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Comcast Facing Lawsuit Over Set-Top Box Rentals

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the fighting-the-good-fight dept.

The Courts 200

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

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CableCard? (0, Troll)

markass530 (870112) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241089)

for some reason the open market has not seen this great idea come to fruition

Re:CableCard? (5, Interesting)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241105)

CableCARD exists. TiVos use it. The failure of it to take over has nothing to do with the open market. It's because cable is not an open market. CableCARD was forced on the cable companies by the FCC and they didn't want it, so they responded by doing the worst possible job in supporting it.

Friends who have TiVos mention having to wait almost two weeks for a CableCARD "install" where a guy shows up with a card and just puts it in your TiVo. When they easily could have just given you the card on the spot.

Re:CableCard? (5, Informative)

chfriley (160627) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241179)

At least with Comcast here in Florida, you can install it on the TiVo's yourself so you don't have to wait. I did it with two TiVo HD XLs. I went and picked up two mstream cards from Comcast (one was free, the second $1.99/month) and got home and stuck it in. You do have to then call them up and give them some information from the card like its serial number and a network ID. It took about 20 minutes on the phone with them to do both cards. Then the lady sent the information off to someone to "activate" it. About an hour later it was working and they called back to let me know and have me check 2 or 3 channels on each TV.

Ideally you should plug it in and it would work. The process would be too complicated for many people, my aunts, grandparents etc. Making it plug and play is an important step for adoption.

The other problem is that it does not support "OnDemand" which I know a lot of people enjoy.

Re:CableCard? (1)

chamont (25273) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241411)

I feel like griping.

I have a Tivo with two cablecards. When I first got the Tivo, one of the cards that Comcast gave me was bad. It was an insanely painful process to figure this out. The one card wasn't just "bad" it would work, then not, then work. Call after call to "troubleshoot" the problem was a complete waste of time. I finally pulled one out, ran the Tivo for a few days, then repeated. My hell, finally. Comcast happily replaced the bad card, and to their credit, it has worked fine ever since.

Moral? Ditto to what everyone says. Cable sucks as bad as Windows. Sadly, however, there's no GNU/Cable.

Re:CableCard? (1, Informative)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241603)

Your experience is the norm with Comcast support. I loath those fuckers.

Re:CableCard? (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241271)

CableCard is something of a joke WRT Cox in the Northern Virginia market.
We got a Series 3 TiVo, and have had no end of problems with HD channels.
We've been forced to use an additional adapter provided by Cox that manages "switched digital video", an interesting extension that seems like it ought to be handled by the CableCards themselves. Thanks for the KISS, buddies.
Intermittently, a channel will drop out. Usually comes back in a day or so.
Tired of the nonsense, we're Frankly Investigating Other Services.

Re:CableCard? (4, Interesting)

chiefted (883132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241927)

So far so good with my CableCard. Didn't have to wait 2 weeks, called them on Weds and they were here Friday. Now having said that, least here in California, Comcast won't let you install them yourself. I looked on their Web siteand then called them (the local office and the 1-800 number) the answer was the same "We have to do it". After watching the tech do the install, just to make sure I wasn't missing anything, I was pissed. It took him 40 mins, 35 of it was being stuck on hold with the office to get the thing activated. He did absolutely nothing extra that someone who can read couldn't do. I mean I could have down this, anyone could have if they had a 6th grade education, why did you have to roll a tech out to do this....cause its the cable company. Seriously, I kinda hope this case shines some light on Comcast, TimeWarner and their ilk.

Re:CableCard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241109)

The CableCard is an awesome device devised after Section 629, Comcast simply never implemented it because it would cause them to lose a large amount of their "Box-rental" market share.

Re:CableCard? Yes. (3, Interesting)

dgoldman (244241) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241173)

I was a happy user of a cable card (M-Card) from Comcast until just recently. I just switched to Verizon FIOS and am using their cable cards now. No problems installing with either company so yes, they are offering them. Neither knows what an M-Card (multistream cable card) is when you call although Comcast installers had them.

This doesn't address the point here though as both providers require you to rent the cable cards. Even if you already own one, you cannot use it with their network unless you are renting it from them. Ok, so the cards rent at a lesser fee, neither company here will sell it to me. A card is just a smaller box in this regard.

Re:CableCard? Yes. (3, Informative)

dreamt (14798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241625)

I'm going though this headache now. I called up Comcrap to order an m-stream CableCard, and the idiot sales person had no idea what I was talking about. I asked for a supervisor, who claimed that they only had m-stream cards in California. I told her to put on my work request that I wanted an m-stream card. I called sales later in the day, and she even called down to dispatch to verify that my work order had a request for an m-stream card. Very nice and knowledgeable installer comes out with 2 s-stream cards. He says, of course they have m-cards. His dispatcher made a note on my account saying that I requested an M-stream card and they should have delivered one. They had suggested that hopefully Comcast would just not charge me for the second card, but after talking with their billing department, the person said while they could do that, I would be better off getting an m-stream card so that I don't have problems every month, so now they are bringing out a m-stream card.

Of course, Comcrap is now charging you the same monthly fee as a stupid damn box, because they are calling it a "digital outlet" fee.
 

Even if they do decide to sell it (2, Interesting)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241097)

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

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (2, Interesting)

Detritus (11846) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241229)

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (2, Informative)

dreamt (14798) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241641)

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241661)

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

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

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (4, Informative)

blitzkrieg3 (995849) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242217)

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

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (2, Interesting)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243031)

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

Re:Even if they do decide to sell it (2, Informative)

AmigaHeretic (991368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243057)

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

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

Can anybody imagine a renting a phone these days from your phone company in order to use the service you pay for?

Suit violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? (4, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241121)

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

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

Re:Suit violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? (2, Interesting)

cbrocious (764766) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241345)

What the hell, this isn't interesting, it's funny. Moderators these days...

Re:Suit violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26242121)

Hey, we don't have time to read *and* moderate. It's not like we're getting paid for this.

Re:Suit violates the Sherman Anti-Trust Act? (2, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241561)

To the extent that any agreement between the cable provider and the manufacturer prevents the sale of the box directly to the public, there is a violation going on. Comcast is not in the business of selling hardware, so they should not be required to do the selling. But they must not be allowed to interfere with the selling of such boxes by any means. The manufacturer must sell them to anyone willing to buy in the minimum quantity they will sell (e.g. at least as many as the smallest cable company has bought), and Comcast must allow them to work on their system at the same pricing structure, minus the rental costs. That doesn't mean Joe Consumer gets to walk in to the cable company office and buy one, or the manufacturer office and buy one. But if a retailer wants to make a bulk purchase of these from the manufacturer, the manufacturer must sell them at the same pricing and quantities they sell to cable companies, and the cable companies that support this box technology on their systems must allow them to work (if they are Cable-Card based, then they must support it, but if they rent the same box, they must support the purchased ones, too).

Personally, I'd rather rent ... especially considering the failure rates going on (at least half my neighbors have had to get them replaced at least once). However, the boxes Comcast offers are a piece of shit ... so we need some kind of

Simple Solution (2, Interesting)

stevedmc (1065590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241131)

The solution is very simple. If you don't want to rent the box then don't subscribe to the service. DUH! There are plenty of other options out there such as IPTV, Dish, and DirecTV.

Re:Simple Solution (2, Interesting)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241263)

Pretty much all of which are in similar boats. Even the ones who offer to sell it to you don't if you read the fine print. They are REALLY still leasing for a one time lifetime payment.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

stevedmc (1065590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241297)

Amazing. Maybe I should read the contract on my house. I wonder if I will still own it after I finish paying the bank that loaned me the money.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241843)

The house yes, but the land no. Most places, you are only leasing the land for 99 years. So be careful when you tell those teenagers to get off your lawn.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241955)

Most places, you are only leasing the land for 99 years.

Define most places. It is certainly not true for my property.

Yes, and get off MY lawn.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

Clay Pigeon -TPF-VS- (624050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242319)

If you arent savvy enough to contract for your land in Fee simple, with a minimal number of covenants, you get what you deserve.

Re:Simple Solution (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241339)

don't forget PirateBay! YAR!

Re:Simple Solution (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242679)

So true. I have some expensive video hardware. It works. If my hardware doesn't work with your service, it is your service which is broken, not my hardware. And I will not use any service that requires a remote to some magic box to change channels. There is too much competition. At worst, there is over the air, and Pirate Bay. The price for that one is rather attractive too!

call me a cynic but .. (2, Interesting)

rs232 (849320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241135)

"The action, on behalf of Comcast Corp. customer Cheryl Corralejo"

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

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

Aw, go on .. I think it's understandable for Comcast to want to rent boxes as, if the end-users buy directly from the media providers, what's in it for Comcast. Streaming Media is a huge hog of bandwidth, as the ISPs in the UK are discovering with the iPlayer [wikipedia.org] and other services. The ISPs and the content providers are currently in disagreement [theregister.co.uk] as to who should pay to upgrade the network infrastructure ..

Re:call me a cynic but .. (5, Insightful)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241845)

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

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

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

Re:call me a cynic but .. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242691)

That is one of the better analogies on this bizarre issue. If you don't mind, I will be telling it to a lot of non-tech people.

Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241159)

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

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

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (4, Insightful)

Chaos Incarnate (772793) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241193)

While it would be antitrust if their monopoly were one formed by conglomeration, cable is a bit different; in this case, each local city grants the company its monopoly. They chose to eliminate the competition; I don't think they have any ethical leg to stand on (though they may have a legal one) in claiming that there's no competition when it was deliberately eliminated by someone other than the cable providers.

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (3, Insightful)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241277)

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

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

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241771)

except the supreme court is set to determine wherein a ban on apartment landlords and cable companies contracts should be extended to cities and cable companies. hopefully they rule it is illegal and as such the cable prices drop like a rock and you get a free hd tivo for a contract which is what would have went on here in my town if the insight people hadn't ponied up the renewal fee's

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242339)

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

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

C//

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241199)

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

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241233)

It's far from "obvious" that this is an antitrust violation. All Comcast has to do is show that cable TV and set top boxes are not separate products, and *poof* the antitrust suit disappears. No court will ever find a shoe store in violation of the Sherman Act because they are "tying" left and right shoes.

The other big complication is market power. For a tying case, the plaintiff must show market power in the tying product. The trouble is defining the market. If the market is cable television services, then Comcast clearly has market power. But if the market is home entertainment services, then market power is far from clear.

Antitrust litigation is very complicated, and "obvious" violations are rare.

IANAL, but I am a law student who took antitrust law this past semester.

TiVo shows that they are separate products (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241739)

All Comcast has to do is show that cable TV and set top boxes are not separate products, and *poof* the antitrust suit disappears.

TiVo and other companies that sell CableCARD-compatible set-top boxes to retailers have already shown in the U.S. market that set-top boxes are a separate product. So I don't see Comcast being able to pull off such a defense.

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241921)

All Comcast has to do is show that cable TV and set top boxes are not separate products, and *poof* the antitrust suit disappears.
We are in a bit of a Catch-22 here. Because all of the cable companies (not just comcast) require you to rent a box from them in order to have their digital or high definition service, technology companies know that there is very little money to be made in making a standalone box. Then, because there are few alternatives, cable companies can claim that the hardware is part of the service.
For Christmas, we got a second HDTV. In order to get high definition service to that TV, I have to rent another box from Cox, or get a DVR with tuner that is compatible with Cox. When I went looking, I found three groups of choices. The Tivo group, which I was lead to believe would require a separate monthly subscription fee which I am not interested in because I just want to be able to change channels and record shows. The second group was DirectTV, which I was lead to believe is not compatible with Cox, and the third group was really just a single stand alone DVR player that I was able to find on Amazon. Unfortunately, on this one, you could not record while watching another show, so that pretty much eliminated that. There were also some Scientific Atlantica DVRs of the same model that Cox rents, but from what I read, retailers are not allowed to sell these to consumers and of the two reviews I could find for this product, one indicated that the cable company listed its serial number as a stolen unit and he was fortunate to be able to send it back and get his money back. The other indicated that he never received the unit, but the seller did eventually give his money back.
So, essentially, by having anti-competitive agreements in place, cable companies are able to stifle competition and can thus show that the hardware and the service are a package.

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241265)

QOUTE"DOJ has a chance of being on the side of the law and not big business after Bush leaves"

I look forward to your disappointment with the incoming administration. The Democrats are in the pockets of big business just as much as the Republican party and even more. e.g. Clinton Library donors, Blogojevich, Lousiana politicians who failed to fix the levies with billions of federal dollars before Katrina.

Democrat liberals need to look in the mirror and stop posting their political rants on a technology website like /.

Comments like yours are ruining this site and make me want to go read the drudgereport for more ammo against you nut job.

Re:Every state/city in the U.S.A. should file!!! (0, Troll)

ethicalBob (1023525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241523)

drudgereport for ammo?

You must believe the Enzyte commercials as well...

Ahh... just noticed you are an AC... you don't count.

The problems are... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241197)

several problems with "open market" set tops and CableCards.

1) Cable Providers download code to the settops to ensure that they are receiving the correct channels and decrypt properly. Cable companies cannot support 3rd party equipment, so if an 'open market' settop box cannot handle the code, then ... the consumer is screwed. However, if the consumer is using a supplied box, then it is 100% supported by the cable company, if the box cant handle the code, than the cable company takes care of it.

2) about CableCARD.
CableCard is not a '2way' device. it only receives cable singles, and cannot send. This is why they are severly limited with service. Most 'Digital Cable' providers have a lot of switched services to save bandwidth and ensure quality services for Each customer. switched services require a return path from the customers equipment so they can in turn be sent the feed the customer is tuning too.

Since CableCards do not send a return, any channel or service sent via some sort of digital broadcast is out of the question. Thanks to Cable Card, just like the Paten system, its another way to limit innovation, by keeping technology in the past.

my 2 cents

Re:The problems are... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241689)

If the cable companies had provisioned their system properly, instead of offloading everything into the CPE, these would not be problems.

1. I have non-digital cable. I pay for certain channels, and I don't pay for others. The cable company doens't need to "upload" anything to my TV set, and there's no encryption. If I don't pay for some channels, then they are simply not sent to me.

2. If the cable company simply didn't send the stuff to the house in the first place, there would be no need for "2-way" communication.

Re:The problems are... (3, Informative)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242049)

That's not at all how cable works. All channels are always available on cable, because it is shared with everyone in your neighborhood. A cable technician installs filters at your demarc point, which screen out the channels you are not paying for. If you were to break into that box and remove the filters, you would receive all channels.

The 2-way communication features are indeed useless to you, as I'm assuming your never consume pay-per-view programming, but they are critical for digital cable where a significant portion of the content is delivered on-demand, and access is governed not by physical filters but by software. In general, any functionality that is unique to you must be transmitted via this 2-way link, otherwise everyone else will get them too.

I'm glad I rent, my cable boxes break all the time (1)

rayzat (733303) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241221)

I have the Time Warner DVR and boy am I glad I rent and not own. I've been using the DVR for about 3 years maybe 4 and I can'tcount the number of times I've run to the Time Warner kiosk at the mall and exchanged a dead for a new one. Whenever I go to swap one out there are always several stacks of boxes 3 ft high or so of returns. On the bright side I guess I always have the best Scientific Atlanta box time warner has to offer.

Re:I'm glad I rent, my cable boxes break all the t (1)

Sandman1971 (516283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241317)

I second this post. Back when I had cable (Rogers in Canada), my Scientific Atlanta PVRs would die every 13-15 months. I had the option to buy one at 399$ or 499$ (I forget which) with a 1 yr warranty. I would have ended up spending thousands replacing them, instead of paying the 10$ a month rental fee. I also ended up getting a newer model every time I had to exchange it.

Now that I have satellite, I also rent my PVR. Its been going strong for almost 2 years now, and once my 2 yr contract is over, I get to exchange it for a newer, better model free of charge. OIr if it happens to die, I get a free replacement, no questions asked, and no money out of my pocket.

Now this is only for PVRs as they tend to not last as long. For regular boxes they've lasted for years without needing a replacement, so for those it makes a little more sense to buy if you plan staying with the same service longer than the associated cost of buying a box. Let's say the rental of a box is 5$ a month, and 199$ to buy. If you stick with the same service for more than 40 months in this case, and the box is reliable, then it makes more sense to buy as you'll at least break even on your purchase.

Re:I'm glad I rent, my cable boxes break all the t (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26242647)

If you were able to buy and use your own, you wouldn't go to the lowest bidder and buy the crap Scientific Atlanta makes.

I would not mind renting the box ... (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241291)

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

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

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

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (2, Informative)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241331)

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

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (2, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241769)

So leave Comcast

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

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241835)

In my area: Comcast internet 6/1 is $60, or $45 with cable and basic is $12. So its cheaper to get basic and internet then just internet. Figure that crap out.

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (1)

gallwapa (909389) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242255)

yes, its called a monopoly.

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (1)

Passman (6129) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243189)

Around here they charge a $15 non-cable fee ($60 vs $45) so I looked into getting "basic" (local broadcast/CSPAN/PubAcc) cable which is priced at $15/month.

After taxes and franchise fees, basic cable came to $22 a month so I live without.

basic cable may look cheaper but once you get the details it's usually comes out slightly more than the non-cable fee.

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (1)

Ender_Stonebender (60900) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241719)

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

As for #2...well, Comcast just uses shitty cable boxes. The Scientific Atlanta box that I have (on Bright House Networks, which is actually part of Time-Warner) can be set to either stick to one output mode and convert inputs, or change output modes as the input modes change. When I moved, the cable guy that set it up did it wrong (stretching standard-def images out across my 42-inch HDTV set, which was ugly), but it only took about five minutes to fix it so that the box would always output a 1080i signal, and leave SD signals in the proper 4:3 aspect ratio displayed on the middle of the screen.

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241879)

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

What do you mean?

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

Re:I would not mind renting the box ... (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242979)

Comcast box is even more crappy.

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

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

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

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

perhaps FIOS will be next (1)

tmbailey123 (230145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241319)

They have the same policy. The fact I could not purchase a box was the reason I chose not to sign.

Re:perhaps IBM will be next (2, Interesting)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241753)

They have the same policy. The fact that I could not purchase an IBM z10 mainframe was the reasons I chose not to sign.

No really, I have to wonder why IBM is not guilty, when they control 90% of the mainframe market and force you to rent the mainframe from them, with no option for purchase. Is this not a violation of the Sherman act?

Re:perhaps IBM will be next (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26242355)

Go slit your fucking wrists fucktard

-tmbailey123 (230145)

Re:perhaps IBM will be next (1)

tmbailey123 (230145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242551)

Interesting point, I had to think about it for a while. Perhaps the fact the z10 is essentially the service whereas renting the settop box in not the service, but renting it is required to use their service.

Cheers !

Lawsuit is missing the real issue (2, Informative)

markdavis (642305) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241333)

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

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

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

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

This is why... (2, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241589)

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

Now, that said, there might still be other issues over interfaces and who's problem it is when things break, but physical connections are pretty easy to check.

I see it like the long distance telecom market. 30 years ago you had Ma Bell. You paid through the nose for anything you wanted. Then deregulation came to being, and as a result the long distance market - since it was content only and no infrastructure - became a seriously competitive area. We went from $0.25/min, minimum, for any LD call to a couple of cents a minute, and the price has been pretty stable.

Unfortunately, the "government is bad" mantra we've been fed by the right misses the point that standardization (open, IP unencumbered - or at least compulsory licensed) is good for consumers. Sure NTSC wasn't great, but it WORKED, for everyone. ATSC was an absolute abortion, and was the result of the FCC having no backbone whatsoever.

Unfortunately, we need more regulation of telecom, not less, but it needs to be GOOD regulation. Invalidation of all local monopoly contracts would be a good start. If you keep these companies from dipping their fingers into all the pies, you'll find they will play much better. They will kick and scream and throw money at lobbiests, but the best solution is a fixed standard. Hell, the gov't might as well commandeer IP for the purpose - the common good, you might say.

Re:This is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241685)

until your infrastructure falls apart :P there is no free lunch, and monopolies CAN be good, sometimes. take an economics class or two.

Re:Lawsuit is missing the real issue (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242039)

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

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

I get calls as to why I won't upgrade because upgrading will cost me a rental fee which I won't do.
I've had the bare bones basic package of $10 (that I was grandfathered into). They got rid of the bare bones package and raised my rates 120% for their 'standard' package.
I cannot just get internet only, I have to get either a phone package or video package or get the business internet package.

Re:Lawsuit is missing the real issue (2, Insightful)

kimvette (919543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242381)

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

I don't like Tivo - mainly because of their business practices. If you buy a lifetime subscription and the DVR dies, you're SOL. On top of that, while they abide by the letter of the GPL, they totally violate the spirit of it by DRMing their kernel, so I'd rather get a proprietary DVR than support one which uses F/OSS only for the end result to be a proprietary solution ANYHOW.

Ideally I'd use a cablecard with a Linux/Myth-based HTPC, but myth is an abysmal piece of software from the setup perspective, and are there even tuner cards with cable card AND support two-way communication for on demand and guides AND are supported by Myth?

Re:Lawsuit is missing the real issue (1)

Big Boss (7354) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242821)

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

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

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

Re:Lawsuit is missing the real issue (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243001)

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

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

minus 1, tr@oll) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241357)

would you like to o7 OpEnBSD versus

ATT uverse (1)

dwayner79 (880742) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241363)

I just signed up for uverse. The DVR "rental" is free (I.e. built into the cost of the service) so I am curious how that would be addressed in this.

no more upgrades? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26241375)

oh, darn! there go my Sell One More points!

Direct TV now Leases everyting (1)

pcjunky (517872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241417)

I wonder how this will effect Direct Tv? Their terms of service state that in spite of the fact you pay to acquire there receivers that you are in fact only leasing them and must return them if you cancel.

Re:Direct TV now Leases everyting (1)

jcrousedotcom (999175) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242663)

Well, tell Direct TV to come get the two boxes (one a DVR) that I have in my back closet. I've not had Direct TV for over two years....

There's already non-rental options (1)

DragonPup (302885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241503)

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

Reminds me of Western Electric (1)

HardwarePeteUK (850316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241515)

Western Electric [wikipedia.org] was the manufacturing arm of AT&T.

AT&T required it's subscribers to rent telephones from WE; they were not permitted to buy their own.

Sounds just like the thing going on here, doesn't it, with the difference that Comcast buys the set top boxes from a third party; the key is they are forcing subscribers to use this one and no other to enrich themselves via a forced revenue stream.

This issue was a major factor in the modified final judgment that broke up AT&T.

Yes, AT&T was a little different, but not that much.

Apart from that, the Communications act 1996 [wikipedia.org] required that set-top boxes be freely available for consumers to purchase to prevent this sort of thing.

It would not surprise me one bit if this thing really gets off the ground.

Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity.

Business Models (1)

cjacobs001 (644842) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241537)

Partially quoting from above with my own editing: [There are] several problems with "open market" set top boxes and\or Cable Cards in regard to having\running a profitable business: The scenario is that Video Signal Providers download code to the set top boxes and cable cards to ensure that they are receiving the correct channels and that they decrypt the incoming signals properly. The Video Signal Providers [do not] support 3rd party equipment because of the potential costs involved in attempting to train their techs to be able to support [all possible] 3rd party equipment, unless, maybe, the user subscribes to or purchases PREMIUM SUPPORT, [so] if an 'open market' set top box or cable card cannot handle the code sent at it from the provider, then ... the consumer may not be able to get support for the 3rd party equipment from the provider. If the consumer is using a supplied-by-the-signal-provider set top box or cable card, then it is 100% supported and if it can't handle the code, then the signal provider takes care of it. -Business.

They should make all boxes rent to own (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241645)

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

The Cable guard, Protection Plans and others cover replacing them at no cost , no rent time reset, and no 2 year re lock in.
also mirroring fee / outlet fees / card fees should also be part of that as well.

The future of Cable (5, Informative)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241663)

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

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

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

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

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

That is the future of Television.

Re:The future of Cable (1)

DragonTHC (208439) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242179)

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

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

Re:The future of Cable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26242197)

Exactly... The future of television is to stop paying these monoliths. We are canceling our DirecTV and using Boxee to supplement ATSC OTA. Sure, we miss out on some live sporting events, but somehow I think we'll survive without them. Much of non-live programming can be acquired in one way or another.

Re:The future of Cable (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242377)

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

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

Re:The future of Cable (1)

Sleepy (4551) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242461)

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

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

Re:The future of Cable (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242495)

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

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

Re:The future of Cable (1)

not_anne (203907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242559)

It's actually simpler than this.

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

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

The digital channels (Biography, NFL Network, etc.) are encrypted, and so they need a box to decrypt the signal so you can watch it on your tv. To decrypt a channel, you must subscribe to that tier of service. Similar to how your cable modem has a boot file that carries your subscribed speed of service, your tv box has a boot file that carries your level of service and what channels you subscribe to.

All cable companies (including the one I work for) have had the ability to add and use customer-purchased set top boxes with their cable services for over 2 years. You don't have to rent a box from any cable company. Buy your own box and we'll give you a free cable card to put in it. The cable card (instead of the box) carries the boot file so you get the channels you want.

Also, by FCC regulation, from February 2009 all cable companies must convert the local digital channels to analog and carry the resulting analog signal for the next 3 years. I'd get the link from the FCC website but it's Saturday morning and I'm too lazy.

The future of television is watching whatever show you want whenever you want after it is released. Nobody will ever wait for a show to "be on" at 8pm Monday night anymore since all you have to do is download the file and watch it the day it becomes available.

Re:The future of Cable (1)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242709)

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

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

Your farts don't stink either, I bet (1)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242999)

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

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

Question. Does your fantasy world include my SageTV, or somebodies MythTV or Windows MCE? Will your fantasy world with leprechauns and gum-drop houses include cheap consumer hardware from Fry's?

Last I checked, if you want your SageTV to capture the high-def channels you pay $100/mo for, you are shit out of luck. Why? I guess we are thieves or something and will torrent it. Never mind the fact that I pay you guys a fortune for cable, you are the second highest bill I pay--right below rent.

While your fancy ass digital tuner gets your channel mappings and schedules for free, I have to rely on SageTV for the schedule (for free). Worse I have to figure out how to map what few ClearQAM signals I get into logical channels. I can't decode the encrypted QAM stuff that I pay $100/mo for because I guess I'm a criminal. Instead I have to thunk the majority of your content to crappy SDTV analog signals using your set top box and then recompress it on the analog tuner of my Hauppauge card.

The future of television is watching whatever show you want whenever you want after it is released.

And this is what scares you guys the most because it means your entire business model is about to be obsolete. The future doesn't need a cable company for content, only bandwidth. Nobody pays $100/mo for just bandwidth. I can go buy my streaming content from Amazon or Netflix. More likely the parent company of places like Discovery or History Channel will figure out they dont need you either and will offer ways to stream their content to my computer as well.

And you know what? The day I can get all my content directly over the internet will be the day you guys get screwed.

PS: You forgot to mention that only your set top box can do video on demand. Not even paying customers who use Tivo can use your OnDemand services. Ooops.

drink less coffee (1)

not_anne (203907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243249)

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

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

Video on demand services are exactly what I was referring to when I mentioned the future of television. Video on demand is an idea that isn't limited to cable. Satellite and internet companies are doing it too. Nobody has to use cable's on demand services. Folks can use whatever services they want. Or not. Up to you.

Nobody needs TV. TV is a luxury. I lived without it for 8 years and didn't own a TV before I started working for a cable company. Now I own a TV, get free cable, and mostly use my TV to play on my PS3.

Re:The future of Cable (1)

hplus (1310833) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242759)

Analogue RF NTSC out, (at 480p) or Composite out. (also 480p.)

I stopped reading when I got to this. Neither RF NTSC nor composite support progressive scan signals.

Re:The future of Cable (2, Informative)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242959)

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

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

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

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

Even if you don't care about how blurry and artifact-ridden your channels are, just about all service providers manage to screw things up one way or another... All cable provider that I've had the displeasure of dealing with (Charter, Time Warner, Cox), have lines so noisy that you get REGULAR picture breakups...

And digital cable/sat services want to provide both a full-screen version, and a widescreen version, but many try to save bandwidth by mangling the two together to some in-between aspect ratio that the simply crop and stretch to fit either screen size, but neither ever looks right.

Meanwhile, the entire broadcast infrastructure in the US has been getting converted to high-quality digital for the past several years, so that very nearly every household in the country can pickup ATSC broadcasts with a modest antenna. And we're just a couple months away from the final step that will improve reception even more as many broadcasters switch their digital signal over to their main transmitter. They're literally giving away digital converter boxes. And frankly, the simplest, cheapest antennas work the best...

I'm in an area listed as only able to receive a couple crappy local stations with ANY antenna... Yet, with a simple loop antenna stuck in a window, which I just happen to have hooked up through a dirt cheap amplifier (both of which I've literally had for decades; occasionally used when the cable/sat signal dies, and/or for terrible staticy OTA reception for spare TVs not hooked up to cable/sat here and there over the years) and the cheapest ATSC card I could find, I'm getting great reception on the main channels I want... And more importantly, all those channels I can't quite get a digital lock on right now, just happen to be ones who currently broadcast analog on VHF-high (7-13), and from whom I am able to receive a staticy analog picture with the same said loop antenna in the same window. The point being... even here way into the fringes, I'm pretty well assured of getting the full set of broadcast channels here in the deep fringes, with little more than a $2 antenna, at higher quality than with a $50/month subscription, and with fewer signal dropouts. And I'm willing to bet that 90% of Americans aren't even in as bad (RF poor) of a area as I am... the mountain ranges every 15 miles out here in the west make reception a lot more challenging.

But I digress... With OTA broadcast now being the best option for the above reasons, you really need to work hard to justify spend $50/month for cable/satellite service. The overwhelming majority of basic-cable channels are nearly endless repeats of shows that were broadcast, and frankly, broadcast channels are catching on to that trend, each buying-up 3+ cable networks to get their slice of the pie.

Not to mention that there are plenty of OTA broadcast channels that offer all the same syndicated shows, and have been syndicating both basic and premium cable TV shows for decades now... And if watching your HBO shows with commercials, and censored, on broadcast TV doesn't appeal to you, DVDs are inexpensive enough to fill the need. A subscription to Netflix can make renting your favorite shows on DVD considerably cheaper than subscribing to cable... Not to mention the large number of TV shows they make available for free to subscribers with real-time streaming to any Windows PC, or a $100 set-top-box.

The future of Television looks bright... It just looks like cable and satellite TV will be reduced to a tiny niche, rather than the modern necessity it was for the past decade+.

Crazy Idea (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 5 years ago | (#26241863)

I just had. Why in hell can't I simply rent/buy a cable card for my PC that not only gives me CTV with Digital Access but also Broadband Modem Capabilities? Talk about finally getting some digital convergence as they've talked about for the last decade. How many people would be willing to pay for this kind of service/product and when you combine it with Vista/Windows 7, all of the DRM lovers would actually have a win situation in front of them. Producers would be able to draconically control media access (rent programs instead of permanently saving them), force us to watch damn commercials instead of skipping them along with all the other aspects of control they want and MS is quite willing to hand it to them on a damn silver platter if they'd only get off their asses and work together. arghh!!! Can't the idiots even see this idea? Copyright Fast Turtle (fturtle+copy@gmail.com)

Who watches TV? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26242029)

Do you suckers actually pay for that crap?

Charter is just as bad (1)

doit3d (936293) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242069)

I have a HDTV I paid big money for, and I also have Charter cable. I have just a basic package, but my local stations are HD through Charter. I cannot receive OTA, due to a large mountain blocking the signal between me and the tower, even though I am 20mi from the towers, so cable is my only option to watch local programming.

I do not have a descrambler box, and my local Charter office told me that starting in February, I will have to rent a cable tuner box from them to continue receiving my local channels in HD, for they will be scrambling all local HD stations effective then. In addition to that, I will also have to pay an additional fee to have those channels in HD, on top of renting their damn box.

A friend of mine who lives in an area where he can receive OTA also has Charter. He and I both have the same TV. He showed me how different OTA looks verses Charter's HD signal of the local stations. He also showed me how the signal looks when the cable is connected straight to the TV (not using Charter's tuner box). In a nut shell, the Charter HD signal from their tuner box blows goats in picture quality. He has tried everything he could to improve the picture quality when the signal comes from the tuner box (swapping boxes, ect) and nothing helps. I asked my local office if I could just rent or buy a pass-through box only so I could use the tuner on my TV come February, rather than have their tuner box. I was told that will never be an option. I will be forced to rent their tuner box, and pay an additional fee just to see my local stations in HD.

I see satellite TV in my near future.

The (coming) end of Comcast ... (3, Insightful)

twasserman (878174) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242091)

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

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

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

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

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

DirecTV Satellite Receivers Are Now Lease Only (1)

JakFrost (139885) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242351)

I'm glad to see lawsuits moving forward against the cable companies and I hope that someone takes on DirecTV for their new practice of forcing everyone to lease the equipment even after paying a $99 or $199 purchase fee and getting hit with $4.99 lease fee a month on top of other service charges.

Eight or nine years back when DirecTV was getting started I was happy to sign up without a contract and also to purchase my own Sony SAT-T60 series 1 DirecTivo receiver for a few hundred dollars and I didn't mind the one-time expense knowing that I'd own the equipment and I could upgrade it or hack it for more storage, which is what most folks ended up doing. Now that HDTV is out I looked at upgrading my DirecTV equipment and I found their new equipment lease policy in the contract which immediately ticked me off knowing that I'd be renting the equipment and I couldn't upgrade it or hack it and that I would be paying for this stuff in perpetuity. So I contacted DirecTV and asked them about the Lease and if I had the option of right-out buying out the equipment and they sent me their form letter responses.

Basically I have no choice but to lease and now I feel like we're back to the old AT&T days when you would rent their telephone receiver for decades overpaying for it hundreds times over. They also charge you a $199 first time fee that is not the purchase price of the item and then you still get charged $4.99 a month on top of a 2-year contract.

Additionally they broke their relationship with Tivo so their current DirecTV receivers do not come with the Tivo software and there are a few complaints about their current HD DVR receivers. They recently started working again with Tivo to build a new DirecTivo HD DVR receiver that might be available sometime in 2009.

After finding out all of this I lost interest in upgrading my DirecTV for HD content and after realizing the simple fact that I do not ever watch regular TV programming anymore, I did the only sane thing and cancelled my entire DirecTV service after being a 9-year customer.

Lately most of my entertainment comes from the computer and I subscribe to the serial shows that I like to watch (Californication, Entourage, Weeds, Stargate Atlantis, etc.) which is basically what the DirecTivo was doing for me previously.

PS: I wish that someone would also go after these companies and other service providers like mobile phone carriers for the 1 to 2 year lock-in contracts.

DirecTV Receivers [directv.com]

Questions

Why is there a $4.99 lease fee on the DirecTV HD DVR equipment where there is also a $199 purchase charge?

What is the REAL purchase price of this equipment without the lease fee and can this receiver be purchased for this price?

If there is no alternative to avoid paying a monthly Lease Fee how do you expect to keep my business when I switch to HD TV this fall and my cable company offers HD DVR without Lease or FiOS becomes available in my area?

Subject

Why the Lease Fee?

Discussion Thread

Response - 08/05/2008
Dear Mr. Frost,

Thanks for writing. Many customers find leasing a receiver to be an easy, affordable alternative to purchasing one. We subsidize the cost of our HD-DVRs so the lease price of $199 is significantly lower than the $749 you'd pay to buy the same receiver elsewhere. In addition, leasing a new HD DVR gives you access to the newest HD channels that you can't get with older receivers.

To learn more about our HD DVR, visit our web site at www.directv.com/hd.

In addition, customers who are setting up their DIRECTV service for the first time, or current customers who upgrade or add a DIRECTV receiver will lease that equipment from DIRECTV instead of buying it.

You continue to own your current DIRECTV equipment and any Additional Receiver Fees you pay to mirror your monthly programming to all your TV's will still apply. The only differences for you are that:

1. You will no longer need to purchase equipment when you add receivers or upgrade your DIRECTV system.
2. You will be charged a monthly lease fee for any receivers you add or upgrade instead of paying an additional receiver fee

And the great news is that leasing will offer you a substantial savings compared to the true cost of buying the equipment.

At the time we create your account, we individually add your monthly package selection to each set-top receiver you have installed, on the agreement that you will hook each receiver to the same land-based phone line. This mirrors your service, so each receiver in your house has the same programming and you can watch different channels in different rooms. But instead of charging you a full monthly package price for each set-top receiver box, we charge the full price for the first set-top box, and bill each additional receiver at just $4.99 per receiver per month.

Thanks again for writing.

Sincerely,
DIRECTV Customer Service

Getting rid of our CoNcast cable boxes soon.... (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242399)

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

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

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

I just torrent all of the TV shows I watch, copy them to my PS3, and watch them in HD anyway, so yeah.

I'd like to see this guys... (0, Flamebait)

jskline (301574) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242515)

Face it. The only person standing to make any money back out of this class action suit, is the suit!! The lawyer his/her self. Everyone else stands to collect nothing but a bunch of grief and hassle from all of this.

Why not approach it this way. You now know what you are up against. Nothing spells it more loudly than to disconnect from cable providers and go with alternatives; ie Dish Network, RCA, etc.. When they have to resort to out right lies on their advertising trying to get people to come back, then they get sued for false advertising to boot. They'll loose their market simply by loss of customers. Everyone knows already that Comcast's cable internet is a joke. They bring you in for $30 a month for 3 months, then you get zapped for $70 a month after that and for service that many times is not any better than DSL in download. Then ever notice how Comcast NEVER talks about upload speed??!!! There's a reason for that! My DSL has a fairly symmetrical 1.0mb upload to the download 1.5mb. Comcast will never ever talk about that. I can get up to 5Mb here on DSL and others can get even higher.

Comcast's TV has always been a joke and they haven't changed a thing. What makes them think after Feb 17th, I'm going to call them??? Their TV ads here all represent a concept to the consumer that there is no other alternative but Comcast when TV goes digital. I wonder why they haven't been called on the carpet for that.

Here in Belgium its the same story (1)

SilenceBE (1439827) | more than 5 years ago | (#26242929)

Here in Belgium it's the same story. Telenet - which for 50% is owned by Liberty Global - that have a monopoly on cable television, started doing the same thing recently.

You can only rent their new set-top boxes and their boxes are the only ones available to watch digital cable television. They use DVB-C but they crippled it by using some kind of propriate DRM solution. The official explanation is that they only allow their own boxes to guarantee the stability of the cable network. It would be funny if it weren't sad that they try to scam consumers which such a ridiculous argument. Also that politician and most consumers let them get away with it

The official tune is that they only let people rent decoders because they are such a fuzzy warm company that "thinks at the consumer wallets". When letting consumers rent they don't need to buy "expensive" gear. The hilarious thing is that this tune is coming from a company that asks 50 euro just to get the thing working. They ask 50 euros to "active" (just flipping a bit) one (!) decoder. So if you have a household of 3 TV's you need to pay 150 euros just to get the decoders working.

There where some regions where there was another provider (in.di) that didn't encrypt the FTA channels and which you could pick up with any DVB-C decoder. Miraculously that company didn't have any problems with the cable network stability when they promoted and used more open solutions. Unfortunately that wasn't available in all regions and Telenet has taken over this company so the "good times" are over.

We don't have the possibility of class action lawsuits and politicians are selective deaf. They even rehash the same arguments about network stability, etc. When looking at the board of directors of this company you will notice that a lot of them are politicians... .

Open and Shut Case (1)

Renraku (518261) | more than 5 years ago | (#26243097)

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

"But that's not fair."

"What's fair is what we say is fair, because no one's going to stop us. They did it before with CableCard and look what happened. Didn't work out so well, did it? Now they'll leave us to our own methods! Those boxes are soooo expensive anyway, no one would ever give us a 20% bulk discount. And we sure as hell aren't going to give you a discount, either, on the monthly fee."

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