Boxee Ramps Up Its Fight To Stop The FCC From Letting Cable Companies Effectively Break Its Device

from the is-this-about-piracy-or-fighting-competition dept

Last month, an interesting fight broke out concerning the cable companies' desire to block out competing set top boxes. The simplified version is that the cable companies asked the FCC for a waiver to allow them to encrypt basic cable signals -- something they're currently forbidden from doing. The cable companies insist they need to do this to "stop piracy" (of course). But, the reality is that this is an end run to lock people into specific cable company set top boxes (for which they hope to charge you) and away from newer, more innovative solutions. At the center of this fight has been Boxee, the maker of an innovative device for making your TV better, by letting you access and watch internet video via the device. It recently launched a new product that lets users add live local network TV to their Boxee -- but that could be cut off if the waiver goes through, since those channels would then be encrypted.

Public Knowledge has been fighting the FCC on this for a while and has an action page to let you send a note to the FCC about your concerns with this policy change. From all the indications and scuttlebutt around DC, it seems clear that the FCC has been leaning towards approving this waiver, though realizing that it would kill off an innovative product like Boxee has taken the commissioners by surprise.

Of course, this just highlights the dangers of having politicians make declarations that impact technologies -- especially when they appear to be wholly unfamiliar with the state of the art or the general trend lines of where the technology is heading. They make "simple" decisions without realizing the massive impact such decisions can have.

Boxee has ramped up its offensive against this effort by the cable companies, recently sending out an email urging supporters to voice their concerns with the FCC via the PK action page linked above:
Cable companies want to increase the cable bills of millions of Americans and to virtually eliminate competition from third party devices like Boxee. We want you to know because it will affect millions of people, non-Boxee and Boxee users alike, and we need your help to fight it.

For the past several months, Boxee has been forced into a legislative battle with cable companies. Right now, anyone can get basic tier cable. Attach your TV, computer, or Boxee Live TV tuner and everything just works. Cable companies want the federal government to end that, and to require every user to have ALL of their TVs attached to cable boxes. We’re concerned many users who have Live TV tuners and rely on basic cable will be hurt by this, but we’re also focused on how the issue goes far beyond Boxee.

Here are the effects of the rule:

1. It could more than DOUBLE the cost for the typical new basic cable subscriber.

2. If you have a TV that’s hooked up to cable without a box, you MUST rent a set top box for that TV.

3. If your computer’s TV tuner is connected to your cable connection without a box, it will no longer work unless it uses a CableCARD.

4. If you bought a DVR that does not include a CableCARD it will no longer work without an antenna. If you don’t get signal with the antenna, your DVR is now worthless.
It should come as no surprise, of course, that cable companies are seeking to limit consumer choice and better control the market, and even less surprise that they're doing so by making "piracy" claims (next it'll be "for the children!") but that's no reason that the FCC has to simply roll over and break innovative devices and services like Boxee's.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    mikey4001, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 8:30pm

    Dear valued customer,

    It has come to our attention that, despite our best efforts, a few dozen of you have not yet found a compelling reason to abandon us. Good News! We submit for your approval Reason #45,328. We hope that this better enables you to sleep at night, knowing that you have made the right decision in opting out of our services.

    Please do not hesitate to let us know if there is anything else we can do to not serve you further.

    Thank you.


    Yours humbly,
    Your Local Cable Monopoly

     

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    silverscarcat (profile), Mar 21st, 2012 @ 9:10pm

    Cable's response...

    "But the FCC won't let me be, won't let me be me with MTV. I tried to get them to shut off Dragonball Z, cause it feels so empty without me."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 9:12pm

    But... pedophiles use Boxee.

     

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    David Muir (profile), Mar 21st, 2012 @ 9:29pm

    History Repeats

    Early cable television ventures were actually "community antennae". The guy with the best antennae in the area picked up the far off signals and shared them with his neighbors via cables.

    Of course the broadcasters screamed "piracy" or whatever the equivalent in-vogue epithet was at the time. Eventually the cable companies were swimming in money and they could work out a very lucrative deal with the broadcasters.

    Did they forget this part of their history when they see what Boxee and similar "integration" technologies could do for cable's future?

     

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      R.H. (profile), Mar 21st, 2012 @ 10:43pm

      Re: History Repeats

      I'm pretty sure that they do remember replacing free-to-air antenna with pay cable service and the broadcasters complaining loudly about it. They just don't want to see that happen to them as well. I hope they lose this fight but I don't honestly expect them to just roll over.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 9:52pm

    We need to abolish government established cableco monopolies. Competitors should be allowed to enter the market, either by building new infrastructure or competing on existing infrastructure. The government-industrial complex should not be permitted to block both possibilities.

     

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    Pixelation, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 10:36pm

    My message to the FCC

    "Please continue blocking cable companies from encrypting basic cable signals. As a citizen of the US I continue to see openness and freedom abridged for the interests of large corporations. It makes me wonder who the government is set up to serve. Who do you serve, corporate America or the American People?"

     

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      That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 2:24am

      Re: My message to the FCC

      they are confused...
      Corporations are people now...

       

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        The Devil's Coachman (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:24am

        Re: Re: My message to the FCC

        Actually, corporations are pretty much subhuman, so calling them people is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps hominids might be more accurate.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re: My message to the FCC

        Ah, yes, because that's a fine copypasta phrase that really has nothing to do with the ruling that it's vaguely referring to. Do you also post comments complaining about the woman who was awarded BILLIONS of dollars for making her lap warm with coffee as well?

         

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          That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:29pm

          Re: Re: Re: My message to the FCC

          Did you ever actually read the entire case history and learn that number was knocked down, and that she had suffered 3rd degree burns, and had tried to settle for much less money and it was the corporation that made themselves look like idiots and inspired the jury to award the silly amount?

          And maybe next time one should consider I was just making a flip comment and not try to read more into it than that...

           

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      Will, Apr 1st, 2012 @ 10:54pm

      Re: My message to the FCC

      We live in CorpMerica, Black Bush is our Marxist Dictator. Bill Varietz is a baseball player who plays second, and the Constitution is a high priced toliet in the Pentagon. Mitt Romney is Obama-Lite. Time to vote for RON PAUL!!! Santorum favors this leglislation, so does Obama Lite Romney, and Newt well Newt Gingrich passed the DMCA when he was House Speaker, spread the word that RON PAUL IS THE ONLY CANDIDATE THAT WILL RESTORE OUR COUNTRY!!!!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 11:38pm

    There's a saying that goes along the lines of, If you can see it, if you can hear it, it can be copied.

    I agree the real reason behind this is control factor. You have to spend money with us rather than the competition for box and for and additional devices.

    There was allowance for customers to buy their own set top boxes, only no competition developed. While I have no proof, I suspect the cost of set top boxes went low enough that other makers could not compete on pricing nor where the cards needed to descramble the signal were not available for third party devices.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2012 @ 11:47pm

    Boxee needs to understand that they cannot dictate the way cable companies operate. The move to a set top box is a pretty standard thing these days, allowing the cable companies to deliver TV not via standard "channels" but by more effectively using the bandwidth that they have to offer more services in their given space.

    What Boxee really wants is for cable companies to be forced to limit their technology, to require them to standard broadcast frequencies only, and for that to be the limit of what cable can do.

    Sorry Boxee: You cannot tell the cable companies to make it simple for you, while limiting their choices of technology.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:00am

      Re:

      Let me add this: Is Boxee going to tell IPTV companies that they must magically find a way to make all of their stuff come out as broadcast channels? Are they going to tell Directv that they have to change all of their technology to be compatible with Boxee?

      Seems to me that Boxee woke up and discovered that their product just ain't going to work in the future all digital world, and they want to claw the cable industry (last one left) back to the 80s so they can work.

      Shame on Boxee for this lawsuit - they should learn to compete better, and not try to drag the cable industry backwards.

       

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        Shaggy, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:46am

        Re: Re:

        this is purely about cable companies forcing millions of people to have to pay them for cable boxes and making sure no other device besides theirs can be used.

        As a Home A/V installer I have lots of customers who have TVs in guest rooms and other parts of the house where they do not want a cable box sitting there or want to pay for a box for a room that is hardly ever used. thats why the basic channels are ok for that room to begin with. This is about making you pay for every single tv hooked up in your house.

        What i see happening if it passes is LOTS of customers switching to satellite. If you have to have a box anyways you might as well get away from the horrible service the cable companies give.

         

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        That Anonymous Coward (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 2:30am

        Re: Re:

        "try to drag the cable industry backwards"
        You mean back to that horrible time when MTV actually played videos?

        Basic cable is hundreds of channels that will not be magically improved if everyone has to pay a monthly fee for a magic box to decode them.

        Speaking of limited technology, you mean like declaring other companies offering DVRs is bad, or offering streaming is bad unless it comes from the cable co.

        Shame on the cable companies using their monopoly stature to force things onto customers to raise prices and not offer anything better. Maybe we need competition, they should be forced to offer their lines to anyone who wants to use them to sell service.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 6:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Speaking of limited technology, you mean like declaring other companies offering DVRs is bad, or offering streaming is bad unless it comes from the cable co."

          No, I didn't say that. I said that I don't feel it right for Boxee to be allowed to dictate to a cable company how they will use bandwidth and how the will distribute their product and service, just to allow boxee to make money.

          Here's the deal: Although cable companies have a lot of bandwidth, they are still pretty limited in many ways. With all of the services they offer (and will offer in the future) they need bandwidth. So they do certain things to make it happen.

          One of those things is to compress the TV channels slightly,make them purely digital, and send them in a way that isn't directly compatible with regular TV tuners. In the space of 50 regular HD channels, you can send 75 to 100 digital channels (depending on compression). Basically, they shrink the signal slightly, and also wipe out much of the "white space" between channels, because they can more accurately control the cross talk between signals in their controlled environment.

          However, to do this requires a digital decoder box. Yes, it also does allow the cable company to charge you for premium channels, makes it easier for users to order pay per view and other products, and makes the whole "cable descrambler" debate meaningless. They really aren't forcing things onto users, they are upgrading there systems to be able to offer more alternatives, more PPV movies, etc. Oh yeah, you know those instant PPV "start any time" deals that cable offers? Boxee would make those disappear too!

          What Boxee seems to be proposing is that cable would be forced to use an open architecture, with one channel per channel based on a standard over the air digital tuner, and that there would be no provision to offer PPV or other services.

          It's just not right for Boxee to assume that they can wag that dog.

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 6:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Speaking of limited technology, you mean like declaring other companies offering DVRs is bad, or offering streaming is bad unless it comes from the cable co."

          No, I didn't say that. I said that I don't feel it right for Boxee to be allowed to dictate to a cable company how they will use bandwidth and how the will distribute their product and service, just to allow boxee to make money.

          Here's the deal: Although cable companies have a lot of bandwidth, they are still pretty limited in many ways. With all of the services they offer (and will offer in the future) they need bandwidth. So they do certain things to make it happen.

          One of those things is to compress the TV channels slightly,make them purely digital, and send them in a way that isn't directly compatible with regular TV tuners. In the space of 50 regular HD channels, you can send 75 to 100 digital channels (depending on compression). Basically, they shrink the signal slightly, and also wipe out much of the "white space" between channels, because they can more accurately control the cross talk between signals in their controlled environment.

          However, to do this requires a digital decoder box. Yes, it also does allow the cable company to charge you for premium channels, makes it easier for users to order pay per view and other products, and makes the whole "cable descrambler" debate meaningless. They really aren't forcing things onto users, they are upgrading there systems to be able to offer more alternatives, more PPV movies, etc. Oh yeah, you know those instant PPV "start any time" deals that cable offers? Boxee would make those disappear too!

          What Boxee seems to be proposing is that cable would be forced to use an open architecture, with one channel per channel based on a standard over the air digital tuner, and that there would be no provision to offer PPV or other services.

          It's just not right for Boxee to assume that they can wag that dog.

           

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            TDR, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 7:08am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            AC 32: "Oh no, we just CAN'T let anyone tell a CORPORATION what to do! We just CAN'T! Corporations are never wrong! They cannot be allowed to be held accountable for what they do! Their monopolies MUST be protected AT ALL COSTS! WAAAHHH!!!!"

            All monopolies should be immediately broken up into smaller, non-profit-sharing companies with no staff remaining from the original corporation. The penalty for being a monopoly should always be immediate and complete liquidation of all assets and permanent dissolution of the monopoly corporation.

             

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            Sade, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 7:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Again, this isn't accurate at all. Clear QAM supports digital transmissions. The problem is with ENCRYPTION.

            The bandwidth saved is from the analog to digital transmission. Which is happening everywhere. It's in cable's interest to make the transition so they can increase HSI customers/speeds. There's no reason they have to encrypt cable to do this.

            They do it today and don't encrypt. And your TV's QAM tuner, which you have already paid for if you bought a TV in the past 5 or 6 years can play digital transmissions.

            So before you go off ranting about Boxee trying to stifle cable companies who are really suffering here, you should understand the technology a little better.

            Again, this is a fight over clear QAM or encrypted QAM, not Digital vs Analog.

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 9:54am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              What you call encryption is just compression - most of your cable and say companies compress your HD feeds down about 2 to 1, saving them a ton of bandwidth. They all use their own methods and such to do it, to figure out channel spacing, and that often changes. As an example, the Dish network sats have gone from one format to another, allowing them to have a few extra channels on each transponder - and that is done by encrypting the signal, compressing it, and and then letting the user's system decode it. The best part is they can flash everyone and change it without issue, upgrading their software on end user boxes directly.

              What I think is key here is Boxee wants to hold cable to a higher standard. IP TV, sat TV, and other transmission methods won't be held to Boxee's desires 1980s technology standard, which is horrible for cable - it's pretty anti-competitive, actually.

              Why should cable have to cow down to boxee, but not anyone else?

               

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                JEDIDIAH, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:38pm

                Gump Cablevision

                > What you call encryption is just compression

                It's time for you to STFU since you clearly have no clue about any of this stuff.

                 

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 2:52pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If cable companies competed in an open and free market your argument might make sense. Of course, they don't and your arguments don't.

                 

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:22pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "What you call encryption is just compression"

                Huh? Encryption and Compression are two different and completely separate concepts. The former scrambles a given signal, while the latter makes the signal smaller. Yes you can do both, but they are not one and the same. And the signal (encrypted/compress/both/or not) is transmitted via QAM (which is merely a form of modulation similar to how ATSC is used for OTA transmission)

                As the law stands today, per the 1996 Telecom Act, cable companies are REQUIRED to provide a basic set of free and unencrypted channels (Usually the locals that you can get OTA.)

                The cable co's wants to kill that requirement, and thus FORCING you you to purchase a set-top box for EVERY set even just for local channels. This does not only affect Boxee, but many modern TV sets have QAM tuners in them where you can just plug the cable in and BAM - you got TV. Those too would cease to receive channels without a box (or a CableCARD) and of course a monthly fee.

                And this is what it is REALLY about... MONEY! Not encryption or compression.

                 

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            Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 10:05am

            MANY Issues with your statements

            "I said that I don't feel it right for Boxee to be allowed to dictate to a cable company how they will use bandwidth and how the will distribute their product and service, just to allow boxee to make money."

            No one is trying to tell the cable co how to use their bandwidth, they can place whatever services that the like on their spectrum and stuff/compress as many per carrier as they like.

            "One of those things is to compress the TV channels slightly,make them purely digital, and send them in a way that isn't directly compatible with regular TV tuners. In the space of 50 regular HD channels, you can send 75 to 100 digital channels (depending on compression). Basically, they shrink the signal slightly, and also wipe out much of the "white space" between channels, because they can more accurately control the cross talk between signals in their controlled environment."

            Much that is incorrect here. Yes the channels are digital now - however, with few exceptions that is NOT done by the Cable co, but done before transmission/uplink by the providers. Not directly compatible with regular TV tuners -- not sure what you mean here... that the signal is QAM and carriers digital services vs previous analog transmission to analog tuners? Or are you referring to the additional encryption added to the digital services? The part about "In the space of 50 regular HD channels, you can send 75 to 100 digital channels" does not make sense. What is a "regular HD channel"? You seem to be referring t the transmission medium/modulation/frequency spectrum from the context of what you wrote, but I don't believe that you really understand what you are talking about here. If you meant that 1 "regular HD channel" = 1 QAM carrier, then there is a misunderstanding of what the technology is capable of supporting. 1 QAM can have a number of HD (1080, 720p etc) services compressed in it and/or a mix of SD (480i) services in that ONE carrier. And "you can send 75 to 100 digital channels (depending on compression)" on these 50 previously used channels is rather inefficient use of that bandwidth. In 50 QAMs is it more likely to carrier somewhere in the range of 400-500 SD (480i) services or if 50% of them were lets say 1080i HD services then you talking 50-75 1080i HD services and still have room for 200-250 SD services. The cable co could/can and sometimes do compress far more video/audio or audio only services into their carriers and depending on the amount of compression the quality and integrity of the service may suffer. They CAN stuff/compress much more into their carriers as a means of stating that they offer more services to their customers - possible at the cost of said quality. They could put more carriers on the infrastructure to deal more with the trade-offs between number of services vs quality which is why being able to drop analog services and have much more spectrum/bandwidth for carriers that can carry many more digital services (due to compression) is/was a big deal for them. I also am not sure what you mean by "basically, they shrink the signal slightly," -- meaning that a QAM has less power/amplitude than older analog carriers, the transmission power of the off-air broadcast transmitters are a different output wattage now for a digital carrier (which is NOT QAM BTW) vs the analog transmission over the air? You also say that they "wipe out much of the "white space" between channels, because they can more accurately control the cross talk between signals in their controlled environment." You seem to be mixing two somewhat different things together here. The "white space" between channels is in the over-the-air transmissions from the broadcaster, cable has had there analog servies and then the digital/analog mix and now digital only carrier on adjacent carriers (efficient use of their spectrum/bandwidth) for decades.

            "However, to do this requires a digital decoder box. Yes, it also does allow the cable company to charge you for premium channels, makes it easier for users to order pay per view and other products, and makes the whole "cable descrambler" debate meaningless. They really aren't forcing things onto users, they are upgrading there systems to be able to offer more alternatives, more PPV movies, etc. Oh yeah, you know those instant PPV "start any time" deals that cable offers? Boxee would make those disappear too!"

            Premium services (HBO, etc), PPV, Video-On-Demand etc are most likely encrypted across the board by the cable co and satellite providers, etc so that YES they can charge for those additional services (part of the business model) but that area is NOT what Boxee is trying to keep available to Boxee's customers. Boxee and others are allowing the use of the broadcast channels that the cable companies are (by law -- called "Must Carry") including on their wire, that BY LAW currently must remain in the form with which they are transmitted. So if the broadcasters are transmitting them over the air in a "clear" unencrypted format, then they must be also "clear" unencrypted on the cable feed. They are not allowed to change other aspects of that video either such as they cannot remove the secondary audio (perhaps to save bandwidth???) or alter the copy control info (know by the acronym CCI) to be more restrictive than was in the broadcaster's over-the-air transmission. Actually adding encryption to each service consumes some bandwidth (albeit a fairly small amount per encrypted service).

            Boxee users or consumers with Televisions with an embedded QAM and/or ATSC (over-the-air) tuners should (AGAIN BY Law) be able to view those services and record them for their private use. What is/will continue to be against the law is for someone who does NOT pay for service of any kind from the cable co to climb the pole and connect a wire to their feed and use that without paying ("theft-of-service").

            But if a consumer is paying for service to their home then is it okay for them use another piece of hardware to utilize those broadcast services? I should think that it should continue to be okay -- it actually could make the cable service more valuable to some consumers.

             

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              BigKeithO (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:46pm

              Re: MANY Issues with your statements

              Owned Anonymous Coward. Try again.

               

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              Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:10pm

              Re: MANY Issues with your statements

              Much that is incorrect here. Yes the channels are digital now - however, with few exceptions that is NOT done by the Cable co, but done before transmission/uplink by the providers. Not directly compatible with regular TV tuners -- not sure what you mean here... that the signal is QAM and carriers digital services vs previous analog transmission to analog tuners?

              Don't confuse digital TV with digital transmission. While your TV OTA went to HD an digitial, it is still an analog radio signal with digital data in it. That is not a subject of debate.

              However, you can compress those signals such that you get more than 1 channel on a single analog transmission. Many PBS stations have 2 to 4 "channels" in a single signal.

              Now, what cable companies do is that they don't use full analog channels (what your TV would tune to), they use partial ones, compression schemes, and all sorts of other tricks to send more signal to you. What it means however is that your TV cannot directly receive the cable signal.

              Further, some cable companies have moved to a sort of "on demand" model, similar to IP TV - where the only signal sent to your receiver box is the particular channel you have currently selected. The actual "reception" is done further up the network, and dispatched to you on an individual case basis.

              There is so much here, hard to explain it all. Let's just say that you really should read up, because you pretty much missed it all.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 1:45pm

                Re: Re: MANY Issues with your statements

                But it's ALL QAM. At least mine is (TWC area). There is no analog transmission on cable anymore. I don't have a Boxee, but I do have a QAM capable TV set. I plug in the cable directly to my set (without a box) and I get my basic local channels (that I can get using an OTA ant) plus a few odd channels here and there.

                And I get these channels because FCC requires them to provide them to me per the 1996 Telecom Act.

                This is what the Cable Co wants to kill off. This is not just a Boxee issue, this is a ClearQAM issue. They want a monthly fee to lease you a box for every QAM capable device.

                 

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        Cort Burris, May 20th, 2012 @ 4:51pm

        Re: Re:

        The "future all digital world" has nothing to do with it, you ignoramus. Boxee is simply saying the cable companies shouldn't be able to put an encryption on basic cable, as encryption has NOTHING to do with digital anything! Most cable providers are trying to sneak S*!T in during the somewhat confusing digital transition of OTA broadcasts.


        Again encryption has NOTHING to do with the digital change over, these money grubbing bastards, only way to apply it so they can charge $10 per month per tv to rent OUTDATED, PROPRIETARY equipment, that will add little to nothing of value to the consumer.


        ---- oh comca$t, in order to prevent piracy, you want your ACTUAL customers to pay more for these stupid boxes, and not just the monthly rental price ($2-$10 per box)! i did the math and for the 7 TVs in my house, i'll pay an extra $60 per year because it takes over 600Kwh per year just to run the damn things!

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:10am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Mar 21st, 2012 @ 11:47pm

      Where is Fry when you need him

       

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      Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:10am

      Re:

      So if the phone companies companies decided to start encrypting the signals going over their wires, you would be all for it? They could force you to to rent a phone from them (again, like they did up through the 80s). Your nice desk phone with all the features would now be worthless - gotta rent a nice one from the phone company. Got a fax machine at home? It's now only useful as a paperweight - gotta rent one of those, too. Anyone still on dial up internet, well, they're screwed - guess that'll force them to pay for more expensive DSL, and kill off the competition for the telco too.

      So who's the one limiting choices? When I watch TV (live), from the cable TV subscription I pay for (because it would be nearly the same price to drop it and keep internet access), I'm doing it from my computer with a TV card. I don't see the point of spending money for a new TV when I already have a large high quality monitor and nice sound system setup already. I don't need to pay for a set top box, or a DVR, because that's just (free) software for a device a already own.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 4:41am

      Re:

      seriously? they're not changing the technology for delivering the cable. they just want to encrypt it. that not only will cause the signal to become *worse*, the only purpose is to block out third party boxes. i almost feel sad that this isn't a joke because of the horrible lack of logic and research.

      if they really want to change the way they deliver cable, then let them do something that actually adds value. Requiring a set-top box without offering anything useful (like you seem to think this implies somehow) is ridiculous.

      moreover basic cable is SUPPOSED TO BE FREE. This will remove the ability for that to be true. It's forcing individuals to pay for something that they already pay for through taxes. You're letting a company collect money for something that is provided for free to everybody.

      Seriously. You need to stop offering your opinion on things you don't understand. It reminds me that it really does seem that humanity is on a downward spiral.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:10am

      Re:

      Sorry cable companies, you cannot make the FCC allow you to further strengthen your monopolies using innovatice services or piracy as an excuse.

       

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      Matt H (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 6:39am

      Re:

      Wow...just wow! You must be a high-level executive at a cable company to even think your comment holds any water whatsoever.

      Boxee doesn't want TV providers to encrypt signals for channels that you should be able to get without a special decoder. This has nothing to do with technological advancements.

      Just as TVs were designed to operate on different "channels," so the next generation IPTV protocol should be interoperable with a host of devices. If I want to design and sell an IPTV receiver, then I should be able to plug it into any IPTV service and begin watching immediately. If TV providers want to encrypt non-broadcast channels, that's fine. But they also should be required to provide an extremely low cost decryption key that I can plug into any device of my choosing. In fact, that key should be provided free of charge. I'm already paying for the cable service. I shouldn't have to pay twice for the privilege of bringing my own receiving device.

      What a ridiculous notion.

       

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      Sade, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 7:14am

      Re:

      Dear Anonymous Coward
      Clearly you've either a) not read anything about this issue or B) are willfully ignorant.

      You're talking about a totally different technical issue. You are talking about digital transmission. Boxee is talking about encrypting the digital transmission.

      Boxee has publicly stated that it is in support of digital transmission (if the tuner is made by Hauppaugge then it might even be unable to detect Analog cable signals). This has nothing to do with the digital to analog transition. Which is happening, and will continue to happen regardless of the FCC issue.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:13pm

        Re: Re:

        No, again, you miss it - they aren't just digital as on over the air HD digital TV

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2012 @ 2:29pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Yes... They ARE ALL DIGITAL. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) even says so in the introduction of their filing to the FCC which states

          "The Commission has issued an NPRM that would amend the basic tier encryption rule to permit encryption in cable systems that have gone all-digital (i.e., eliminated analog service)."

          Notice the PAST TENSE in that sentence... "have gone all-digital"

           

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      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      Boxee needs to understand that they cannot dictate the way cable companies operate.


      They cannot dictate, no. And they aren't trying to. However, cable companies are a regulated monopoly. As a result, we, the public, absolutely do have a say in how they operate.

      What Boxee really wants is for cable companies to be forced to limit their technology, to require them to standard broadcast frequencies only, and for that to be the limit of what cable can do.


      No, what Boxee really wants is for the cable companies to not limit their own product in an attempt to abuse their monopoly position to stifle what they perceive as competition. Nothing more.

       

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      JEDIDIAH, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 12:36pm

      Pro-Corporate nonsense.

      You're an idiot. This isn't dictating anything to cable operators beyond what the FCC should already be doing. The requirements to deal with the current cable encryption regime are a blatantly obvious attempt to institutionalize the level of control a physical monopoly can exert over it's customers.

      Cable Card is a mockery of it's original intended public policy goals.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 1:17am

    FTA Box 50$ for a cheapo or a few hundred for a really gg one. A dish that works with it 25$ at your local pawn and gun lmao.

    Update that bad boy a few times a month and tell the cable companies to go choke on some dick right along with their counterparts dtv and d-network..

     

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    Someguy, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 1:29am

    Views from across the poind

    Here in Switzerland, we already see what encryption can bring. In my area, all cable signals are encrypted, so we are forced to rent boxes from our cable provider which has some interesting consequences.

    The basic service costs $7 per month and gets you a simple tuner with no HD capabilities and no video on demand. If you want HD, DVR, or VOD, the price very quickly rises.
    When I signed up, basic services were provided over a standard cable box. However, I recently had problems with the box and asked for a replacement. I was told, that they no longer support this box and that they could either send me a CI+ card that plugs into my TV at the same cost, or I could upgrade to the next level of service which costs roughly $25 per month. The problem is that CI+ is a relatively new standard and is only available on the newest TVs. In essence, I can either buy a new TV, or I can triple my monthly spend to the cable company to get services that I really don't want.

    One peculiarity of Switzerland is that contracts are generally automatically renewable on a yearly basis, meaning that there is effectively one day per year that you can get out of the contract without paying penalties and that day has recently passed for me. So much for consumer choice.

     

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      Seegras (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 3:08am

      Re: Views from across the poind

      Yes, I was actually astonished to hear that this malpractice we have here in switzerland is forbidden in the USA.

      Don't fall into the same (anti-competition) trap as we did here.

       

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    ChronoFish (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 2:55am

    You still pay for TV?

    Happily sans Cable since 2000.

    -CF

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 3:51am

    'that's no reason that the FCC has to simply roll over and break innovative devices and services like Boxee's'

    yes there is and that is because they can and because all they see is 'now'. they dont see 'tomoro'

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 4:26am

    What is cable?

    It has been years since I watched TV on a TV, mostly I just use Vimeo and Youtube.

    Actually I use Youtube as a use a dictionary, a visual dictionary.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 4:52am

    Well, here in germany the open private Channels broadcast their HD-Signal encrypted as well. So you have to buy an extra box, because this is a germany only encryption and tv manufactures dont put special recievers in their tv just for germany. Then they make you pay 70$ a year for HD. And for what. For the added bonus of no longer being able to forward through ads when you record it with the receiver. Its great.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:04am

    There is another issue here. Comcast recently switched their basic service in the Houston area (and I suspect others) to where all but the few local channels were now digital channels (requiring a box) to receive pretty much anything that wasn't available OTA. However they provided up to two free stripped down boxes that could be used to receive the basic service. Suddenlink (another provider in the outlying areas beyond Comcast's coverage) has done the same. With the digital transition for OTA broadcasts many people who had perfectly working older TVs with analog timers but were cable subscribers did not get digital boxes for OTA broadcasts since with cable they were not needed. The problem with adding the local channels to those that require a box is that it makes it that much more difficult to receive broadcast news during a natural disaster. Every level of complexity added is another point of failure that means another obstacle to overcome for the service to work. During disasters such as hurricanes that knock out services on a large scale, this will make getting critical information to people even more difficult.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:29am

    You'd think that SOMEONE in the cable in the industry would be willing to underprice the others by not raising their prices or encrypting their signals if this goes through, in order to get a price and convenience advantage over their competitors.

    You'd think that such a competitor would make this whole scam the cable companies are trying to get the FCC to approve to not be worth it, from all the tens or hundreds of thousands of customers they'd lose to such a cable company.

    The fact that there is no such cable company shows one of two things must be true.

    1) There clearly isn't enough competition among cable providers if they don't feel pressure to keep their prices low, or at least lower then their competitors.

    Or

    2) The cable companies are all violating anti-trust laws by getting together to push this rule the FCC, so that they can all raise their prices.

     

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      Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 5:44am

      Re:

      In general the cable companies do not have to worry about underpricing or adding value to their service. They generally swap out territories with other cable companies in their footprint, which is why you will see very little overlap between Comcast and TimeWarner and Cox Communications.

      Often there is only one choice for cable in a particular region or at best one big company and 2 or 3 smaller options at best. So no there is no real competition, with the exception that the Telcos have been pushing real hard for the past few years to get into the TV space and have succeeded to some degree, but they often bundle their service with their other products and make the mental transaction too high for the average consumer to consider switching to their service.

      The big issue is that the average consumer still views TV, Phone, Mobile, and Broadband as different services. It hasn't quite filtered down yet that COMMUNICATIONS is now pretty much unified under broadband. We're slowly getting there.

       

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    jedipunk (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 6:32am

    force folks to abandon

    force folks to abandon cable and find all the "free" stuff available, resulting in more pirates.

    dumbasses

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 8:09am

    Umm...couldn't I just splice the output from the cable decryption box into my Boxee somehow? I gotta use this electrical/computer engineering degree for something afterall...

     

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    Rich Fiscus (profile), Mar 22nd, 2012 @ 10:16pm

    The real irony here is that this ultimately decides nothing. The cable companies want to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Boxee is fighting to leave them where they are. Either way, the ship is going down. Neither side can change that. The real question is whether anyone can fix the gaping hole in the side before we have to start over with a new boat.

    That's a bigger job than anyone expected, but in retrospect it's really not surprising. The broadcast industry isn't controlled by cable companies or broadcasters. It's controlled by both of them together. They may not like or trust each other, but when it comes to real change they are united against it. In form they are a collection of companies in 2 separate but interrelated industries. Functionally they are a vertically integrated cartel.

    That does not, however, make them impervious to disruption. The reason every attempt so far, from companies like Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and even Boxee, has fallen short is because none of those companies had any leverage. You can't disrupt just the cable provider or just the network. You have to disrupt the whole system.

    For example, you might start by installing your own broadband Internet service, like say the one Google is building in Kansas City. Then perhaps you reach out to the networks to start your own pay TV service, which Google has also done. Then maybe you would buy a cable set-top box manufacturer, like Google is doing with Motorola Mobility. Now at this point you've taken the cable company out of the loop, but the networks can still ignore you, so you go one step further.

    Rather than setting up your antenna farm in Kansas City, which would be the most efficient way to deliver video, you locate it 270 miles away in Council Bluffs, Iowa. You do that because Council Bluffs is home to your closest datacenter. Perhaps the reason you chose Kansas City for your fiber network was the same reason you put your datacenter in Council Bluffs, which is right next to Omaha, Nebraska. Both are major hubs for Internet backbone connections, making the distance basically trivial.

    Now you have leverage. If your antenna farm is at your datacenter, odds are you were planning to offer a cloud based DVR and on demand service. If the networks don't want to play ball you can always let your customers upload their own videos to it.

    Which one would Warner Brothers prefer, people uploading their movies to the cloud or those same people paying to watch TV? Disney would probably be the hardest sell. They own ESPN which is the most expensive pay TV channel around and the biggest argument for a la carte channel selections, which I'm guessing Google is pushing for anyway. The point is, the networks will still see Google as the enemy, but uploading videos to the cloud is the real bogeyman.

    Of course Google is going to need a custom set-top box. They could get something off the shelf from Motorola, but why do that when you're already working on a box of your own. We already know Google is testing a streaming appliance and the rumor is Google Music will be its only service initially. The thing is, that doesn't really make sense.

    If you own YouTube, the single most popular streaming site in the world, why leave it off your appliance that connects to home theater equipment? Maybe it's really a Google Fiber set-top box and they know how much everybody in the TV business hates YouTube. Google Music isn't threatening. The networks aren't selling music and Google Music isn't serving video. Besides, it's just a substitute for the digital music channels everybody else is including with the cable and satellite packages.

    Now I could be completely wrong about Google. Maybe they haven't learned anything from Google TV's failure. But if I'm right and they have learned their lesson, the big revolution in TV may be right around the corner. Once they get their foot in the door, every pay TV provider in the country is going to start thinking about adding their own cloud services and the floodgates will open for Apple, Microsoft, and even Boxee.

    If I'm wrong, maybe it's a good time to pick up a lifejacket

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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