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Obama Urges Opening Cable TV Boxes To Competition ( 75

An anonymous reader writes: President Obama is publicly supporting the FCC's proposal to help viewers buy cable boxes to spur competition and help subscribers save money. Basically, the proposal would require TV channels to sell their content to third-party groups, like Google and others who would sell their own devices. The president's backing of the FCC proposal is part of a broader White House initiative to spur competition. In a Yahoo News interview, Obama compared the cable box issue to earlier moves by the government to open up the telephone system in the 1980's. Obama said, "Across the board, if we have more players who can potentially participate, fewer barriers to entry, the rules aren't rigged, then you get more people trying to get your business and you get better products at cheaper prices."
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Obama Urges Opening Cable TV Boxes To Competition

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  • by rworne ( 538610 ) on Saturday April 16, 2016 @03:21AM (#51920353) Homepage

    Just about every ISP is a media distributor as well. Don't have any draconian usage caps? This is one way to get slapped with them.

    Hard to force them to open up the market with the lobbying they do. If the FCC succeeds and forces it to open, good luck when you start realizing your cap does not go very far when you add all that programming to your monthly bandwidth and the cable companies look get their profit in overage fees.

    • by ls671 ( 1122017 )

      Also, at least where I live, most if not all cable companies are ISPs as well so they will figure a way to make it work out for them.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ... is a media distributor as well.

      It's called bundling, and forcing customers to buy extra services is illegal in most countries. Of course, if one does buy the extra services, it is sensible that a higher cap, or un-metered consumption is part of that service.

      ... realizing your cap does not go very far ...

      That works when they can charge what the market will bear. With data services, variable costs are low: Laying fibre optic costs the same whether it carries 10 Gb/s or 1,000 Gb/s. So they can allow people to consume more data for the same cost: Which will bring them more customers

    • by guises ( 2423402 )
      Funny enough, the FCC also regulates ISPs. This is something that they can address, provided that bill from the other day [] doesn't go through. Ideally this will mean unbundling of cable internet services in addition to TV, which is possible now that ISPs have been reclassified as telecommunications services. That would be a huge win for everyone (except the existing monopolies).
    • Some cable boxes can cost over $250 a year in electricity usage alone But I think Cable is dead , Internet streaming will replace it once we finally get some competition
  • by Zombie Ryushu ( 803103 ) on Saturday April 16, 2016 @03:34AM (#51920369)

    Eliminate Cable Boxes Entirely. If you want Cable, it should be an entirely Clear QAM Affair with channels that make logical sense.

    The reason Cable boxes exist, is that when a cable came into being, TV was split between VHF and UHF. Cable was "more VHF Channels" that went beyond the number 13. You could tine 2-13 on any Analogue TV set. If you wanted 14 or higher, you needed a Cable ready TV, or a Cable Box.
    Then sometime in the 1990s, it became: Cable Boxes are the Gatekeepers to the Premium Channels.
    Now it's: Cable Boxes are required to access cable at all.

    The requirement should be clear. Universal Clear QAM. Flat Rate Neutral Pricing.

    • In an increasing number of cases cable is just IPTV, so there should be no need for a special cable box. Just provide an app for Android TV, Apple TV or any mobile device in the home. In the meantime I am using over the air, because everything else has more advertising than I should be paying a cable fee for.

    • this will solve itself in the next 5 or 10 years, at most. I know of only 1 person that actually HAS cable for tv use. everyone else is ip-only and downloads content or get it some other way. no one but one guy has catv (I needed something 'taped' on a very rare occasion and really had to beat the bushes to find someone who still did have cable tv).

      everyone young that I know, downloads (you know what I mean).

      watching tv - with commercial - on their time or even using their recorder? nah, we've given tha

      • 3 years ago I had a DVR and Comcast, and while I dislike the company, this combination was the one I was happiest with. Without the DVR there's "nothing on" ever, but with it, I had too much to watch and never really got through with it all before deciding it was more important to live in a safe neighborhood than it is to have cable.

        I made my choice, but honestly, I miss missing out on the latest shows (especially cartoons), when they come out, and the current cable pricing scheme makes it make less sense t

    • Clear QAM signals over cable would work if Cable TV were a binary thing - you subscribe and you get all the channels, or you don't subscribe and you get nothing.

      The cable box (or cable card) functions to limit the channels to the one you subscribe to. Channels in the basic package are usually transmitted unencrypted and can be tuned into without a cable box (I have my parents' TV set up this way). Pay channels and channels in higher tier packages are encrypted, and the cable box (which stores the decry
  • We are past the transitional period when a company should be able to get a city to sign up for a monopoly provider.

    The cable should be open to anyone that wants to provide programming.

    You should literally have a choice of cable providers on the cable to your house like you do to the roku in your house.

    Opening the cable box to competition is a joke- a mockery.

    It should no longer be legal to allow one cable company to have a monopoly over a geographical area.

  • Too many providers and ISPs are going back to the old Bell model of leasing the equipment to the user for huge markups like they used to do with telephones. For example AT&T U-Verse ADSL or VDSL modems can only be leased from the company at what is now $7 per month, when it was $4 originally, and it is soon going to $9 a month I've been told.

    This is the same scam that the Bell companies did with telephone leases by inching up costs until you pay hundreds for the same piece of equipment.

    You cannot purch

    • Too many providers and ISPs are going back to the old Bell model of leasing the equipment to the user for huge markups like they used to do with telephones.

      Its no surprise that a business with a monopoly acts similarly with other businesses that have had monopolies.

      Legislate away a towns right to grant exclusive access. Legislate away a businesses right to legal remedy when they lose that exclusive access. Done.

    • We cut our Verizon bill by about 50$/mo by switching out the five Verizon boxes for a bunch of TiVo boxes. All we needed from Verizon was one cable card (which we still pay something like 3$/mo for).

      • Yeah, I tried that. Verizon prices their DVR at $20 per month rental (California). TiVo DVR = ~$99 plus $15 monthly fee (For what, I don't know) + $5 month CableCard from Verizon.

        Coincidence that both = $20 per month? I think not.

        Just cut the cord, buy an OTA DVR for $50 and subscribe to Netflix or Hulu for the rest. Sorry about Walking Dead, but you will be a season behind.

    • comcast does the same thing with there static ip plans you have to pay like $10-$15 to rent there hardware.

  • by ElRabbit ( 2624627 ) on Saturday April 16, 2016 @04:44AM (#51920485)
    Back in the 2000's I was closely involved in the CableCard business. Although the thing was (more or less) working the Cable companies did all that was possible to shut it down (overly complicated procedure to get cable card, low quality implementation ...). Since then I am now closely involved with European equivalent to CableCard, the DVB-CI+. Many operators are actively supporting this specification and surprisingly the TV subscription cost in Europe are two to three times lower than in Europe. Instead on pushing TV content to companies who are already making way too much money for their (our ?) own good. Why not revive the CableCard with today technologies. The latest DVB-CI+ specifications is based on USB, wouldn't that be sexy to just have to plug a USB stick in your TV to enable pay channels ?
    • CableCards still exist - we just got one a few months ago from Verizon to work with TiVo.

    • by romco ( 61131 )

      Comcast uses cablecards. I have one in my TIVO.

  • We don't do competition here, just monopoly.
  • The cable set top boxes that probably cost 50$ each wholesale are generating over 120$ of revenue per year. The cable companies will do everything legal and illegal to keep that cash cow going. Opening up the cable box segment for competition is a good idea. The cable companies are regulated monopolies, so opening up the set top box is doable, if the lobbying and sly tactics could be overcome.

    But this is just one part of the raw deal customers are getting from the cable companies. Without real competition

  • Obama clearly said that health insurance will be cheaper than the cable television bill (meaning less than $100). Is he trying to reduce the cable bill, expecting that healthcare insurance will just follow?

    In reality, it is the healthcare system that needs real competition and deregulation. It looks like his teleprompter made an error.

    P.S. I am biased. I have never had cable television service in my adult life. Internet has everything, even television streams

  • When he signs some legislation on the subject, I will give a fuck what Obomber thinks about CATV boxes. Until then, he's just flapping his face in the wind, kind of like when claiming to give a shit about human rights while we bomb hospitals and drone strike children.

  • that the cable company provides that you could insert into your own cable box. /sarcasm

  • Remove the monopolies. Seriously, we should be limiting the monopolies.
    Fastest way is to say that no gov can proclaim a monopoly for fiber. In addition, we should break apart the monopolies and require that any transmission over a monopoly be split off from the non-monopoly part.
  • by gordona ( 121157 ) on Saturday April 16, 2016 @12:29PM (#51922089) Homepage
    In 1996-7 timeframe, the telecom act mandated retail access for cable boxes. This led to the open cable project at CableLabs which developed a portable middleware (OpenCable Application Platform, OCAP) and a removable security device (POD). The development of the middleware took nearly 10 years for development and acceptance starting in 1999. It is now legacy!
  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Saturday April 16, 2016 @12:57PM (#51922265)

    i wrote a comment about this for the red site. []

    The FCC is essentially trying to create a software-based replacement for CableCard.

    CableCARDs were an olive branch from the FCC to cable companies to let them still control the signal transmission protocol but have to have a standard interface for TVs (CableCARDs). Cable companies resisted the proliferation of CableCARDs so much that it killed them before they ever became a thing, just like cable companies wanted. The FCC seems to understand that cable companies are unwilling to act in good faith so now they are standardizing mandating the protocol that set-top boxes use. By mandating the use of a standard open protocol, anyone can implement the equivalent of a CableCARD. However, now that TVs are coming with serious processors in them, i think the new generation of TVs will be decoding this standardized protocol on their own. While a good thing, this also means a tighter integration of network based streaming video services which sounds good but has proven to be poorly implemented on "Smart TVs".

    If you are skeptical about the effect this might have then you should just look at what happened with cable modems. Before the DOCSIS standard, cable modems were all ISP specific, expensive and slow which is what happened with the set top box. After the DOCSIS standard, things got faster, more compatible and far less expensive.

  • Typical Obama policy, a bodge instead of the proper fix for the actual problem.
    The right solution would be to get rid of cable boxes entirely by forcing cable companies to provide homes with an unencrypted signal that we can just tune with the tuners already built into our TVs.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.