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FCC Extends Set-Top Box Deadline 200

Posted by Zonk
from the just-a-little-longer dept.
Kadin2048 writes "The FCC today announced that it was once again rolling back the date (PDF!) for the eventual ban of "integrated set-top boxes" distributed and leased by cable companies to consumers, from 2006 to 2007. The move was a slight nod to the cable providers, who wanted the ban removed altogether, and a minor setback to the consumer electronics industry, who would have preferred that it stay on schedule. The ban would prevent the largest cable companies from integrating their digital content security devices with their navigation devices, allowing consumers to 'mix and match' the navigation or DVR set-top-box of their choice with a standard CableCARD security interface device. Currently, most digital cable set top boxes combine these two functions, meaning that digital cable customers who want DVR functionality must rent one from their cable company. By preventing the cable companies from leasing them to end-users, the FCC hopes to foster competition in the set-top-box market and allow more consumer choice. A statement from FCC Commissioner Johnathan Adelstein (PDF) was released simultaneously. The battle has been carefully watched by all the major players in the entertainment and electronics markets, including Microsoft, which had previously weighed in on the side of the consumer electronics camp (pro-deadline), but then later agreed with the one-year extension."
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FCC Extends Set-Top Box Deadline

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    to work with my Charter Digital Cable, is it too much to ask?
    • I have no problem using my standalone TIVO with Charter Digital cable. Whats seems to be your issue?
      • I am assuming he wants his TiVo to work just as the DirecTivo units work. Single box, containing multiple tuners that can record the digital signal directly, w/o the use of a cable box and either serial control or IR blaster. (At least, thats what I want from my TiVo/Comcast digital cable).
        • by OwnedByTwoCats (124103) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:44PM (#11977193)
          You didn't say it directly, but it's worth bringing out: Stand-alone TiVo's record an analog signal, and digitize it and compress it itself.

          DirecTiVo takes the digital stream from the satellite and writes it to hard disk.

          Wouldn't it be nice if I could buy a box, hook it up to my cable service, plug in an authentication module provided by the cable service, and record their digital stream directly to hard disk? Why do I have to rent their box which only has analog outputs, control it with an IR dongle, and have the digital signal go through decompression, d-to-a, a-to-d, and compression again?
          • You didn't say it directly, but it's worth bringing out: Stand-alone TiVo's record an analog signal, and digitize it and compress it itself.


            Yeah. That's pretty much what I implied, but not stated.
          • You didn't say it directly, but it's worth bringing out: Stand-alone TiVo's record an analog signal, and digitize it and compress it itself.

            In early 2006, a TiVo is coming out [tivo.com] that allows this [com.com]. CableCARD is what you desire. A dual tuner CableCARD TiVo will be released that will be compatible with all (U.S., not sure about the rest of you) cable/digital cable standards, QAM [wikipedia.org]. I can't seem to dig up pictures of it now, but a prototype was shown at the most recent CES.

            I'm sure that for these, the digital str
            • In early 2006, a TiVo is coming out that allows this. CableCARD is what you desire. A dual tuner CableCARD TiVo will be released that will be compatible with all cable/digital cable standards, QAM.

              From the Article Brief:
              The ban would prevent the largest cable companies from integrating their digital content security devices with their navigation devices, allowing consumers to 'mix and match' the navigation or DVR set-top-box of their choice with a standard CableCARD security interface device.

              If I under
        • This is what I'm talking about as well. Right now I'd need to rent Charter's PVR and almost all the reviews I've read about them are negative.
    • This actually makes sense. Are you certain the FCC is behind it?
    • I don't know about Charter, but Cox and Time Warner uses Scientific Atlanta DVRs. There is a location on Scientific Atlanta's site [powertv.com] that contains all of the API's and tools that you need to build a controller. IF you do this, then you can connect their DVR to your computer and use the computer to control the DVR. The Scientific Atlanta boxes have Digital out, so you can control the box to play out everything that was recorded that day at midnight and record the uncompressed / non-encrypted signal directly t
      • Charter, at least here in metro Atlanta, uses the Motorola DCT-6200 series boxes (same as Comcast). They provide a FireWire interface, but no real documentation of how to use it.

        Using Mac OS 10.3, I can control it from my Mac and record the MPEG2 transport stream onto the Mac's hard drive. Linux geeks can use lib1394 and VLC.
  • hmm (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tsalaroth (798327) <tsal@arikel.net> on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:22PM (#11976955) Homepage Journal
    I still think they should force the cable companies to allow third-party boxes, using open standards (even new ones).
  • altho.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ledora (611009) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:22PM (#11976960)
    altho I am glad to see the FCC doing something to benfit the consumer, I really wonder if this is their place. it sounds to me like it is a "monpoly" type issue and should have been taken up with the FTC. But like the FCC rules to make broadcasters switch to digital I really wonder if this is the goverments place at all to be.
    • Re:altho.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by SmokeHalo (783772) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:44PM (#11977195)
      From TFA (CableCard link):

      Why is the FCC interested in CableCard? The FCC has been promoting the transition from analog programming to digital programming as it looks to free up the spectrum used by analog television broadcasts. CableCard is supposed to help speed up the transition by making it easier and cheaper for consumers to access digital programming.

      And there you have it. The FCC is looking to clean house in order to make room for more signals.
  • are we hosed? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:23PM (#11976971)
    I thought the FCC would actually take the opposing side of the Cable providers. Looks as if that's not so -- maybe the FCC should visit the homes of the top cable provider executives, get on their knees, and just finish what they're currently doing.

    For the love of Jesus, let the consumers win for once.
    • Re:are we hosed? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrchaotica (681592)
      As long as HDTV DRM is allowed to stand, we're hosed either way.
    • Re:are we hosed? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      For the love of Jesus, let the consumers win for once.

      Not going to happen. Time Warner, Cablevision, Comcast and all the others have already paid their bribes [opensecrets.org] to the FCC monkeys' bosses, they're going to get results.
  • by Sheetrock (152993) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:23PM (#11976972) Homepage Journal
    The cost of cable, while high, does not adequately cover the cost of cable programming; commercials do that. But if they're handing out devices that conveniently skip commercials they're decreasing the value of advertising, undercutting the ability of networks to deliver quality programming.

    This glut of reality TV ain't just because it's fun and interesting to watch average people compete for big dollars in unrealistic scenarios. There just isn't money to produce cool shows like Farscape or Friends anymore.

    • by geminidomino (614729) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:29PM (#11977028) Journal
      I disagree. The money IS there. It's just that their broken business model doesn't support it.

      People will pay big money for TV shows they've never seen on DVD. My cable company didn't start offering The SciFi Channel until well into Farscape Season 4, so I never saw it. Now I have all 4 seasons + Peacekeeper Wars on DVD, total cost: about $450

      On the other hand, I just cancelled my $50/mo cable service (no digital) because other than 1/2 hour of Family Guy every weeknight, there was nothing worth watching that wasn't festering crap.
    • This glut of reality TV ain't just because it's fun and interesting to watch average people compete for big dollars in unrealistic scenarios. There just isn't money to produce cool shows like Farscape or Friends anymore.

      No, they're popular because people watch the damned things. If there were no ratings for so-called 'reality' TV, it would be off the air.

      The fact that it's cheaper for them to make reality shows doesn't mean there's no money for other shows, it means they make bigger profits from hugely s

      • The true irony is that the actors are the ones responsible - reality TV was a small Niche, but due to the looming (SAG?) strike a few years ago, TV producers started working on a lot more reality tv, since everyone expected the strike to last for a while. It didn't occur at all, IIRC, but the groundwork had already been done.
    • undercutting the ability of networks to deliver quality programming.

      I'm don't really think that there was ever really "quality programming" on a large scale... About the only tv I have watched after the age of 12 was the Simpsons. Those in the tv industry are used to being grossly overpaid. Now that providers are lossing revinue from ads actors pay checks may actually come closer to relecting their worth.

      Incedently, I think that the line between the tv and the computer is going to be blurring in the

    • yeah, 'cause Friends was SUCH a GREAT SHOW...
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:24PM (#11976979) Homepage Journal
    Pushing back the deadline buys the cable companies more time to throw it out altogether. It's standard corporate legal strategy, where the only strategy is short-term - one after another.
  • Why ban cable companies from being able to provide set top boxes? ALLOW customers to have the choice. If they want to buy their own set top box for what ever price they are sold for let them. If they would prefer not to invest a bunch of money into the box then let them lease a cable box.
    • Re:Why ban them? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dreamt (14798) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:37PM (#11977108)
      Its a ban from cables boxes that are not CableCard (or whatever they want to call it) enabled. It (essentially) means that instead of the cable box "decrypting" the signal AND being a tuner, it must have a seperate entity that is responsible for each of those functions. This means that other standard equiment can handle the "tuner" portion. The "decrypting" part is plugged into the tuner, just as the "decrypting" part would be plugged into a TiVo, HDTV or other standard item.
      • Re:Why ban them? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Lumpy (12016)
        The hard part about that....

        getting Motorola, scientific atlanta, and jerrold to quit being assholes and settle on one standard for digital TV and encryption.

        right now if you plug a SA box in a Motorola headend's cable feed you get NOTHING. it is intentionally incompatable (motorola's fault.) Instead of following a digital standard like DVB, the one that the rest of the world uses... the United states uses something that is utter crap, intentionally broken and screwed up by the morons at Motorola, Jerrold
  • Canadians (Score:3, Interesting)

    by teknokracy (660401) <teknokracy&telus,net> on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:28PM (#11977012)
    Examples like this do make me wish the FCC had control over Canada. The CRTC only seem to care about Canadian content percentages on our stations, and not about competition, innovation, or anything that makes sense. Maybe if more Canadian shows and artists were GOOD, we wouldn't have to baby them on to the scene with handouts.
    • But... Canada produced such wonderful actors as William Shatner! How could they go wrong with that kind of talent?!
      • Silly American. William Shatner is the kind of artist that we Canadians export. We keep the really talented folks for ourselves.;)
        • Shatner was bad enough (though Star Trek might not have worked as well if he could act).

          Celine Deion and SHania Twain were acts of war.

          Just wait until we retaliate . . .

          :)

          hawk

    • Actually, the CanCon laws are there because it's is cheaper simply to purchase American content than it is to produce Canadian content.

      Channels like Global, which produces very little visible Canadian content, would love to stuff their schedule with nothing but american programming. It would be alot cheaper for them.

      So, it's not a matter of Canadian shows "sucking", it's more a matter of a proverbial "Wal-Mart" rolling into town and crushing everything else with cheap garbage.
  • Cable Boxes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:28PM (#11977017)
    Frankly I hate the cable boxes the cable company offers.

    I liked the good old days when the sign can and I could split it to my 2 TVs.

    Now they think I should buy/rent two cable boxes - one for each TV.

    Now that I have a TV that has Side by Side picture they think I should have two cable boxes for that one TV.

    It is geating crazy. My TV has a built in decoder for basic channels.

    Stop these stupid cable boxes!!!! just send the whole signal to my house and allow me to buy spliter and such as I see fit.
    • You gotta love it. Video technology is increasing at a pretty good pace, but the blasted fucking digital cable box is several years behind.

      The only advancement I've seen is the Video on Demand. I like it.

      But, we have first person shooter games with gazillions of polygons, insane refresh rate, yet they can't make a cable box menu(in my case Motorola's), scroll fast enough.

      Someday I want a Hauppage digital cable tuner PCI card so I can watch all the cable channels in my bedroom. And please, clean signal.
    • Re:Cable Boxes (Score:3, Informative)

      by Scyber (539694)
      Well one reason cable companies like to use digital channels is b/c they can fit more channels in the same amount of bandwidth.

      I also think that the Cable company is required to send OTA (over the air) network channels un-encrypted over the cable wire. So you should at least be able to get the Networks.
    • Re:Cable Boxes (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sxmjmae (809464)
      Right.
      It would be nice if the cable companies would sell you the signal, be it HDTV or whatever, and then it was yours to do with what you want.

      The Cable Company could offer to sell/rent you a main decoder box. That way you would just have one device to decode the singal and you could split it to as many TVs as you want after that.

      If the cable companies where smart they would base their main decoder box on an open standard so you could buy 3rd party devices if you really wanted some special features. Th
  • And use MythTV, or any of the other OS PVR software.
  • by hackstraw (262471) * on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:34PM (#11977068)

    but no choice in cable providers.

    Personally, I would prefer the latter to the former.
  • by daves (23318)
    If they want competition, they should eliminate the broadcast flag [eff.org].
  • Can someone (an American) please explain to this Canadian what a cable box is?

    cable just comes out of the wall straight into my TV i dont need a box. there is box on the outside of the house, but thats a junction box.
    • Can someone (an American) please explain to this Canadian what a cable box is?

      It's a set top box that you change channels with. Most American TVs are also "cable ready" (where the coax goes directly into the set). But for whatever reason you can not pick up the full compliment of channels with this from most providers. Someone more into cable will have the answer to that. I guess it's because the set top box is the only way they currently have to break down the subscriber selects, leaving the unsubscribed
    • a cable box is the decoder that descrambles (or in the case of Digital TV decodes) the content coming down the wire and then transfers it to the TV. In digital cable, it also allows for a channel guide and optionally, on demand features
    • Can someone (an American) please explain to this Canadian what a cable box is? cable just comes out of the wall straight into my TV i dont need a box. there is box on the outside of the house, but thats a junction box.

      Yes, with standard analog cable, you can still do this in the states; just hook the cable to your TV or VCR. However, many areas have switched to digital cable; and since most TV sets don't have digital tuners, you need the box from the cable company to decode the signal. Which also means
    • Gather round kids, this 30yr old is gonna tell a tall tale....

      In stone age times, before the Internet, even before remote control was standard gear, just about every TV only went from Channels 2-13.

      So to get the channel #s that went higher, you'd plug in the cable box, leave the TV tuned to channel 3, and use the box for your channel switching needs. They either had a button for each channel, or a slider.

      We still had to get up to turn the TV on or adjust the volume, but if you had a good cable box, it ha

      • while that limitation was probably part of the reason for set top boxes, it doesn't tell the whole story. TVs now can go up as high as they need to so the boxes should be optional. If your TV can go high enough, it shouldn't need the box. Cable Companies got all paranoid about stealing cable and providing premium services. As has been said before, the box now also descrambles protected signals and provides interactive guides. It also acts as a tuner, which makes the tuner already in your TV somewhat re
      • Gather round kids, this 30yr old is gonna tell a tall tale....

        In stone age times, before the Internet, even before remote control was standard gear, just about every TV only went from Channels 2-13.


        One 30yr old to another: don't you remember UHF?
    • Can someone (an American) please explain to this Canadian what a cable box is?

      Obviously you haven't been out much. I'm Canadian, and yes, if you order your basic Rogers or Shaw cable, you can plug that directly into your TV.

      But you want DirecTV, Look, StarChoice or the digital offerings from Rogers or Shaw? Need a box to decode those signals, and you can only get it from your provider.

      Means that decoder can only understand one channel at a time. It means no split screen. It means you can't record a s
      • > Generally the theme here is that all this wonderful technology is actually providing us with less service and flexibility than we used to have.

        Yes, but the advantage of digital cable is you watch it so much more. It takes at least five times as long to discover there's nothing on.

    • I didn't see anyone mention that a cable box is REQUIRED to get the "pay channels" that don't show commercials such as HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. If you tune to those channels without a cable box, you may get some audio but the video is green and purple and twists and warps all over your screen.
  • Pushing the cablecard back another year means that Microsoft just has to play a waiting game for Tivo to go bankrupt or become irrelevant in this market. Pushing this back another year probably makes it difficult for tivo to survive.
  • Visit the office of your local cable provider executive, drop to your knees, open mouth, and take it from there. When will the consumer get ahead in any of this?
  • I know we hate Michael Powell, but have we made up our minds on this guy yet?

    A statement from FCC Commissioner Johnathan Adelstein
    • I know we hate Michael Powell, but have we made up our minds on this guy yet?

      Wait a minute, I thought we hated people who assumed everybody on slashdot thought the same way about everything?

      I'm confused. Where do I report for hive-mind re-programming?
    • Adelstein inagurated his term on the FCC by jamming live onstage (on harmonica) with one of the Chambers Brothers on C-SPAN so he can't be all bad, can he?

      (Although the late Republican operative Lee Atwater supposedly play blues guitar so maybe that's not an iron-clad guarantee. At least Adelstein isn't a Republican.)

  • Jurisdiction? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by null etc. (524767) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:44PM (#11977205)
    I'm surprised that everyone is letting the FCC get away with this. Since when do they have the authority to mandate the business model of cable companies? Pretty soon they'll be telling mobile phone providers that they can't lock their phone or use proprietary technologies.

    I, as a consumer, personally like the choice that these decisions are providing to consumers, but I disagree that the FCC should be involved.

    • The difference between cell phone providers and cable companies is that the cable companies are local monopolies. In my area (and yours too) you have to buy from whichever cable company is in your market. I think it's entirely reasonable to expect some regulation in exchange for a protected market.
      • Cable companies are a pretty limited monopoly. Nearly anywhere you can get cable you can also get satelite. Maybe not so much for renters, but most people can choose between Dish Network, DirecTV and the local cable company. The only real edge the cable company has in that marketspace is the ability to also provide broadband internet service. I think it is very poor policy to dictate the development of technology. History has always shown that government standards inevitably lead to uniform mediocracy.
      • The difference between cell phone providers and cable companies is that the cable companies are local monopolies. In my area (and yours too) you have to buy from whichever cable company is in your market. I think it's entirely reasonable to expect some regulation in exchange for a protected market.

        You know, I think this statement applies adequately to telephone service providers (the Baby Bells), but I'm not sure I feel the same way about the cable companies. The difference is that when the Bells (AT

  • CableCards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wwonka74 (861731) on Friday March 18, 2005 @01:57PM (#11977313)
    I'm sure this was also pushed back because the manufacturers of devices with cablecard technology still do not have all their ducks in a row. My local cableco supports and provides cablecards to customer's that would rather have them but the lack of 2-way communication certain niceties are ousted like the digital guide and pay per view(which is why I _enjoy_ the box in the first place). Our local cable company allowed customers to purchase their own HD converter boxes at local retailers and it was toppled because customers deemed the $350 price tag on the HD boxes outrageous so the cable company picked up the tab, ordered a slew of boxes and now leases them. Complaints about the use of set-top boxes need to be directed at the manufacturers of Televisions/VCRs and DVRs. They are the ones having most of the issues with compatibilty. Ask anyone with a Sony WEGA or a Mitsubishi TV how well their cableCARD works .. well it worked for a few days but now it's acting odd.
  • I work in the elctronics industry, and in the last year I have seen a tow fold increase in the number of sets with cablecard capability. I think its a good thing.

    I have seen samsung, sony, and thompson (RCA,GE, ect) with cablecard slots for the pcmcia card.

    so, will this derail production of set with this integrated capability? ive seen a lot of sets, and a lot of sets that arrive that customers actually lease cablecards from the cable co. here (time warner)

    so, I wonder if the number of sets with cablecard that I see for repair will come to a halt in the near future or what?
    seems like its heading down the path to being nuked altogether.

    but, I cant understand why the FCC has delayed this?
    the cable cos is still going to charge you to lease that pcmcia card, and its still going to be the same amount. now if there were rules that placed a cap on that, I am even more for it.
    • Cablecard 1.0 is already out there, this type of card allows you to decode Digital Channels only.

      The digital standard that's being pushed back is a technology that specifies that all of the higher order functions, such as interactive menus, ordering PPV, Video-on-demand, etc are controlled by the card. This is what cablecard 2.0 standard encompasses. The shipping card slots now are only 1.0 slots. The 2.0 cards will be backwards compatible, but they keep flip flopping on the how it will work and companies

  • For as long as... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday March 18, 2005 @02:18PM (#11977537) Homepage Journal
    The cable companies can win a one year extension every six months, they win. I personally bet they will try this. Content providers do this with copyright and trademark extensions.
  • Worst Idea Ever!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lokni (531043) <reali100NO@SPAMchapman.edu> on Friday March 18, 2005 @03:02PM (#11978072)
    I don't know about you guys, but I have leased DVR boxes from Time Warner for the last 2 years and in that time I have gone through 6 DVR boxes and 5 HD-DVR boxes with the 5 HD-DVR boxes being consumed since August. If I had to buy a new one each time it broke, I would be poor. With Time Warner I just drive down to their office and get a new one. $1,000 says that no consumer electronics manufacturer could top that. You would probably have to mail it in at a cost of $20, then wait for 1-2 weeks to find out if its eligible for warranty repair, and then another 2-6 weeks for it to be repaired and returned to you. I always thought home-brewed DVR systems were a waste of money because I have had such excellent service from Time Warner. But if I have to buy these things, consumer electronics manufacturers can suck my left nut.
    • by unclei (55647)
      This is a better argument FOR commercial set top boxes than against them, exactly because consumers won't put up with that kind of failure rate. The only reason we put up with them when they're provided by the cable company is that the cable company absorbs all the costs and hassle of fixing the things and getting replacements. We might not like the failure rate, but if we want digital content, it's the cable provider's box or nothing.

      Take away the provider's effective monopoly on set top box choice, and
      • In a market the size of Columbus, Ohio, I am served by Time Warner. I am the 30th installation, and the first in my region (grouped with Columbus). According to the tech who installed my cable card, roll out has been held up since mid-summer 2004 due to glitches, some of which have caused HDTV's to require factory servicing to repair. Even with nine months of delay, the technology is far from being mature and bug free.

        With a Scientific Atlanta cable card [google.com] installed, my TV (Sony KD-34XS955 [sonystyle.com]) periodically
      • "the cable company absorbs all the costs" And by absorbs, I'm sure you meant passes along to subscribers.
    • "If I had to buy a new one each time it broke, I would be poor."

      Double-edged sword. If you had to buy a new one each month, you'd move to a different manufacturer.

  • It's already been established in a court ruling last month that the FCC had overstepped its authority in trying to mandate that future television hardware must respect a "broadcast" flag. Federal judges rejected the claim that the FCC's mandate to regulate transmissions also afforded them the ancillary ability to regulate reception of those transmissions.

    Why wouldn't the same precedent also prevent the FCC from mandating that cable companies cannot integrate digital tuners, CableCard authentication, PVRs,
  • What do the cable companies stand to loose from CableCard enabled devices? (with the new broadcast flag, they cant claim "CableCard allows people to copy our stuff" anymore).

    They still get your (ever increasing) subscription fee $$$ every month.

    Now if only there was a CableCard standard here in oz so you could use Foxtel/Austar on other boxes :P
    Oh and make it sattelite enabled too :P

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