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FCC May Pry Open the Cable Set-Top Box

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the otherwise-known-as-pandora's dept.

Government 222

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

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In Comcast America (0)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359556)

TV watches you!

Re:In Comcast America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30359674)

Then what happens it Soviet Russia?, do you watch TV?...but isnt that wha- oh holy crap im confused

Re:In Comcast America (2, Funny)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359900)

Television? How 20th century of you!

I don't need a General Electric/Hughes Defense/etc. controlled media stream, blowing out chunks of Pravda and horrible, pseudo-culture of witless sarcasm and endless cravings. The high points of the medium, with a few minor exceptions, appear as such, owing to comparisons with the subterranean recesses which characterize the rest of that blighted tube.

Frankly, I can wash my own brain, thank you very much!

Re:In Comcast America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360260)

TV as we know it will be dead in 10 years. This is regulation of buggy whips. But not unnecessary.

Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

electrosoccertux (874415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359596)

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

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

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (3, Insightful)

Token_Internet_Girl (1131287) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359624)

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

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

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

Big Jojo (50231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360558)

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

That's "his" blog.

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359838)

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

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359864)

Wait... you mean people use Cable for things other than the Internet?

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (3, Interesting)

rlds (849683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360252)

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

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360660)

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

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

I didn't RTFA (but I skimmed it). Doesn't OCAP (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCable_Application_Platform [wikipedia.org] ) satisfy the general idea talked about? The main problem is that OCAP provides the entire UI too (opinion: likely to be suckier, like cable boxes, than mostly nice & streamlined like Tivo or other standalone PVRs).

I wish I could buy the cards too, but in the few areas that people have had to buy them, they were very expensive, like $150 each.

(*) I personally always pay for lifetime subscriptions, and as much of a fan of Tivos as I am, I would VERY VERY seriously consider using something else, even going back to purely "VCR-like" manual recording, if I had to pay monthly... Though I also admit that my lifetime price/(months I use it) _could_ end up being as much as a monthly subscription if a much better Tivo (more tuners) came out tomorrow and I wanted to buy it. (Yes I know lifetime subscription tivos have resale value, that's another benefit.)

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360708)

You've got a point there. The TiVo + CableCARD solution (which I also use, through evil Time Warner Cable) is a good one, unless you want PPV or On-Demand services. I live without the On-Demand services, but my roommate is a huge boxing fan - and most of the "good" fights are pay-per-view (and ridiculously priced), so we still need to keep a regular Scientific Atlanta box on top of the TiVo - $7.95/month, in addition to the ~$2.50 for the CableCARD in the TiVo.

At the same time, I also need to have a Cisco "tuning adapter" connected to the USB port of my TiVo (to support Switched Digital Video [wikipedia.org] ), and about once a month, it stops working. I need to call the idiot "techs" at Time Warner, go through the process of power cycling the tuning adapter and the TiVo (which never fixes the problem), then finally I can get transferred to a higher level tech to have them send the proper signal to make it work again.

You probably don't need a tuning adapter or anything like it with FiOS, but I can tell you that people who use them with cable are not happy with the solution.

Oh, and that's another thing. They had to send a technician out to install the card. Seriously. The guy put it in the slot, called a number and read some numbers on the screen to the "tech" on the other line.

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (4, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360794)

The TiVo + CableCARD solution (which I also use, through evil Time Warner Cable) is a good one, ...

No, it isn't. I already own three ClearQAM PCI tuner cards and a clearQAM DVD/VCR recorder (and a ClearQAM USB tuner). Why should I have to buy someone else's DVR and rent a cable card just to do exactly what I was doing a month ago? I don't mean "pretty close to", I mean "exactly".

If I'm going to rent more crap to do what I could do 30 days ago, why shouldn't I just bend over and rent Comcast's crap? At least then I get to listen to them lie to me about why it isn't working, instead of them pointing the finger at everyone else.

Read the Cable Act of 1992 and see if section 17 doesn't ring a bell. All you people who benefited from being able to use your own VCRs to program what you wanted when you wanted need to start calling the FCC and demanding the same capability in the new digital age.

Re:Lauren Weinstein bait... (1, Interesting)

rtfa-troll (1340807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360300)

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

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

You see, as ever, the only reason we need more regulation is because there was already too much bad regulation which limits the freedom of the market to find the right way.

One idea (5, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359636)

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

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

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

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

Re:One idea (5, Interesting)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359654)

split the content providers into two companies; one that owns the infrastructure and another that supplies the content. Then, require the infrastructure company to lease access to any company who wants it at the same price regardless of who is leasing the access.

Re:One idea (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30359992)

split the content providers into two companies; one that owns the infrastructure and another that supplies the content. Then, require the infrastructure company to lease access to any company who wants it at the same price regardless of who is leasing the access.

That has been the historical solution. For example movie studios could not own movie theaters, airplane manufactures could not own airlines, etc except in very limited circumstances. Its only the gradual corruption of Congress by corporate money that allows conglomerates like Time Warner to both create and distribute content.

Re:One idea (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360230)

Theres nothing wrong with a content producer owning content distribution. It is only when there are monopolies that it becomes a problem. For example, there is nothing wrong with Disney making a DVD player because there are -lots- of DVD players out there, but due to artificial regulations imposed by the government (patents, a copyright mess, the DMCA, etc) it can become a problem.

With an open marketplace unhampered by much artificial regulation, there is nothing wrong with content producers owning distribution channels. But sadly I don't see the economy opening up any time soon...

Re:One idea (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360454)

Strange. When I play my Paramount Blue Ray discs on my Disney player, they all come out in 480i resolution. With monaural sound.

Re:One idea (1)

stumblingblock (409645) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360622)

Actually, historically, movie studios DID own movie theaters, breweries did own taverns. Somehow this situation was reformed. It is possible, but requires enlightened leaders.

Re:One idea (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359994)

Forcing the setting of price is anti-capitalism and will angry up the conservatives.

Re:One idea (0)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360100)

So?

Re:One idea (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360180)

Yes, "angrying up" the conserbawwtives is probably a good thing.

Re:One idea (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360174)

It's not price fixing to require that everybody pays the same price.

The minimum wage is governmental price fixing. Requiring that bob gets the same price as sheniqua is just common sense.

Re:One idea (2, Interesting)

royallthefourth (1564389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360214)

It's not anti-capitlist. The companies will still be owned by capital investors expecting a return on their investment. Perhaps a few capitalists will have some of their potential gains transferred to the hands of other capitalists, but the class as a whole would suffer no net loss.

This is America. Capital always wins at the end of the day.

But it's not price-setting (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360762)

But this wouldn't be the state telling the infrastructure provider what price to sell (or lease) at, just that they lease to everybody at the same price.

Re:One idea (3, Interesting)

gsarnold (52800) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360198)

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

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

So, let's allow local government to seize ownership (eminent domain) and operation of the physical layer from the phone and cable companies, and lease access to anyone that wants to provide voice, video or data service. We stop running redundant cables, we stop letting service providers leverage their networks to strongarm their customers, and we stop letting them use their existing regional monopolies to lock out competition.

If we did roads the way we do data, you'd need to sign a five year contract and agree to have the roads around your house torn up and rebuilt to shop at Target instead of Walmart.

Re:One idea (1)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360246)

You'd still have a monopoly -- there would be only one cable infrastructure provider.

Re:One idea (1)

Unequivocal (155957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359716)

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

As long as net neutrality goes through, it seems like none of this matters in the long run. As broadband bandwidth goes up, we will get the ability to stream from multiple providers in a way that looks like cable now right? At which point the cable provider's box will go in the trash can?

Re:One idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30359776)

It can. Netflix streaming.

Re:One idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360264)

A lot of these services depend on proprietary interaction between drm servers, video servers, and billing/charging middleware.

There are a number of areas where interaction would have to be standardized. Good luck with that.

Not saying it would be a bad thing; just fraught with problems.

Re:One idea (1)

randallman (605329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360606)

The ideal solution would be to have a content agnostic data pipe, be it fiber, copper, or wireless. Most of us are stuck with the idea of "phone companies" and "cable companies". The most useful thing the government can do is make sure we have access to fast and RELIABLE data connections. The content companies can then compete in a free market and we'll have real choice.

Because (0, Offtopic)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359670)

I have difficulty seeing how this universe can be made to function effectively...

Well for one thing, controlling the Universe is a God complex.

The other is, we can't do anything to make the Universe function correctly until the Cosmologists figure it out.

Geeze!

cablecard is dead (3, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359694)

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

Re:cablecard is dead (2, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359720)

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

Re:cablecard is dead (4, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359904)

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

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359942)

And then stick call center with supporting them and having them suck for everyone involved makes everyone involved want a locked down on.

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

rlds (849683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360316)

Call centers suck anyway, no matter what.

Re:cablecard is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360084)

Bingo! And we have a winner!

Re:cablecard is dead (3, Informative)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359950)

That's kind of funny since the last two Crapcast boxes I've had have what appears (through the vent holes) to be a CableCard stashed inside...

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360778)

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

There's been some shakeup lately wrt. the "DTAs" that cable companies are giving people so they can go all (or virtually all) digital. Basically minimal cable boxes for only the 'extended basic' level of channels, so people can use them on other TVs. (IMHO, something to placate people to give them _close_ to having the easy experience of just having cable-ready tuners in everything with analog channels, without having to pay extra for a box at every TV.) But apparently now these DTAs are going to be allowed to use some sort of 'privacy' mode, which is IMHO a weasly way of not using clear QAM, but not being quite as encrypted to require Cable Cards.

Re:cablecard is dead (4, Interesting)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359772)

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

That's the short version.

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

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (4, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359858)

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

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360042)

If they let it into just one unsecured device, all their digital encrypted programming will be available for copying.

It already is available. If they want people to get the data from Comcast instead of somewhere else, they need is to stop requiring "authorized" devices.

Making it copyable is a necessary past of making it work. Making it work is a necessary part of getting paid.

Gimme the plaintext and I won't need bittorrent. And if I don't need bitrorrent, then I've no reason to seed.

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

Jared555 (874152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360092)

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (3, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360184)

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360796)

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30359914)

FCC should simply do as many other have requested - as a condition to move to SDV they *MUST* allow any provider to supply a data stream and be able to carry it to the customer. Just like the internet. Force the SDV network portion and content portion (PPV, etc) to split.

You don't get to build out a high speed packet switched network that only you can use on the taxpayers dime. Forget it.

The sooner we can stop treating digital video and voice as some magic special kind of data and just build flexible all-data networks the easier and saner the regulatory regime will become.

Re:cablecard is dead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360248)

Had a similar story with FIOS and TivoHD.

Took four techs, each a different visit, plus my wife calling them up and yelling at them. Guess which of those did the trick?

I asked every single tech the same question: "Did you get any training on this?"

And every one gave the same answer: "No. We don't really support this."

Then I would follow up to say: "But it is legislated by law that you have to support this."

Then they would say: "I dunno anything about that."

Re:cablecard is dead (2, Interesting)

spectro (80839) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359862)

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

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

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

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

Better tell the FCC to find a better use for our tax money.

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360678)

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

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

Don't underestimate Cable. In the US, they are still the fattest pipe entering the most households, and will be for a while.

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360808)

Just wait until we get "free/unlimited/unmetered cable TV and VOD" but you're internet is limited - that way, the cable company makes money no matter how you get your content!

Re:cablecard is dead (2, Interesting)

TheOldBear (681288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360038)

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360414)

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (2, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360112)

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

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

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

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

Re:cablecard is dead (1)

Eli Gottlieb (917758) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360270)

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

Who cares? (2, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359754)

TV is dead anyway.

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

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

Re:Who cares? (2, Insightful)

gilbert644 (1515625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360056)

You do realize that if everyone did what you do there would be no TV shows to pirate?

Re:Who cares? (1)

spanky the monk (1499161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360566)

True, there won't be any tv shows to pirate. With no financial incentive to produce copyright works they will cease to be. No copyright = no piracy. Furthermore, there won't be a TV to show them on. There will be, however, a rich internet culture of alternative media to replace the profit-inspired corporate crap we have now.

Re:Who cares? (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360062)

Clearly you don't watch any live sporting events.

Re:Who cares? (1)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360684)

Ever hear of a sports bar? Some of the good ones even have good microbrew beer on tap, too, instead of the watered-down Anheiser-Busch crap!

Re:Who cares? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360082)

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

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

Re:Who cares? (2, Interesting)

icegreentea (974342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360240)

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

How the fuck did you get rated insightful? For fucks sake.

Re:Who cares? (1)

misexistentialist (1537887) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360550)

Fucking morons think AOL, stagecoaches, and bardic poetry are dead too.

Re:Who cares? (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360556)

Well for him TV is dead, just not Television shows.. There are people like him, (I am pretty much there myself).. I suppose he could have worded it better for you.. Your point, that there would be no Television shows if there were not Television was a good one.. your delivery however sucked.. and such worry over mod points.. I mean, 5 mod points and a 50 cent coupon on Midol, and hey you've saved 50 cents !

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360574)

Don't get angry that you're behind the times. You obviously know how to use the interwebz... just try watching TV online... you'll soon realize that its about 500x better due to the simple fact that you can watch a show whenever you want to, pending a few restrictions (weekly episode + maybe 5 of the previous episodes are available, South Park Studios blocks new shows after the initial week for a month, etc). TV is dead just like radio is dead... they're zombies, eating and converting humans to do their bidding (see: your rant).

Re:Who cares? (2, Insightful)

spanky the monk (1499161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360634)

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

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360736)

Pronouncing things 'dead' is a Slashdot meme and people who regurgitate it feel smart and 'cutting edge'. Here I've seen it applied to the music industry back in the napster days, to paper, books, Windows, newspapers, magazines, wristwatches, cash money, standalone GPS navigation devices, the Dell Computer corporation, BSD, the United States of America, gaming consoles, PCs as gaming devices, tape backups, spinning platters in hard drives, and wired ethernet. And that is off the top of my head.

So it is cool to do. All of the above still exists, of course, and most are far from dead. We are spear-hunters and they are mammoths. We might have landed a few good pricks but we'll be following the blood trail for a long time before they go down.

Re:Who cares? (1)

Palshife (60519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360540)

-1 In The Minority

Re:Who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360618)

You're a minority.

It could actually be a win for cable providers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30359794)

Right now they spend bucks developing their own STB applications, and they have historically sucked. It's only within the last year or so that my 3-4-yr. old Comcast DVR stopped freezing up due to buggy programming. And their cumbersome homespun guide and recording software will never begin rival TiVo's.

Imagine if they just standardized access, fired their crappy in-house teams, and let the TiVo's and the MS Media Centers provide the user friendly front ends...

CableCARD/Tuning Adapter-enabled TiVos (4, Informative)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359798)

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

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

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

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

Re:CableCARD/Tuning Adapter-enabled TiVos (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360440)

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

Re:CableCARD/Tuning Adapter-enabled TiVos (1)

awyeah (70462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360856)

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

That's the problem. There's really not much other choice. If you want to use a device that is capable of transferring shows to other devices, it's pretty much TiVo HD or Windows Media Center, if you want to use CableCARDs - and both of those solutions honor the broadcast flags.. Either that, or you can set up some other computer-based solution and use an IR blaster and a cable box, or you can just do analog cable.

Time Warner sets the broadcast flags more strictly than the actual broadcasters. Everything (except the local broadcast channels) are set so that I cannot copy anything from the TiVo. You can't blame TiVo for honoring those (they'd probably be sued if they didn't), but you can blame Time Warner for not honoring the policies of their content providers.

What about Digeo? (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359820)

Digeo worked on Charter's network along with the Moto boxes. Of course, they were bought by Arris a few months ago, but still.

So were going to go back to how it used to be? (2, Insightful)

Buelldozer (713671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359886)

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

Re:So were going to go back to how it used to be? (2, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360446)

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

Re:So were going to go back to how it used to be? (2, Interesting)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360506)

What the FCC is proposing is making the DCTV systems function like the ACTV system used to.

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

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

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

When asked why they don't just trap lines that don't have basic digital so they can keep the signals I'm paying to get in the clear, they lie. They said "traps don't work". Traps have worked for DECADES. They even threatened to trap out the digital signal back in February when I first got and then dumped digital service because they weren't providing the services they promised and wanted $1/month more. If traps don't work, explain why there are times when my UNTRAPPED signals don't get through. It's so trivial to disable a digital signal that it is pathetically absurd to try to lie about not being able to trap them.

I know why they don't want to trap: it's less convenient for them. They have to visit a house to install/remove one. They don't have to climb a damn ladder anymore, but they have to visit. I'm paying, their "convenience" takes second place.

I'm trying to get a formal complaint lodged through the FCC for this issue, but FCC only seems interested in complaints about other issues.

If you want to see why this is a no-brainer, read the Cable Consumer Protection Act of 1992. We've been through this "consumer provided equipment" debate with analog, and the consumer won. We need to get the consumer winning this one, too.

If they're smart, they'll embrace it (3, Funny)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 4 years ago | (#30359946)

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

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

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

Re:If they're smart, they'll embrace it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360102)

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

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

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

They are taking the more profitable course for them. They retain almost total control of how the majority of cable subscribers view their television, while losing a few customers who are pissed off about it. Gaining the paltry revenue from a few people like you would not balance out the loss of control of the majority's media consumption. If they weren't taking an extremely profitable course, then they wouldn't be able to afford to buy NBC. You defeated your own argument.

Re:If they're smart, they'll embrace it (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360208)

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

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

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

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

I predict the future.. and it's obvious (4, Insightful)

brxndxn (461473) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360006)

The future is:

ONE DATA PIPE!

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

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

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

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

Re:I predict the future.. and it's obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30360338)

I currently receive all of services via fiber... voice, data and video (the provider is the local electric utility). The three services are on a different subnet and VNC is able to view all unencrypted video streams that are on my PON. However a set top box is required to request another stream ... and is required to decrypt the encrypted streams (some channels require encryption, even though they are not normally sold as premium channels). The current box is provided by ADB, but several others competed for the business.

It's just software... and maybe a decrypt chip or two.

Re:I predict the future.. and it's obvious (2, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360492)

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

Ever notice how the channels you want are never in the same package? Yeah, that's not a coincidence!

Obama (2, Interesting)

WiiVault (1039946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360036)

Say what you will about the man, but his FCC seems to have significantly more teeth than the last administration's. Between this, the Verizon ETF, and the Gvoice/Apple thing they seem to actually be doing their job.

Regulatory solution? (2, Interesting)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360050)

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

I'm neither trolling nor taking cheap shots here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But - I shudder at the word "regulatory."

Re:Regulatory solution? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360152)

Given that the FCC already has their ham fist all over the market, I don't know why you would shudder when someone insists that they actually do a good job of regulating.

Re:Regulatory solution? (1)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360182)

Given that the FCC already has their ham fist all over the market, I don't know why you would shudder when someone insists that they actually do a good job of regulating.

I shudder at the idea that regulating is being postulated as if special interests will NOT prevent a good job from being done.

I'm all for good regulation - but after seeing some of the shenanigans with the DTV transition, I'm simply highly skeptical.

Regulation is a two-edged sword. Just as it can ideally enforce standards - it can hamper innovation when taken to lowest common denominators.

Sorry I wasn't clear.

Competition... (3, Insightful)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360054)

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

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

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

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

Re:Competition... (2, Insightful)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360732)

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

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

Re:Competition... (1)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360846)

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

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

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

That's a violation of that company's (or, rather, its owners') freedom. And they'll fool you anyway... Both on purpose (to sell you "premium" connectivity, for example) and unwittingly — without their own interest in your service, what is their incentive in the quality of your picture? Don't know about you, but I don't want anybody to serve me out of fear of the government — people try to weasel out of such arrangements. Out of benevolence is best, but that's rare and unsustainable. For profit is perfectly fine and is how Capitalism works, so let it...

Works for me. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360104)

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

And my Internet cable adapter is my own Motorola Surfboard, that I picked up at Goodwill for $4. Even though it was old enough that someone threw it out, it is a newer model than the ones the cable company rents to customers.

People have it wrong (1)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360292)

How much do you want to bet cable companies dont want to be supplying the boxes either. Maintaining all those boexes is expensive and cable companies at best get exactly what they paid for from the rental fees. The problem is there is no real way to not need a box right now. Also the problem is every company has their network laid out differently. Also Verizon would have to be included in any legislation since they now have fios tv.

Re:People have it wrong (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360478)

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

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

Re:People have it wrong (1)

Wesley Felter (138342) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360826)

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

TIme Warner does something worse (1, Interesting)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360390)

What the NEW (northeast Wisconsin) version of Time Warner Cable does, and probably other branches too, is change the digital cable exact frequencies like once a week. So sure, my Olevia TV can tune into channel 142.12 but next week it'll be 142.9824. And yes, it does go out to 4 digits apparently. So I have to rescan my TV really often just to pick up digital and digital HD channels. Then to tune directly to them, I have to remember the idiotic 6+ digit number. I can't memorize them either because it keeps changing. Talk about a scam! Their provided DVR, which is on another TV, can magically retune itself and enumerate the channels to more friendly, whole numbers too. I assume it's getting a secret data update that tells it what the channels are changing to. They're going to get absolutely destroyed if the gov looks into that too!

Cable isn't broadcast... (1)

jasno (124830) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360614)

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

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

Cable companies do have competition already - at my house, I can have AT&T U-verse, Time Warner, DirecTV, or Dish Network. I can also just get wireless internet or DSL and watch YouTube... or I could read a book.

Channel ransom? (1)

MattGWU (86623) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360664)

Is this that thing where they take away channels I've been paying for until I rent a set-top box to get them back, but my bill doesn't go down in the meantime?

Clear the QAM!! (2, Insightful)

Randall311 (866824) | more than 4 years ago | (#30360726)

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

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

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

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