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FCC Approves Changes To Cable Box Rules 439

GovTechGuy writes "The FCC issued an order Thursday that should make it much easier and cheaper for consumers to purchase and install third-party cable boxes made by manufacturers such as TiVo. The rules are aimed at spurring competition in the cable box market; currently consumers overwhelmingly choose to rent a box from their cable provider rather than buy their own. Lawmakers have complained the current cable box technology is outdated and doesn't allow consumers to leverage new sources of video content such as the Web or streaming services from providers such as Netflix. The new rules should result in a smarter, more advanced cable box in the near future."
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FCC Approves Changes To Cable Box Rules

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  • Can I make my own? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:43PM (#33902484)

    Hey, the heck with somebody else's hardware, can I make my own?
    How hard could it be?

  • by rsborg ( 111459 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:09PM (#33902788) Homepage

    I know someone (who used to work at TiVo) who said that something like 50% of TiVo's issue backlog (this was 2008) was dealing with CableCard issues (on models that supported it).

    Maybe their curve has flattened out now, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that "support for CableCard" "works reasonably well on Comcast (or other cable company)". Is probably designed to prevent the next TiVo from popping up and embarrassing the cable behemoths.

  • by Obfuscant ( 592200 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:25PM (#33902958)
    Maybe their curve has flattened out now, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out that "support for CableCard" "works reasonably well on Comcast (or other cable company)".

    This leaves anyone with a non-cableCard device out in the cold. The rules need to be tightened up to force cable companies to provide the digital signals that people are paying for IN THE CLEAR so they can use customer provided equipment freely. At least for any tier called "digital basic", which is the lowest level digital tier. In other words, they can trap the digital signals for anyone who doesn't have "digital basic", so they do not need to encrypt the signals to prevent theft, they just trap them out. Just as they used to do with upper-tier programming in analog form.

    Comcast does this. They used to provide all the basic digital signals in clearQAM so my four clearQAM devices could access them. Then one day they simply shut them off. I get the must-carries in digital with those devices now. Just the must-carries.


  • by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:33PM (#33903044)
    TFA states a lot of PR from the FCC, the TiVo, and the cable industry on the effects the new rule will have on consumers, but nowhere describes what about the CableCARD rules is actually being changed, and doesn't cite the order to enable people to check for themselves. So I checked the FCC website, the order is here.

    Thanks, I downloaded it. Unfortunately, the document is 59 pages of legalese. If most of us don't even RTFA most of the time, we sure as heck aren't going to try to make sense this FCC order. I'm sure I could get the gist of it, but determining how it will actually be implemented and enforced and what the impact will be is not something I care to wrestle with. Too bad TFA isn't more in depth.
  • by EdIII ( 1114411 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:47PM (#33903158)

    Legality is kind of irrelevant at this point.

    Cable/Satellite have already lost. This legislation is really no different than legislating that horse carriage manufacturers cannot mandate what buggy whip you get to use.

    Locked in bundles, extortion by ESPN, monopolies and duopolies, out of control advertising, spamming during the programming itself, locked outputs, retroactively removed features that existed at the time of purchase (fuck you Sony and burn in Hell), are not desired by younger consumers, and especially the generation of young consumers that have been raised on YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Hulu, etc.

    The future are services like Hulu and Netflix. I hardly even bother to torrent TV shows or movies anymore. For one, I can usually get the movie legally in a few days through the mail, or streamed directly to my TV in HD quality. My TV shows are now without commercials or those impossible-to-ignore-totally-ruin-the-fucking-show overlays with the Sci-Fi channel being the best example of the retarded twats that decided that was a good idea. I watched entire seasons of Chuck, Stargate SGU, The Big Bang Theory, etc. all without any interruptions or annoyances.

    Above all... I did this legally for once. TV shows that are broadcast are obviously fair game to me though. If you put in radio waves across my face on my property, fuck you when you attempt to control what I do with it. That being said, I do like the fact that I can pay a reasonable price for access to a large catalog of movies legally.

    There is a reason why Blockbuster has declared bankruptcy. There is a reason why Cable/Satellite execs constantly lament how many people are "cutting the cord".

    They don't get it!

    Even a cablebox of your choosing is not going to give you the on-demand choices and advertising free content that people are clearly going to obtain one way or the other. The article mentioned that the 3rd party cableboxes would contain Netflix. Really? If that is available, why would I choose to pay $50 a month for HBO/ShowTime/Cinemax/whatever? I would never pay any money for ShowTime, or whatever they are called, when they do the Sci-Fi Super-Retardo overlays on the movie while I am watching it. Saw that at a friends house and spent the next 20 minutes hooking up his kids XBOX to his TV, using the Live account his kids already had, and started watching the same movie IN HD, and WITHOUT the overlays through Netflix. Now his whole family has about 30-40 movies all the time queued up in their instant watch queue.

    Sorry, the legislation here is too late. Nearly every young person I know has already transitioned towards a YouTube/Netflix/Hulu/??? combination to get access to entertainment and has never even once paid a cable TV bill.

    We don't need to talk about the illegal stuff. Those people doing "illegal" stuff still represent a loss of marketshare (not a loss of income due to piracy, or some equally retarded and fallacious argument). However, what about the people like me that have been using, by and large, completely legal distribution channels to obtain entertainment on their own terms?

    IMO, the legal options are going to make a cablebox obsolete before the legislation even takes place. 5 years ago I laughed when MS and Sony said they had ambitions to become the media centers in people's homes. Not laughing anymore....


  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @08:54PM (#33903212) Homepage Journal

    I would run one in a heartbeat - especially since I now live in a city where Comcast has deployed Motorola rather than Scientific Atlanta. (on Scientific Atlanta the ESATA ports are enabled, and on Motorola they are disabled). I like having the ability to keep an entire season of certain shows on the PVR/DVR to re-watch at my leisure.

    However, there is a problem; most CableCard-capable PVRs available on the market, at least last time I looked into them, did not support OpenCable Host Device services, so watching On Demand content isn't (or wasn't) possible. Also, aside from client apps on a PC or Mac, management of viewing, recording, and deleting content on a Tivo requires about 3x as many clicks as does the cable company's PVR. The Tivo still doesn't(?) support OCAP:

    http://www.engadget.com/2010/03/02/dnptivo-premiere-and-premiere-xl-usher-in-a-brand-new-interface/ [engadget.com]

    Both models will do up to 1080p output and have single multistream CableCARD slots and eSATA jacks for storage expansion; the $299 Premiere will do 45 hours of HD recording on the 320GB internal drive, while the $499 XL will do 150 on 1TB and adds in THX certification. The bad news? There's still no support for tru2way, so you still won't have access to your cable company's video on demand service -- although one of the screenshots has a Comcast logo on it, so we're intrigued.

  • by Michael Kristopeit 7 ( 1913322 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:00PM (#33903262)
    the existence of tuning adapters does not provide any new feature to me... it creates a liability if i don't use it, and all the while i am left to pay to store and power it.

    you obviously don't know much about bandwidth, and have fallen for the lies provided to you... everyone still must be able to receive every channel they pay for at any time. the required bandwidth is fixed. nothing is saved. it is a pure play against piracy at the expense of subscribers.

  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwin@nOsPaM.amiran.us> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:12PM (#33903360) Homepage Journal

    *shrug* Pretty well, actually.

    Try Ted [Torrent Episode Downloader] [www.ted.nu] with PS3 Media Server. [blogspot.com] You get the same shows you watch now. It costs you nothing. All the commercials are edited out. And you can usually watch them within 3-4 hours of their being broadcast.

    The only possible alternative that is similar in functionality (shows WITHOUT commercials, not just commercials you fast forward through) is Amazon VOD. That being said, Amazon VOD is only compatible with certain devices, unlike PS3 Media Server, which works with nearly all DLNA devices. Otherwise, I would probably just buy the shows through Amazon VOD. If it only worked on the PS3, natively.

    You can use Amazon VOD, Hulu, and Netflix through PlayOn, but it kind of sucks. Netflix on the PS3 (the version Sony promotes) is using a Bluray disk, and the interface is terrible. One must click through titles one-by-one, with no way to hold down the "forward" button, or flick a page at a time.

    The only issue with PS3 Media Server is that you have to organize the files, because although Ted does a great job of downloading the files, they will end up in a giant pile on your drive with crappy "leet speak" names. There are a few automatic renaming utilities, but these are very kludge.

    There is a new (free as in beer) DLNA server called Serviio [serviio.org] which fixes that, by automagically downloading program names, and presenting a hierarchical interface to the user. That way, you can keep your TV shows in a big pile, and organize them whenever you want. This combination (TED+SERVIIO) represents truly automatic HD video on demand, sans commercials, of nearly any content you would want. And its free.

    That being said, Serviio's transcoding is somewhat buggy, so TV Nirvana isn't quite ready yet. But it's almost there.

    The funny thing is that I cannot get service this good from any provider at *any* price. I would be willing to pay quite a premium to get truly ad-free TV. But I want my shows to download automatically (or stream), I want it in HD, and I want it to work with a video game console or TV, eliminating a set-top box that would otherwise take up valuable space.

    The ironic thing? I prefer watching TV on my PS3s than on my DirecTV HD-DVRs with nearly every channel.

  • Re:Pick up a phone? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Punchinello ( 303093 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @09:40PM (#33903612)

    I had a cablecard installed in my Tivo Premiere within days of calling Verizon with no hassle at all.

    I have the same setup as you and can tell you there is a hassle. The cablecard Verizon Fios installed on my Tivo Premiere has one way communication. That means if I want any of the On Demand services I have to also keep my regular Verizon cable box (and pay the monthly rental fee). On Demand is an important part of the service as there are a ton of free movies and free replays of network and cable TV shows. Not all of this content is matched by the services on the Tivo alone.

    Take for example one of the premium channels (HBO). With the Verizon cable box I can watch any of the HBO movies or series on demand. I cannot do this with the Tivo. I would have to plan ahead and record everything my wife might want to watch. And I am no mind reader.

  • Re:Pick up a phone? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by herbman ( 857 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @10:15PM (#33903862)

    I have the same setup as you and can tell you there is a hassle. The cablecard Verizon Fios installed on my Tivo Premiere has one way communication. That means if I want any of the On Demand services I have to also keep my regular Verizon cable box (and pay the monthly rental fee). On Demand is an important part of the service as there are a ton of free movies and free replays of network and cable TV shows. Not all of this content is matched by the services on the Tivo alone.

    This has nothing to do with the cablecard. Cablecards are decryption devices, period. All current host devices are one-way communications devices. There have been a few stabs at changing that but so far nothing has clicked and there isn't a standard communications mechanism for doing so. The closest anyone got was Tru2way [wikipedia.org] but that didn't really pan out. Point being, the card is not the reason for this situation.

  • by pongo000 ( 97357 ) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @11:18PM (#33904292)

    ...to have Time-Warner install a CableCARD on my Moxi DVR. First off, T-W resolutely refuses to allow customers to self-install. They require a technician to come out and make a call to the "head office" to relay information from the DVR that requires the DVR owner (in this case, me) to pull up. Then, it takes about 2-1/2 additional hours to figure out that the INIT sequence wasn't being properly sent by T-W. Of course, all this time T-W is telling me it's my DVR (even though T-W specifically identifies the Moxi as a "supported" DVR). In the end, it cost me $35 and 3 hours of my time (2 hours of that spent online chatting with a Moxi engineer who was telling me what to tell the cable guy) to deal with T-W's ineptitude when it comes to CableCARD support.

    Contrast this to Comcast: I walked into the Comcast office, picked up a CableCARD for my mom's 8-year-old rear projection Mitsubishi, plugged it in, called Comcast, and was up and running in about 1/2 hour. Total cost? $0.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the FCC's new regs will address gross technical incompetence on the part of some cable TV providers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 15, 2010 @08:39AM (#33906762)

    This is fine and dandy for people that have expensive tastes, but I own both PC tuners AND multiple TVs that support ClearQAM. Last April, over 100 channels (which are part of my subscription) were removed from my viewing unless I got a digital cable box from the local cable company. They started encrypting almost every channel so the Clear QAM tuners became nearly worthless. Only about 15 channels are not encrypted anymore - 10 of those are local access and home shopping channels - SWEET! NOT! A few of the local broadcast channels are so pixel-ated as to be worthless over QAM. It has become better to use the OTA ATSC tuner instead.

    I'm still paying for those channels, but I've been forced to add a cable box. My 3 VCRs are worthless now too. Where was the government oversight when as these changes were allowed? Cable-Ready should be mandated ... still.

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