Cable companies lobbying FCC to force customers into using set-top boxes

digitalcableboxremote2

According to a recent article at Public Knowledge, cables companies are pushing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider a rule regarding the encryption of the basic cable tier. During the early nineties, a rule was adopted by the FCC to make sure cable companies kept a portion of the broadcast stations completely unencrypted. Commonly known as “basic cable” by the public, these stations can be accessed without the need of a set-top box. This is useful for households that have multiple televisions and don’t want to pay an addition $5 to $15 for each set-top box. It’s also used by many public institutions, like schools, as well as consumers that receive poor over-the-air reception through an antenna. 

boxee-live-tv

Cable companies are arguing that costs will go down by removing the basic cable option, specifically due to the ability to remotely service digital boxes rather than sending out technical support and a reduction in piracy by encrypting the stations. However, this would also put cable companies in the position to vastly increase the amount of set-top boxes currently in American homes and increase revenue from set-top box rental fees each month. This also puts the cable companies in the position of providing exclusive access to these stations and can charge licensing fees to any third-party company that wants to develop a solution to watch cable channels within a separate software interface such as the Boxee Box.

Representatives from Boxee flew from New York City to Washington D.C. to meet with the FCC and offer up a presentation on why reversing the original ruling would be a poor decision. Boxee employees argued that changing the rule would eliminate the functionality of all existing computer TV tuners and put low-income families at a disadvantage. They also made the point that increasing the number of set-top boxes by millions would mean a sharp uptick in the power consumption withing an average American home. By adding two to three more set-top boxes at all televisions within the household, yearly power consumption could potentially double according to Boxee’s research.

cable-set-top-box-largeIn a blog post created earlier today, Boxee Founder & CEO Avner Ronen made the argument that Charter, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision lost a combined total of just over 375,000 subscribers in the third quarter of 2011 and are looking for a way to boost revenues. While subscribers peel away for cheaper entertainment options like Hulu Plus and Netflix, the cable companies want to roll out millions of set-top boxes to offset the loss.   

According to Ronen, the cable companies have spent approximately $50 million dollars on lobbying efforts during 2011 and have been supported by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) in the past. Boxee is attempting to rally support from the public as well as organizations like the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Over 80 documents have been filed with the FCC regarding this issue and can be viewed by the public within the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System

During the hearing, Boxee representatives also declared support for Allvid, a CableCARD replacement proposed by the FCC that would allow consumers to connect to cable TV, satellite TV, Internet TV, VDSL and IPTV through a single adapter. In addition, a single adapter would allow up to six televisions to connect and receive video programming within the home over IP. Internet companies like Google and consumer electronic companies like Sony have come out in favor of the proposed solution, but the MPAA and cable companies have lobbied against it. 

Product Review

SVS's stunning Prime speakers go wireless with (mostly) brilliant results

The latest offering from SVS is a wireless way to enjoy the company’s incredible sound. While they do come with a few caveats, those looking for gorgeous sound in a stunning package will want to give them a long look.
Movies & TV

The Breaking Bad sequel might air on Netflix before it arrives on AMC

A Breaking Bad sequel starring Jesse Pinkman (and, possibly, Walter White) is on the way from series creator Vince Gilligan, and you might get your first look at it on Netflix, not traditional cable.
Home Theater

Everything to know about Sling TV: Channels, pricing, and more

Sling TV has grown a great deal since its launch. Now there are more channels and more packages to chose from, with prices to match, and more is being added all the time. Everything you need to know is right here.
Photography

Tight on space? Here’s how to transfer photos from an iPhone to a computer

Never lose any of your cherished selfies or family vacation photos from your iPhone again by learning how to transfer photos from your iPhone to a computer, whether you want to use a cable or wireless transfer.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the on-demand streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu.
Outdoors

These wireless earbuds use an A.I. to get you moving faster

The new Soul Blade wireless earbuds provide the ability to track your heart rate during a workout while an A.I.-powered coach gives advice and info on how to improve form and efficiency while exercising.
Product Review

Focal’s ultra-clear Sphear Wireless bring sexy back to banded Bluetooth buds

Focal’s Sphear Wireless are a sleek and simple pair of banded Bluetooth earbuds with exceptional sound and an affordable price, making them some of the only non-true wireless earbuds we’d consider buying right now.
Deals

Walmart drops prices on Samsung 4K TVs during Presidents’ Day sale

With 8K TVs on the horizon, the cost of owning a 4K Ultra HD television has dropped pretty significantly in recent years, and this Walmart Presidents' Day sale is offering some great prices.
Home Theater

Apple will reportedly launch its new video-streaming service at March 25 event

The rumors about what Apple will announce at a March 25 event continue to swirl. A new report suggests that it will debut its much-anticipated video-streaming service, which will compete with Netflix and Amazon's Prime Video.
Home Theater

Bose’s technology patents could save an earbud’s battery life

Possibly taking a cue from Apple's popular AirPods, Bose filed a patent application for earbud IR technology that could save battery life, improve sound quality, and possibly help people locate lost earbuds.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.