FCC Formally Kills Rules That Would Have Brought Competition To The Cable Box

from the competition-schmompetition dept

In early 2016, the cable industry quietly launched one of the most misleading and successful lobbying efforts in the industry’s history. The target? A plan concocted by the former FCC that would have let customers watch cable TV lineups on third-party hardware. Given the industry makes $21 billion annually in rental fees thanks to its cable box hardware monopoly, the industry got right to work with an absolute wave of disinformation, claiming that the FCC’s plan would put consumer data at risk, result in a “piracy apocalypse,” and was somehow even racist (it wasn’t).

At one point, the industry even managed to grab the help of the US Copyright Office, which falsely claimed that more cable box competition would somehow violate copyright. Of course the plan had nothing to do with copyright, and everything to do with control, exemplifying once again that for the US Copyright Office, public welfare can often be a distant afterthought.

Once in office, the Pai FCC dutifully got to work dismantling the Wheeler-era FCC proposal, coordinated with and justified by cable providers which promised their own “free market alternatives” would make the proposal irrelevant. More specifically, they promised that you’d be able to order Comcast or Spectrum’s cable lineup through an app, making cable boxes irrelevant. But this promised alternative never showed up:

“Last June, Big Cable made an appealing offer for viewers and regulators. Companies would provide consumers with free apps to watch TV rather than making them pay monthly fees for cable boxes. But the cable companies didn?t do this out of the kindness of their hearts ? they wanted to stop the Federal Communication Commission from passing regulations making them ship apps.

A year after that ?Ditch the Box? pledge, two things have changed. There?s now zero threat of federal regulators requiring cable operators to give subscribers free apps to replace rented boxes, and the industry?s ?Ditch the Box? plan seems to have disappeared.”

Funny how that works. This week the FCC put the finishing touches on scuttling the proposal, while also eliminating the need for cable providers to support CableCARD, technology that lets you avoid buying a traditional cable provider cable box, and instead using hardware like TiVo. It’s a tech the industry always under-supported because it took revenue away from cable box rentals. And now that too is largely dead, buried under (false) claims it was no longer necessary because streaming is now so gosh darn competitive:

“In explaining why it killed off Wheeler?s plan for good last week, the FCC largely regurgitated cable industry talking points. The agency said it had ?serious and unresolved concerns? about security and copyright protection (concerns that consumer advocacy groups have disputed), and reiterated the same argument it used against CableCARD: Customers already have the ability to watch cable programming on their streaming devices, so there?s no need for more regulatory intervention.”

While it’s true that streaming providers have brought some helpful competition to the sector, much of the content is still owned by consolidated telecom/cable/media giants like AT&T Time Warner and Comcast NBC Universal. And while they’re very slowly losing their dominance thanks to cord cutters, these gatekeepers have enough power that they’re still doing everything in their power to lock you inside their walled gardens, tracked by their data tracking systems, using clunky old cable boxes if you want the “best experience”:

“Sure, if you?re a Comcast subscriber, you can use the Xfinity Stream app in place of a cable box on Roku devices, Samsung TVs, and LG TVs. But that same app isn?t available on other streaming platforms such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, or Chromecast. A report last year by BestAppleTV claimed that Comcast is more interested in building up its own X1 platform than supporting more third-party alternatives such as Apple TV, and while Comcast disputed the story, it hasn?t launched any new streaming apps in more than a year.

Likewise, if you?re getting TV service through Spectrum, you can use the Spectrum app on Roku, Apple TV, Samsung TVs, and Xbox One consoles, but not on Fire TV, Android TV, or Chromecast. Meanwhile, Dish Network only offers live TV and DVR on Amazon Fire TV devices.”

The ideal solution to this problem continues to be to vote with your wallet and cut the cord. But for those who can’t do so (due to a desire to watch live sports, or lack of a fast, uncapped broadband line for streaming), you’re still going to find yourself stuck, more often than not, renting a dated, crappy, expensive, locked-down cable box. And with the FCC’s help, the cable industry continues to work overtime to ensure that’s the most expensive proposition possible, charging you major monthly fees to use their cheap, clunky, proprietary, locked-down hardware.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “FCC Formally Kills Rules That Would Have Brought Competition To The Cable Box”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
dfH says:

Re: The beauty of being a regulator

The beauty of being a regulator is a guaranteed fat-paycheck & no penalty for doing a lousy job.

Plus, there’s zero competition in your line of work and you have an absolute monopoly over your customers (the American people).

There is no escape from the whims and malice of Federal regulators.
(at least one can refuse to deal with cable TV companies)

That One Guy (profile) says:

'I'm sure they'll follow through THIS time...'

Forget the atomic clock, if you want something you can really set your watch to one need only look at the cable industry, which will agree to any requirements, make any promise, or agree to any deal only to back out the second they get what they wanted and refuse to uphold their end of the deal.

If I believed for one second that the politicians and the FCC members involved weren’t corrupt as hell I’d have to assume that they were far, far too stupid to do the jobs, because at this point even the most basic of pattern recognition would have let someone know how their ‘trade’ was going to work out here.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Everything’s racist anymore. Corona is killing people (well, you knew it was killing the wrong people.) But, says the Guardian in an article about how it was killing doctors and nurses (they use the euphemism "health care workers") … it turns out–who could have known?–it was also killing members of the wrong races (it used the euphemism "people of color", although to be consistent it should have been "color people" or "workers of care of health") even among HCW’s.

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to take that. Does the Guardian think it’s all right to kill off workers so long as only people out of color are killed? Does the Guardian think someone thinks it doesn’t matter how many POOC’s are killed so long as a (disproportionately small) percentage of POC’s are also killed?

Apparently, even death and taxes are inherently racist…. The concept of something being not racist but yet still evil, seems to have been lost somewhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

who's to blame

"A government of the people, by the people, for the people"
If the government is refusing to allow proper competition in the ISP space, then it’s up to the "governed" people to correct this.

  1. boycott
  2. local municipal ISP
  3. put the issue on the quarterly local ballots
  4. twitter -actually use social media for something good for once

There’s any number of ways for us to get from under this rock, but honestly who really cares?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: who's to blame

1 – Not a viable option for a great many people, who are in the position of getting internet service from a major ISP or not getting internet service at all.

2 – See Point 1 if you mean ‘switch to’, see major ISP’s making it crushingly difficult for local muni’s to crop up, whether that be lying through their teeth about how terrible they are or simply buying politicians in order to pass laws making such things illegal.

3 & 4 – Getting more attention on the issue and putting pressure on politicians to stop screwing over the public are both good ideas, but anyone going that route needs to keep in mind that it is going to be a heavily tilted uphill battle as the amounts of the ‘donations’ that ISP’s throw around is hardly trivial and has great sway with those writing the laws who are going to be extremely hesitatant to do anything that might threaten those ‘donations’. It’s a battle worth fighting to be sure, but it’s one in which the public basically has a BB gun while the opposing forces have artillery and fortified positions, making for one hell of a one-sided battlefield.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: who's to blame

So because it’s difficult, don’t do it…I can dig it.

That BB gun that you reference is, in fact, the same ammunition that is utilized by the big ISP’s and their lobbyists: $money$
We pay they ISPs & their lobbyists
We pay the politicians via taxes
We are the ones responsible for allowing this crap to continue because We don’t care enough about the issue to change it. No worries though, Bernie and AOC will make internet access free -in the US at least- one day <YEAH, RIGHT>.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: who's to blame

So because it’s difficult, don’t do it…I can dig it.

The hallucinatory version of me in your head certainly sounds like a strange one, thankfully it doesn’t match the real me or that would be a problematic rebuttal to address rather than a simple reminder to clear up your strawman after you’re done with it.

That BB gun that you reference is, in fact, the same ammunition that is utilized by the big ISP’s and their lobbyists: $money$

In the same way that a homeless man with $5 to their name has the same ammo as a billionaire, sure.

We pay they ISPs & their lobbyists

Said the person using the internet to make his argument, and is therefore one of the lucky ones who has a meaningful choice as to which ISP to pay and has one of the good ones on the list, or is hypocritically calling for boycotts that you aren’t willing to do yourself. So, out of curiosity, is it dumb luck or hypocrisy?

We pay the politicians via taxes

Indirectly, and to a scale that the individual ‘pay’ per person is minuscule, compared to the very real, very large donations from individual companies. Of the two one of those is likely to have a lot more impact than the other in influencing a politician, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which.

We are the ones responsible for allowing this crap to continue because We don’t care enough about the issue to change it. No worries though, Bernie and AOC will make internet access free -in the US at least- one day <YEAH, RIGHT>.

One sec, need to pull out the political buzzword bingo card and fill in the AOC and Bernie boxes…

… And done, thanks for the two-fer.

Now then, back to what sliver of an argument actually was in that comment before it jumped the rails, the public has some of the blame and could do more, but it’s important to realize and accept that the playing field is heavily tilted in favor of the entrenched businesses, who are able to throw around piles of money and don’t particularly care who gets it so long as the winner owes them. When every choice at the voting booth is compromised there’s only so much the public can do, all the more so when you factor in that even if you get a good candidate unless it’s for a local position odds are good they’re going to be working alongside others that you didn’t get to vote for, who might be quite happy with the ‘donations’ they got, making for a difficult path for getting anything meaningful changed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 who's to blame

Aside from condescending verbosity, what would you suggest to change the status quo?
If the producer increases the price of a product/service, the consumer has about 3 options:
-pay the increased price
-refuse the price hike and go without
-create their own competing product/service
You make it sound as if there are no options other than to accept the lack of ISP competition, and you are wrong. Just because odds are stacked against us, does not mean that the war is not worth fighting. With your mentality, the US would still be a British colony. Similarly, why did Southern Blacks fight (and get arrested and killed) for equal rights? They should have just acquiesced since the odds were stacked against their poor, uneducated, outnumbered [m]asses. Right?
Deep Friday Thought: There’s no progress without pain.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 who's to blame

"If the producer increases the price of a product/service, the consumer has about 3 options:
-pay the increased price
-refuse the price hike and go without
-create their own competing product/service"

You forgot 4: have effective government regulation to force competition and real consumer choice, as has worked very well outside of the US. But you can’t have that apparently because it’s "socialism".

"Similarly, why did Southern Blacks fight (and get arrested and killed) for equal rights?"

I love the fact that under current circumstances, you think that belongs in the past tense.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: who's to blame


OK, which means that a bunch of people no longer have internet access due to the monopolies, thus limited access to various commercial and government services, to the point of not being able to apply for certain jobs or pay certain bills.

"local municipal ISP"

A great choice, if you ignore the fact that in some places the incumbents have successfully pushed for that to be outlawed.

"put the issue on the quarterly local ballots"

OK, I’ll admit I’m not up to date on US politics, but quarterly ballots? really?

"twitter -actually use social media for something good for once"

…and compete for attention against the AT&T bot farm? Yeah that will go well….

"There’s any number of ways for us to get from under this rock"

But, the way that makes the most sense and is most effective – real government oversight and real competition – is not a choice according to these people.

"who really cares"

The people who get reamed for inferior service?

Great_Scott (profile) says:

It will all work out!

While it’s bad that CableCARD was completely killed off, it was too difficult for most people to get working already.

The FCC is, in a weird way, helping people transition to streaming services. Which might seem helpful but won’t be in the longer term as many in the US get Internet service from cable providers.

I’ve recently started to realize that streaming providers like Netflix are transitional, in that television-style programming is on the way out, no matter how it reaches your eyeballs.

Fortunately so, as it seems clear that Cable providers will simply take the fees in another way once cord-cutting is complete.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It will all work out!

While it’s bad that CableCARD was completely killed off, it was too difficult for most people to get working already.

No it wasn’t. People are just lazy, entitled to willful arrogance, and didn’t want the extra step (read: unspeakable horror) of installing something on a computer manually. Anything that tries this in the US will fail. We’ve trained them all to be apathetic toward technology literacy.

pixelm (profile) says:

Great Scott has it righ

Carl – you have to think about the ecosystem, not cable boxes. If you are concerned about ISP competition, you need to introduce ISP competition.

The point about the price of a cable box ignores the fact that the box is a part of a complete system, and there are expensive lobbyists both pushing FOR and AGAINST this proposal. If ISPs are really monopolists, then post regulation, they would have given the boxes away free and charged more for the cable programming bundle. It’s really no difference to an ISP.

On the other hand, impose new regulations requiring that the cable system allow third party boxes, and third parties are going to give away the boxes (or incorporated the technology in another device), but sell advertising against content they don’t pay for. Cable operators pay billions for content – wouldn’t it be great to sell ads and not have to pay? And on top of it get more $$$ for viewing data, and selling Search Engine Optimization services to cable programmers? And perhaps steering viewers to their own services?

The proposal would have been a massive transfer of value to different monopolists and would have accelerated the decline of the cable ecosystem.

Sure OTT is coming fast – not fast enough for the big tech companies which get a cut of every click, view and search online.

Bartonhqw (user link) says:

mature russian mom

Mining and How does it do this

You’ve heard of cryptocurrency mining when miners use hardware with high computational power to solve complex numerical puzzles.

traditional cryptocurrency mining needs no further elaboration, But wood a cryptocurrency can be "Pre mined, heaps of cryptocurrencies are pre mined before their eventual public release.

Cryptocurrency pre mining refers back to the act of mining and distributing a cryptocurrency before it officially launches to the public. Pre mining exists for you to "bonus" web developers and investors of a blockchain project, unique before a cryptocurrency’s initial coin offering (ICO) On an shift.

so how exactly Pre Mining Work?

Pre mining is usually the reserve of the developers. they cook a cryptocurrency for a specific blockchain protocol, Then send it to the works on or wallets of the cryptocurrency’s team of founders, web developers, And merchants. After a given time-frame, The cryptocurrency is released to people’s or other miners alongside its ICO or launch date.

why people love Pre Mining Crypto

Cryptocurrency pre mining is seen as a way to reward those part of launching a new cryptocurrency project. Distributing pre mined tokens can be viewed as similar to a company’s giving away stocks to its employees before an IPO.

Developers devote a significant amount of their determination to the creation of a cryptocurrency, So it makes sense to reserve them a portion before a public release. This practice also serves as an economic incentive for the team behind a project. If they receive many benefits, They have a propensity to be motivated to develop the technology further and make it work in the long run.

Pre mining may also be viewed as a marketing activity. When investors and supporters of a new cryptocurrency project receive pre mined tokens and examine them, It generates thrill, Potentially raising the cost of a coin before its launch.

the disadvantages of Pre Mining Crypto

gradually, Pre mining has gained a negative good reputation in the cryptocurrency community. This is because it is seen as <a href=https://www.love-sites.com/signs-that-you-can-recognise-when-a-vietnamese-lady-is-into-you/>how to tell if a vietnamese woman likes you</a> an easy channel to orchestrate a pump and dump scheme, when a cryptocurrency initially low in price is hyped up by scammers to inflate its price. you must, When its cost is high, scammers usually pull the rug and sell their holdings for big profits.

The fact that a select group of people have exclusive access to a limited number of coins also highlights unfairness within the cryptocurrency community and a lack of transparency.

research study: ripple (XRP)

One cryptocurrency cited as an infamous type of a pre mining is Ripple (XRP).

At the time of its launch keep away from 2012, One hundred percent of XRP had been pre mined, Which at the time was worth $100 billion.

all the same, It was later claimed that RippleLabs, The beginning team behind Ripple (And co proprietors Bradley Garlinghouse, christian A. Larsen, and also Jed McCaleb), Allegedly watched 50 to 70 percent of XRP’s supply. the organization arose more suspicion when McCaleb announced his departure from Ripple Labs in 2014, following he began selling colossal amounts of XRP.

based on analytics tracker Whale Alert, McCaleb sold dozens billion XRP between 2014 and 2019, Pocketing near $135 million. as part of 2020, He sold another 1.2 thousand XRP and cashed out $411 million. McCaleb’s multiple XRP sales greatly eroded self confidence in the cryptocurrency and sent XRP’s price crashing. an example, It plummeted 40% to a record low of $0.0023 in may possibly 2014. to March 2018, It dropped below $0.60 after an all-time high of $3.40 just two months preceding, pertaining to each CoinGecko.

This ticking time bomb regarding XRP exploded in December 2020: The SEC filed a lawsuit against Ripple for selling over 14.6 billion XRP for personal financial gain. as well as, the sec alleges that Garlinghouse and Larsen made $600 million, assisting XRP’s sales.

As of producing, Garlinghouse told CNBC that the SEC’s look for is making "Good expansion, And it probably will conclude by 2022.

3 Pre Mined Token ideas

Ripple’s case illustrates the high risks of investing in a pre mined cryptocurrency project and how easy it is for developers to commit fraudulent practices. but yet, even after Ripple, A few of the most successful cryptocurrencies by market capitalization today were pre mined:

  1. Ethereum (ETH) Ether, the second largest cryptocurrency, is acknowledged for being a pre mined coin. Before its brand new hair tool in 2015, 72 million Ether coins were pre found. difficulties ten percent of the total went to co founders; Ten percent went to the Ethereum platform, And the remaining 80 percent, aka 60 million, Were sold to people’s, Per Ether understand.

evaluation of your situation pre mine Ether at the time came under fire from Bitcoin entrepreneur Matt Odell, Who criticized the move for Ethereum’s stakeholders to hoard more money. though, Founder Vitalik Buterin defended choosing one:2. Cardano (ada) comparing 2015 and 2017, Cardano had what it means as a "Pre introduction sales event, by which 25,927,070,538 ADA loose change and 5,185,414,108 ADA vouchers were sold to the populace.

  1. IOTA (MIOTA) IOTA is known for being a "Cryptocurrency and not using a blockchain, It was one hundred percent pre mined, But IOTA claims that each one MIOTA coins were sold ahead of its 2015 ICO. Founders and developers kept none and had to buy them just like regular members of you.

are you able Trust a Pre Mined Cryptocurrency? although a lot of cryptocurrencies circulating today were pre mined, That practice is now widely shunned by the cryptocurrency and blockchain society. but bear in mind, Pre mining has yet to be deleted, And some new cryptocurrency projects still opt for it for business purposes. as a result, Pre mining as a whole certainly raises questions about the ethics behind the practice and value of trust between founders, makers, Early dividend-paying stocks, since the wider public.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...