FCC Opens Set-Top Box Competition

The Federal Communications Commission has denied a request from cable operator Comcast to be exempt from new regulations intended to open competition in the marketplace for cable set-top boxes. Although Comcast plans to appeal the decision, as of July 1, 2007, cable operators will be forbidden from providing customers with set-top boxes which lock customers to their service via integrated security features.

The ban has been several years in the making, and comes from consumer electronics manufacturers who argued they should be allowed to develop and market set-top boxes for use with cable television services and sell those boxes directly to consumers. Customers would then hook connect to their cable provider’s network using CableCard (available now) or another interface provided by the cable operator, and they’d be all set. In theory, this would foster competition and spur the development of new features—like DVR functionality, IPTV, media-sharing via in-home networks, etc.—in set-top boxes.

Comcast and other cable operators have battled against third-party set-top boxes, claiming the FCC’s mandates are contradictory: competition in the set-top box market and low-cost set-top box systems. The cable industry claims CableCARDs will cost consumers over $600 million a year as they pay $2 to $3 per card to access cable services; the FCC counters that cable companies don’t have to use CableCARD: they’re free to use any system which separates security from a set-top box’s “navigation” features.

The most touted alternative to CableCARD is DCAS, which uses software-based security to protect cable provider’s content, but cable operators haven’t rolled out broad deployments of DCAS technology. A low-cost alternative to DCAS is already on the market from Beyond Broadband Technology, but cable providers haven’t embraced it either.

If the FCC’s ban on integrated security goes forward and sticks, expect to see a rush of consumer electronics and media center manufacturers jump on the CableCARD bandwagon, offering systems which connect directly to cable services without the need for awkward IR-pod workarounds which control cable boxes via simulated remote controls and which may offer cable customers more advanced and sophisticated TV functionality.

Home Theater

There isn’t a single good reason to buy Apple’s new AirPods

After nearly a three-year wait, Apple has finally announced a new version of its popular true wireless headphones, the AirPods. We had high hopes for vast improvements, but that's not what we got.

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

We're glad to see that USB-C is quickly becoming the norm. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone. We've got USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A.

T-Mobile goes after big cable companies, pilots wireless home internet service

In a shot at big cable companies, T-Mobile is launching a new pilot program to bring an unlimited wireless LTE home internet service to up to 50,000 homes across the United States by the end of 2019.
Home Theater

Here’s what’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in April 2019

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. April 2019 brings Game of Thrones season 8, BlacKkKlansman, and Crazy Rich Asians to HBO.

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.

Amazon slashes prices on UE Boom and MegaBoom 3 Bluetooth speakers

With just the right combination of great sound, a rugged design, and an overall sleek aesthetic, the UE MegaBoom 3 is our favorite Bluetooth speaker. And Amazon is offering a rare discount on it right now.
Home Theater

Tipping point? Streaming subscribers outnumbered cable in 2018 for first time

2018 was a very good year for the entertainment business as a whole, but it was especially good for streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon, says a new report by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Movies & TV

Stranger Things season 3 is coming! Here’s everything we know so far

With a sophomore season as strong as its first, Stranger Things is now moving on to season 3. Here's everything we've learned so far about the Netflix series' upcoming third season, premiering in July 2019.
Home Theater

TCL drops the price of its 75-inch 6-Series 4K Roku TV to $1,500

March is a great time for TV deals, and we've got a whopper: TCL has taken $300 off the price of its superb 75-inch 6-Series 4K HDR Roku TV, making it $1,500. That's the lowest price ever on this affordable TV.
Movies & TV

Comcast launches Xfinity Flex, a $5-a-month service aimed at cord cutters

For $5 a month, Xfinity Flex gives existing Xfinity internet subscribers a 4K- and HDR-ready set-top box that can stream video from YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, as well as free TV from apps like Cheddar and ESPN3.
Home Theater

Here’s how to watch Apple’s March 25 product reveal event live

It's almost here: Apple's much anticipated March 25 event, where it is widely expected to announce several streaming services, including on-demand and live TV with original programming. Here's how to watch it live.
Movies & TV

HBO’s Deadwood movie rustles up a trailer and a release date

This spring, HBO's long-awaited Deadwood movie will explore what happened 10 years after the events of HBO's award-winning drama, giving the series a finale 13 years after the show was canceled.
Movies & TV

Apple’s next big event is set for March 25: Here’s what you can expect

Apple's next big event takes place on March 25 in Cupertino, California. The company is expected to make several announcements related to its services, including Apple TV, so follow our guide to get ready for the big event.
Home Theater

Kanopy privacy breach reveals which movies members have been streaming

Free video streaming site, Kanopy, has been inadvertently publishing millions of lines of web log data for days, according to a new security report. A bad actor could guess a person's identity and see what they've been watching.