't looked back since. Hell, I'd dump lifeline and go with an aerial if I could get decent reception out here in the boonies. The combination of the internet, books, PBS and the major networks is all the entertainment I need.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | about 6 years ago | (#24613875)

I agree. I pay $20/month for online dvd rentals, and haven't had cable in about 6 years. I never looked back. Sometimes, when I'm at the gym, I'll watch the tvs there, and it reminds me how much I hate TV. (I feel the commercial-to-content ratio has increased dramatically since when I had cable.
I'm much happier watching shows on dvd, on my schedule, and not interrupted by horrid ads.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (0)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | about 6 years ago | (#24613967)

Dude, $20 nine years ago is way way way more REAL money than $60 is now. Take a look here [goldprice.org] .

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 years ago | (#24614051)

Umm, I'm pretty sure we aren't on the gold standard any longer so what relevance does the price of gold have to do with anything? Somehow I think if we had 300% inflation in the last nine years that it would be a story..... according to this [westegg.com] $20 in 1998 was worth $25.75 in 2007.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (1)

dosius (230542) | about 6 years ago | (#24613329)

Time Warner's boxes are still Scientific Atlanta up here.

Why, oh why, must cable use different frequency from aerial? Oh yeah, so they can rent you their box for $10 a month. Fucking highway robbery.

-uso.

Re:As an Ex cable industry insider.... (2, Informative)

Detritus (11846) | about 6 years ago | (#24613577)

There are technical reasons for the cable company to use different frequencies than those used for OTA broadcast. It allows the full use of the bandwidth provided by the distribution system. It also avoids the interference problems that happen when a broadcast station and a cable system use the same frequency.

I hope for the best (3, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24613037)

I hope for the best in this situation. It would be nice to have a system where you can build your own PVR, because, I have SageTV on my computer, and it's vastly better than and PVR box I have ever seen. It only works with the first 70 channels that are sent over plain old analog cable, but that includes most of the stuff I watch anyway. Most of the stuff on the digital only channels is movie/sports channels that I don't pay for, or time shifted (other time zone) stuff that I don't need anyway since I use SageTV. I still pay for the rental of a box, but it's only $4 a month, as it's just a receiver, and not a PVR. Things could be better, and I hope they get better in the future, but as long as I have my analog cable, I'm happy with things the way they are.

This is excellent news... (1)

Denihil (1208200) | about 6 years ago | (#24613041)

Hopefully the person who's doing the suit posts on a webpage about lawyer donations... /hint hint

Bandwagon (3, Insightful)

Devir (671031) | about 6 years ago | (#24613045)

We should join the venture and do this with Verizon FIOS.

I'm paying out almost $30 a month extra for 2 set top boxes and a DVR because they're required. We can't even watch the 10 "normal" channels anymore on a STB free tv. I have 2 more TV's i'd love to hook up but dont want to spend an extra $10 per STB per month.

David needs to take down Goliath again.

Re:Bandwagon (1)

danwesnor (896499) | about 6 years ago | (#24613149)

Why did you sign up for FIOS? Did you not realize you didn't have a fiber input on your TV?

Re:Bandwagon (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613207)

Didn't you realize FiOS HDTV shits all over cable and satellite HD offerings? Didn't you realize you can have 50/20mbps net connection on FiOS, and yes you do get to max it out if you connect to a service that can cope, or a decent torrent.

Re:Bandwagon (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | about 6 years ago | (#24613429)

Does FiOS run fiber into the home? I was under the impression they shifted medium to cable and cat5 at the wall.

Re:Bandwagon (1)

Kelbear (870538) | about 6 years ago | (#24613979)

This is correct. They piggyback on the cabling already installed in the house.

Re:Bandwagon (4, Informative)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 6 years ago | (#24613203)

For a while Verizon Fios was giving out free Digital adapter boxes if you went to a service station and asked (no purchase or rental). They're really cheap-quality boxes, about the size of a CD wallet and don't have a TV Guide or VoD server. They just allow for manual entry of channels via a remote (which is what most people really need anyway).

But they can watch all non-HD channels that you subscribe to, all the way up through the 1000's.

I think they charge for them now as a purchase (not a rental). So you might want to ask about it.

Re:Bandwagon (1)

jasenj1 (575309) | about 6 years ago | (#24613985)

In my area (Virginia Beach, VA), the cheapy boxes are a rental only - no purchase option, at least over the phone. Maybe there is a special deal if you go to a service center, but not that I know of.

And the fee is $5/mo for the cheapy boxes.

I'd also love the option of buying a box. I hope this suit goes the way it went with Ma Bell and telephones.

- Jasen.

Re:Bandwagon (1)

Stormwave0 (799614) | about 6 years ago | (#24614063)

You're right. I actually just ordered these boxes from Verizon yesterday. Call 1-888-Go-Digital (your phone will truncate the number) and ask for digital to analog converter boxes. I believe you can get up to 3 boxes for free.

The lack of a guide/VoD sucks, yeah. But one of these is perfect for my MythTV machine that has its own built in guide.

Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (3, Interesting)

Bentov (993323) | about 6 years ago | (#24613063)

It sounds good, but in the end, this will go nowhere. It's cable, you don't have to have it, and therefore he is choosing to pay $15 a month. Besides if the cable card option is available, does it really matter if it is hidden on their site, he can already buy another box. He should have waited until Feb '09, then he can get all of the grandma's with 25 year old TVs onboard.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1, Insightful)

jimmy_dean (463322) | about 6 years ago | (#24613111)

I completely agree with you. Although I personally despise the practice and would rather see things opened up, it is Time Warner's network and they should be able to do whatever they want with it. I hate this current generation of people who think they're entitled to something just because they don't think it's "fair". Well, I've got news for you, this is how property rights work. If it's your property, you get to decide what to do with it.

Like the parent post said, there is competition. I get a free DVR with AT&T's U-verse. They used to even give out 4 for free, but that's no longer true. But this is one more free DVR than Time Warner apparently.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (5, Insightful)

Gewalt (1200451) | about 6 years ago | (#24613193)

it is Time Warner's network and they should be able to do whatever they want with it. I hate this current generation of people who think they're entitled to something just because they don't think it's "fair". Well, I've got news for you, this is how property rights work. If it's your property, you get to decide what to do with it.

But... It's not their property. It's actually the government granted right of way. What does that mean? That means IT'S YOUR PROPERTY. If there were actual competition, then sure, what you said is valid. But there isn't competition, cause the government said they don't need any competition. the government said they can go ahead and abuse YOUR PROPERTY to setup this network. In return, they are obligated to follow rules that are supposed to be more stringent because the free market is not capable making sure the deal is fair.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

thedonger (1317951) | about 6 years ago | (#24613413)

This problem starts way earlier than even the cable box rental. What about the fact that you only get one choice of cable provider in a given area? The government has sanctioned these pseudo monopolies, though I suppose the intention was to protect us from evil cable companies overcharging.

Maybe the real problem is that some time ago a senator decided that the constitution grants us, among other inalienable rights, the right to watch TV? Clearly if TV watching is not a right, then not being able to afford it doesn't violate your civil rights, and forcing you to rent a box to watch it is OK.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

bcaufield (216828) | about 6 years ago | (#24613423)

No Competition? What about Fios? They are well positioned to directly compete with cable as does satelite, file sharing and netFlix to lesser extents.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (3, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 6 years ago | (#24613461)

FiOS is not available in every region, NetFlix is in the video rental market (which is a different market from TV services), satellite is no longer a serious competitor to cable, and file sharing is not legally clear. Time Warner's only competition in many places is other cable providers, and in some places that's not even true.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613517)

FiOS is not available in every region

That's the understatement of the year.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (2, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | about 6 years ago | (#24613437)

As a matter of fact, you are completely wrong about property rights. One cannot do anything they want with their property, they must act within the confines of the law. For example, in my locality, I cannot erect any structure taller than 30 feet on my land.

From what I've seen of the comments on this article, people are confused about the nature of Time Warner's services. Time Warner does not give a simple DVR, in fact, the machine they give you is not technically a DVR at all, from what I can tell. Time Warner provides a thin client network, with customer "on demand" requests processed on their systems. As far as I can tell, if the cable box has any on board storage, it only stores the ID of a program and the position where the user left off. I could be wrong, but I couldn't locate any sort of hard drive in that cable box, and I doubt that it could have enough flash storage for the number of shows people "record."

As for competition...until very recently, the only legitimate competition Time Warner had was satellite, and it was clean that cable was winning that battle, at least in urban areas. Since Time Warner is basically the only cable provider in most of New York City, and since they only provide ONE set top box, this lawsuit may have some credence. I personally doubt it, since the cable box is really just an access mechanism to Time Warner's services, and there is nothing stopping someone from picking up a DVR and connecting it to that cable box (much like one would do with a VCR). Or maybe there is yet another angle to this lawsuit.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

doyle.jack (836744) | about 6 years ago | (#24613783)

I'm not sure about Time Warner, but I have a Motorola DVR from Cox and mine DOES have a hard drive and stores all of the recordings locally. You can see it through the grille in the top of the box, it is a Western Digital Caviar 80 GB.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 6 years ago | (#24613803)

Well, I've got news for you, this is how property rights work. If it's your property, you get to decide what to do with it.

Property rights aren't always absolute. E. g. You might get some disagreement from a surprising source if you started exercising your property rights to remove your local cable provider's transmission lines from your yard

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

EveryNickIsTaken (1054794) | about 6 years ago | (#24613235)

So, by your justification, Microsoft was never guilty of any anti-trust violations because "people didn't have to have it (Windows), they chose to buy it?"

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24613403)

Has Microsoft even paid 1 cent in fines for being convicted of antitrust? Have then been broken up? Have they release any APIs that the court ordered them to release? As far as I'm aware, they still haven't started paying the EU, or the USA for what they were convicted of. Problem is, MS is just too big, and too important to too many businesses to shut them down.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (1)

mtairhead (1341037) | about 6 years ago | (#24613447)

Yes. Economics 101. There are alternatives to Microsoft. It is therefore not a monopoly.

Re:Choice is there, he just doesn't like it. (2, Insightful)

Kelbear (870538) | about 6 years ago | (#24614085)

I can't tell if that's sarcasm, but that's not the definition of monopoly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly [wikipedia.org]

Monopolies don't need 100% market share, they just need enough to be able to shape the nature of the market in that type of good. How the market is defined affects whether or not the entity is considered a monopoly. In the case of desktop OS, the 90% share means MS can affect the market in a big way. It may not be able to dictate terms, but it can certainly shape it.

He should be able to choose his hardware (2, Interesting)

RulerOf (975607) | about 6 years ago | (#24613341)

So while despite the prevalence of open standards in the cable industry (hello DOCSIS [wikipedia.org] and QAM [wikipedia.org] ) and their wide support among the manufacturers of cable hardware, that it's okay for them to give me no choice but to rent hardware they approve of? That's like saying that AT&T's forced rental of phones in the past was a perfectly valid business practice. But then again, I suppose "It's telephone service, you don't have to have it."

It's *not* alright for the company to charge me to rent the hardware, and then to charge an "Access fee" that corresponds with the technology the hardware utilizes. On my bill, I pay a rental fee for my HD box, a rental fee for my SD box, and then I pay for the channels I subscribe to. But wait, since I'm an ignorant consumer and don't understand that digital capability allows you to deliver a greater number of differentiated services over the same network and with less hardware (which lowers the cable company's costs), they're going to charge me not only for those channels I subscribe to, but again based on the "class" of the service I'm getting. So I pay a "DVR" fee. And a "Digital Access" fee. And more totally and utterly made up bullshit.

Indeed. I think every modern service should remind me of the old saying, "Ma Bell's got you by the calls."

Re:He should be able to choose his hardware (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 6 years ago | (#24613467)

I'm going to play devils advocate here and so "so what". Let's just assume that the average person pays $X extra on their cable bill for all these extra things that they shouldn't be charged extra for. The government decides to make it illegal for them to charge their customers for this stuff. So, now, instead, to get around the law, they change their subscription price from $Y, to $Y + $X, which means in the end, you're still paying the same amount, and since they are pretty much a monopoly, you still have to either pay, or go without. Although it's kind of sneaky to advertise service for $X, and then add on a bunch of fees afterwards, that make it cost $1.5X, getting laws set against the fees isn't going to make things any cheaper in the end. BTW, just about every "utility" I have does this. Natural gas, hydro, cable, internet, telephone, cell phone. That doesn't make it right, but getting rid of the "fees" won't change anything.

What's more disturbing to me... (5, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 6 years ago | (#24613075)

...are the vast numbers of people over the whole of this world of ours who *pay* for TV services that *also* have advertising included.

Here in the UK, you don't get much of a choice to not pay the TV License fee but at least everything the BBC broadcasts is advert free. And likewise, I will happily sit & watch the free cable/satellite channels that have advertising breaks.

But I definitely *WON'T* pay to be advertised at.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

HCLogo (1077495) | about 6 years ago | (#24613095)

Excellent point, I always found it odd that even the quite expensive "premium" channels have advertising. If it was just basic cable that advertised I could understand, as the cost is subsidized by ad revenue, but when you're paying top dollar for a particular channel, you want the most content for your money!

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (2, Interesting)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 6 years ago | (#24613257)

Excellent point, I always found it odd that even the quite expensive "premium" channels have advertising.

Define premium.

Around here, we define premium as HBO, ShowTime, Starz, etc. The only commercials I've ever seen on these channels are adverts for themselves... like "Tune in next month for a new season of Dexter, everyone's favorite serial killer" or "The Tudors are returning this fall." I find that completely acceptable.

Then again I don't watch any premium Sports channels so I don't know much about them.

Don't get me wrong, I find it annoying that there are so many adverts on basic cable.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613119)

This is a silly way to look at it. They could do it ad free. It'd cost a LOT more though, plus what would they do with the natural breaks? American TV in particular is made with ads in mind, so they'd basicly have to fill it with something else.

It's similar to being offered a newspaper without ads in it for £20 or one with ads in it for 20p.

Would you pay that much more for your tv to get rid of ads? Most people won't, so they find the level people are happy to pay, along with the advertisement level that allows them to cover costs, make a profit and not turn people off.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | about 6 years ago | (#24613201)

interesting point:
over here in europe we have less ad breaks than in the US and they tend to be shorter, the channels I'm used to generally have 1 break every 15 minutes for 2-3 minutes. Do you really have breaks every 10 minutes or less on some channels? I notice it in shows made for american TV that every now and then there's a point where it breaks for a split second and cuts back like at the start and end of an add break.
Some old kids shows were quite funny, *hero gets into impossible to escape situation* *slight flicker which should be an add break* *Situation changed quite a bit so it's now clear the hero has a way out* which I'm sure kids wouldn't notice if there were adds in that space.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 6 years ago | (#24613295)

Some programming blocks on some channels are nice enough to only cut the half hour block in half. One example is Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, where they tend to show like 11 minutes, then a few minutes of commercials, then the other 11 minutes, then five minutes or so of commercials.

Basically...
11 minutes show
3 minutes break
11 minutes show
5 minutes break

But I figure what is worst, is when some networks, which I won't mention, have pop-ups during the show advertising other shows on their network. And these are video pop-ups.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 6 years ago | (#24613315)

I'm "less" annoyed by the popups now, but only because some people got a clue about the noise-factor.

If I'm watching a crime drama I don't need to hear the sounds of car engines roaring and impact wrenches activating to notice the Nascar logo on the bottom of the screen.

Seeing the logo is one thing, not being able to hear the dialog in a friggin MYSTERY show is infuriating. Thankfully I don't experience many of those loud popups anymore.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 6 years ago | (#24613619)

That's what subtitles in the program are good for! :-]

Maybe if a joint effort is done to complain about the pop-up:s will have some effect. Everyone sends a postcard the same day and also calls the same day to complain about the same issue...

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613427)

Some old kids shows were quite funny, *hero gets into impossible to escape situation* *slight flicker which should be an add break* *Situation changed quite a bit so it's now clear the hero has a way out* which I'm sure kids wouldn't notice if there were adds in that space.

King of the Rocket Men used to do this: the "impossible" situation at the end of one show would be substantially different by the start of the next show when he escaped. And despite the week's gap, yeah, we noticed. Children are inexperienced but they are not retarded.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

metsu (601943) | about 6 years ago | (#24613541)

Oh.. you guys don't have TBS-type commercials that interrupt content.
they pause the content, leave the frozen frame in the background and overlay a few people to make an ad for their show?

At least on nick they overlay their ad animations on the content, but they don't pause it. ...

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | about 6 years ago | (#24613211)

Right! That's why every dvd sold today has 40 minutes of commercials in it!

oh wait... your argument just fell apart there...

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (5, Informative)

Life2Short (593815) | about 6 years ago | (#24613291)

Exactly wrong. Premium cable channels were originally commercial free in the U.S. That was one of the reasons early cable was a "big deal." One watched movies on HBO for example, not commercials. AMC is another good example. No commercials ever. Almost all cable channels in the late 70s / early 80s had limited or no commercials. Then the commercial creep set in. Commercials between the movies. OK. Commercials during the movie, lots of them. And in the intervening time cable rates have gone up at rates that far exceed inflation. We're paying more for cable and getting way more commercials. It's crap. And before someone says that channels like AMC now offer original programming, let me remind you that they introduced commercials long before they produced original programming.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | about 6 years ago | (#24613491)

Yeah, but you basically had to know that subscription rates were either going to go up rather steeply or they were going to have to introduce ads. Actually, though, adjusted for inflation, rates have pretty much stayed the same or actually fallen [gmu.edu] over the last 10 years [calcable.org] while they have actually added more channels and more services, such as DVRs, digital picture and sound, interactive program guides and the ability to pay from your cable box (no more sending checks in the mail or stopping by at the cable office -- ever!)

I know I sound like a spokesman for the cable industry, but I'm not. Really. I don't even own any stock in cable. I'm just very, very satisfied with my service.

The only thing that really ticks me off is that I can't use my own box. It'll be very itneresting to see how this plays out.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | about 6 years ago | (#24613995)

The greatest example of the commercial creep is the TV Guide channel. 15 years ago, it was a dedicated station that showed all the channels and programming. Then they went to 2/3 of the screen and had the weather at the top. Then it was 1/2 the screen and it was sponsored by The Weather Channel. Then it had ads. Now, it's barely 2 lines tall and completely unusable. With 80% of the screen dedicated to the trashiest TV ads you'll ever see. I just use TitanTV online to get listings.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

mikael (484) | about 6 years ago | (#24613277)

My parents have a Sky 'freeview' card - they get all the USA/European/Asian news channels for free (CNN, Russia Today, CCTV-9, Euronews, Deutsche Welle, FR-2) while with Virgin Media Cable, you have to pay for the most expensive channel bundling option in order to get the very same channels.

Virgin media more or less has an monopoly over anyone (or any apartment block) that hasn't been cabled for a satellite dish. Of course, there are portable satellite dishes [maplin.co.uk] , but that depends on having a South facing window.

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | about 6 years ago | (#24613395)

Ummm.... You can go to dixons and buy a freeview digital TV tuner, and receive about 20 channels free from terrestrial sources - no satellite dish required. (assuming you live anywhere but Dartmoor)

Re:What's more disturbing to me... (1)

pandrijeczko (588093) | about 6 years ago | (#24613549)

Someone might want to correct me on this, but I'm also lead to believe that (here in the UK) you can now buy a FreeSat box and watch the free-to-air channels through an existing Sky dish?

I do have a working Sky dish and (old) Sky box that was left here by the previous house owners that we do watch the free channels through but (again correct me if I'm wrong), you can put a FreeSat box on an existing Sky dish and get some of the additional channels free of charge that would normally be included with a paid-for Sky subscription.

I did have a look in an electrical store the other week and they wanted £50 for a standard Freesat box (or £150 for the HD one) plus an additional £70 for a dish installation. The latter struck me as *unusual* to say the least since the FreeSat services is bounced off the same Astra satellite as the Sky service - so why wouldn't an existing Sky dish work?

Again, I bow to the expertise of others here. I'm interested because the Freeview quality is pretty bad where I am so rather than upgrade the terrestrial aerial, I guess £50 just to buy a Freesat box (HD doesn't concern me at the moment) seems like the cheapest way to do it.

I wonder... (2, Interesting)

d3ac0n (715594) | about 6 years ago | (#24613085)

Would a consumer-positive result (IE: Time Warner loses) also have any kind of side-effect on the issues surrounding the cable "Broadcast Flag" controversy and digital T.V. cards for PC's? Admittedly, I stopped following that entire scene a year or two ago when the flag came to life, so it may have already been resolved, but it does make one wonder what far-reaching effects a positive ruling in a case like this might have.

To quote the great philosopher, Fezzik: "I hope we win."

Pulling for this Guy (1)

Slash.Poop (1088395) | about 6 years ago | (#24613105)

I hope this guy wins. Time Warner in my area is pretty much a monopoly. Your only other option is satellite. The fees for satellite internet service, at least around here, are quite ridiculous.

...and why do I still need to rent their cable box when my TV has a built in digital tuner? .

Many people around here are anti-Time Warner but cannot do much about it.
Good luck to this guy.

_______________________
No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn.

I can think of an interesting parallel in the UK (2, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | about 6 years ago | (#24613125)

Way back in the mists of time, the UK telecoms market was a government-granted monopoly - initially granted to the Post Office, later spun out into a separate company.

Go back far enough, and anyone who wanted a telephone was obliged not only to rent the line but also the telephone itself (which was listed on the bill as a separate item that you rented). Someone did take the telco to court over this and won - and today there are any number of telephones on the market you can plug in.

Furthermore, the cable company (another monopoly...) always goes to great pains to stress that the cable box (and/or cable modem) is free, you're just paying for the line it connects to. I don't doubt that these two are related.

Re:I can think of an interesting parallel in the U (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 6 years ago | (#24613631)

I remember as a kid, every piece of telephone equipment (like answering machines, etc) all came with a little sticker saying something like "not approved for connection to the public telephone network". The legal fiction was that you could only use these things on your internal network.

Knowing the cable companies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613141)

They'll just raise the monthly rate to compensate if they can't charge a rental fee for the box.

Re:Knowing the cable companies... (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | about 6 years ago | (#24613225)

They'll just raise the monthly rate to compensate if they can't charge a rental fee for the box.

They'll just raise the monthly rate

Fixed that for you.

Re:Knowing the cable companies... (1)

evilviper (135110) | about 6 years ago | (#24613725)

They'll just raise the monthly rate

Companies are scared to death of actually having to advertise the price they charge, so that's unlikely. They LOVE $5 fees that they don't have to advertise, so they SOUND like a good deal in the ads, and only after subscribing would you realize you've been screwed.

Anyhow, they could have done that in the first place, and bundled the boxes for $0, if not for the above. But now that it has gone to court, and is on record, expect a second anti-trust lawsuit if they try that. That's how they got Microsoft.

Whatevs (3, Insightful)

longacre (1090157) | about 6 years ago | (#24613151)

If they lost their box rental monopoly, they'd simply boost service rates to make up the difference. It would seem the cable companies want to eliminate boxes, anyway. Last week Cablevision won their long battle [reuters.com] with the networks over the right to offer DVR functionality from centralized servers. Their motivation: cutting their biggest capital expense...those boxes might work terribly sometimes, but they're not cheap, and charging $7 a month to rent one means they don't recoup the cost of one for over a year.

Re:Whatevs (1)

OneSmartFellow (716217) | about 6 years ago | (#24613369)

but they're not cheap, and charging $7 a month to rent one means they don't recoup the cost of one for over a year.

Wow, I don't believe i. They have to wait a whole year to recoup a capital expenditure.

My god, how do they stay in business ?!?!?

I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it used to be than Long term was 20+ years, medium term was 5-20 years, and short term was anything under 5 years.

Nowadays it seems that long term is a whopping 12 months, medium term is 2-6 months, and short term is anything up to a week. No wonder the U.S. economy is in such a mess.

Re:Whatevs (1)

91degrees (207121) | about 6 years ago | (#24613379)

If they lost their box rental monopoly, they'd simply boost service rates to make up the difference.

There's a limit to how far they can do this before they start losing customers. Otherwise they'd simply be boosting their service rates to increase profits.

charging $7 a month to rent one means they don't recoup the cost of one for over a year.

That's a fantastic deal for the cable company! Defaulters are going to be rare and they get a full return on their investment after just over a year. If the subscriber decides they don't want to continue with the service, they can give the box to someone else. If you do, after that time, everything they charge is pure profit.

I don't get this at all (1)

DrXym (126579) | about 6 years ago | (#24613159)

Maybe it's a US thing, but I would assume that if I subscribe to a service, that either I should be able to use my own equipment or the equipment be included for free or as a one-off expense.

MythTV (3, Insightful)

aceofspades1217 (1267996) | about 6 years ago | (#24613205)

If this pans out than MythTV will finally be a viable solution. MythTV is a great system and works splendidly as a DVR and it has its own browser and you can do pretty much anything linux can do from your remote and they are cheap because they use standard parts. So you could probably build your own set top box for 300 dollars. Moreover if these set top boxes were mass produced than they could be really cheap. Even though they probably wouldn't have too many bells and whistles but they would be cheap and you wouldn't be forced to pay a monthly fee for a POS device.

Either way all this bundling is killing us. Whether its cell phones or cable boxes they are sapping all our money.

Re:MythTV (1)

TeamSPAM (166583) | about 6 years ago | (#24614065)

I haven't keep track of MythTV lately as I have a TiVo HD. The problem with MythTV going forward is that it can only do HD with OTA. Since CableLabs won't approve MythTV (or any digital cable tuner cards) as a CableCard device it handicaps the usefulness for digital cable. As far as I can tell the only way to make it work with digital cable is to have the MythTV use IR blasters for the set top box. Which is the main reason I dumped my previous TiVo when the HD model came out. The IR blasters are not reliable and the cable companies will not activate the serial port on that back. IE the cable companies want to lock you down and limit your options for what is really a VCR on steroids.

Where is the money going for the box? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613229)

Is the money for the box rental being used just for the renting of the box, or is it going into the general fund of the cable company?

It would be silly to think that paying a rental price for the cable box goes into their general fund when that is the whole point behind the cable TV subscription in the first place.

What a friggin loser... (0, Flamebait)

unr3a1 (1264666) | about 6 years ago | (#24613409)

This is absolutely stupid, cause he can get his own cable box. As long as it has a cable card slot to accept TWC cable card, he can get whatever settop box he wants. I have a TiVo box that I use for my DVR service, and a cable card from TWC. I own the TiVo box, and it works fine on TWC's network. TWC can't control if no company in his local area sells cable boxes... and then he is even more retarded, because its called buying the box on the Internet. What an idiot.

Re:What a friggin loser... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613485)

Hello??? McFly????

Uh, duh, now he has to rent the cable card from TWC! I.E. he *STILL* has to pay a leasing fee every month for the card!

Duh?????

Re:What a friggin loser... (1)

unr3a1 (1264666) | about 6 years ago | (#24613551)

It costs me $1.50 a month to rent that cable card. I also see a lot of people saying why do I need a cable box with a digital tuner in my TV. Most of those TVs, have cable card slots in them. Again, get a cable card, now you're not paying $7+ a month to rent a box you don't need. Also, if it's Time Warner's equipment, they should have the right to charge a rental fee.

Re:What a friggin loser... (1)

Detritus (11846) | about 6 years ago | (#24613685)

The reality is that devices with cable card support, other than the Tivo HD, are almost impossible to find, and getting the cable company to install and properly configure cable cards is often an extended trip into customer service Hell.

Re:What a friggin loser... (1)

unr3a1 (1264666) | about 6 years ago | (#24613799)

Again, what problem is it of Time Warner, if no one sells digital boxes with cable inserts in your area? It's not. Now, the issue with TWC getting the cable card to work, I can understand. Having a cable card, yes, it was a bit of a pain to get working with my TiVo box. Definitely a few calls into my local office. But eventually they got it working, and now I am all set. But that support and setup does need improvement.

Re:What a friggin loser... (1)

guruevi (827432) | about 6 years ago | (#24613723)

In some localities (like mine) you can't get a TWC cable card because TWC is the only cable provider and thus they can permit refusing to give you anything unless you go along with their plan. I just got TWC because, again, it's the only thing I can get in my rental property for a reasonable price and TWC knows it. They have a butt-ugly modem and a very customer-unfriendly SA box. Anything but the free-to-air channels (regular or HD) are scrambled to any other receiver and no, I can't get anything to decode them from TWC.

Re:What a friggin loser... (1)

unr3a1 (1264666) | about 6 years ago | (#24613851)

I agree, that is bullshit. However, that is a problem with your local division, not TWC as a whole. Why should my division be punished for actions and policies that your division has? I agree, that action should probably be taken, but that action should be taken against your local division... not the whole company. You would actually have a better chance succeeding, because there aren't nearly as many lawyers protecting that one division as there are protecting the whole TWC umbrella.

Wahoo! (1)

jamesivie (805019) | about 6 years ago | (#24613455)

I've been using Snapstream BeyondTV for many years now (since 1.0). I LOVE it, but up until last month, there was no way to capture the encrypted QAM channels. Now I can, it just costs me $250 (Hauppauge HD-PVR) plus $8/month for a digital cable box +$11/month for any extra ones if I want to record more than one channel at a time. There was never a legal problem with recording that stuff, and now there isn't a technical problem--now it's simply a financial problem. They can't stop us from recording the content, so there's really no reason not to allow us to record it properly (ie. without taking the nice digital signal and converting it to analog and then back again).

Franchise Fee (1)

ferretworks (317057) | about 6 years ago | (#24613459)

As a Time Warner customer in Northeast Wisconsin, not only do we have to pay the rental fee on and box, we also have a Franchise Fee that shows up on our bill as a line item. Basically $2 +/- that Time Warner charges us and then turns around and pays to the local government for allowing them to be the only provider in town.

who cares? cable TV is circling the drain... (1)

lophophore (4087) | about 6 years ago | (#24613463)

Cable TV as we know it is circling the drain already.

The whole idea of sending a 750 MHz wide signal (yes! nearly 3/4 gigabit!) of signal to a home, where only 3-6 MHz of signal is actually going to be used is just plain silly.

I cannot wait for IP-based television to become predominant. The television and video entertainment markets as we know them are going to be stood on their heads, and it could not happen to a nicer bunch. (You can already see this happening with Apple TV and the RoKu NetFlix player...)

Re:who cares? cable TV is circling the drain... (1)

Vohar (1344259) | about 6 years ago | (#24613901)

"Circling the drain" implies that there's another model getting ready to take over the entire form of business. Things like Apple TV are niche markets, at best. They're nowhere near overtaking and replacing cable TV. As much as I would love an alternative, there just aren't any solid ones out there yet.

This will fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613489)

There's already an initiative by CableLabs called OpenCable (OCAP) that allows for retail cable boxes.
http://www.opencable.com/ [opencable.com] (now Tru2Way) http://www.tru2way.com/ [tru2way.com] for anyone who wants to be informed instead of jumping on the "evil cable" bandwagon

I'm Switching (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | about 6 years ago | (#24613511)

I get tired of these sort of tactics. Fortunately, there's competition now here in Austin, so I'll be switching to AT&T with NO DVR rental fee and no cable modem rental. (But then again, their high speed internet is $10 / month more than Time Warner, but Time Warner charges $10 / month for the modem...just on principle alone I'll pay AT&T more.)

CableCard? (1)

Kevin72594 (1301889) | about 6 years ago | (#24613525)

From the article:

Meeds' lawsuit acknowledges that Time Warner now offers customers the option of leasing a so-called CableCard, a credit card-size device that performs the same security and descrambling functions as a cable box. But the suit contends that Time Warner promotes the cable box as superior.

How is it anti-competitive behaviour if they offer an alternative. I don't believe the law states anywhere that they have to be very vocal about this alternative, just that it needs to be offered?

Re:CableCard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24613611)

Because you can't *buy* a CableCard, you have to *rent* it from the company.

Same issue, different price, but price doesn't matter in this case.

beaten down remotely (1)

sbel61 (1345261) | about 6 years ago | (#24613713)

Ever notice that they also charge you for the remote too that comes with the cable box. And you need the remote to access certain functions not available on the front of the box. What is up with that?

rent vs own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24614107)

I like how it draws a parallel to renting phones from AT&T. There does seem to be a strong correlation. I would MUCH rather own, even at $400/box than rent. My box has been paid for twice or more.

It's strange to me that people can spend megabucks on video equipment and have a crappy cable co issued box.

Yet Another Useless Lawsuit by the Ignorant (2, Insightful)

-o KernelK o- (968734) | about 6 years ago | (#24614113)

Speaking as someone who works for the cable industry, this is a dollar short and a day late. The cable industry has already taken steps to increase competition in the cable box marketplace. http://www.opencable.com/ [opencable.com] The Opencable platform is going to be the next generation of the cablecard technology (which already suits his needs btw). Cablecard was created to allow cable subscribers access to the digital channels on their own devices. Basically cablecard is a hardware secuirty token that allows access to the cable network. Opencable takes this a step further by defining the schema for interactive, two way services. This means that not only will you be able to access the cable channels (like cablecard) you will soon be able to access VOD and other "interactive" services from any device that supports this open standard. This is just another frivilous lawsuit brought about by somebody who is totally ignorant of what they are suing over. I hope this guy spends thousands of dollars only to find this out. Next time he should turn to Google before he turns to his lawyer.
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