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FCC may open set-top boxes to Internet, scrap CableCARD

updated 06:05 pm EST, Fri December 4, 2009

FCC would let TV boxes pipe streaming video

The FCC signaled its intent to advance the state of set-top TV boxes this week with a quietly published rulemaking notice. A request for comment (PDF) on "video device innovation" has noted that the CableCARD standard has failed to create the open digital environment for TV that the FCC had planned and that it wants input on how to spur development of replacement technology that would bring Internet access and other features to the traditionally closed-off cable and satellite TV realms.

Just 14 devices are on the market that support CableCARD but aren't tied to a particular broadcaster's service, the FCC said. These are often TV tuner add-ons for computers.

The US agency highlighted examples of how many online-only living room hubs have provided more functionality than many CableCARD devices. Devices like the Apple TV, Roku Internet Player, TiVo's DVRs and the Xbox 360 all offer more than one source of Internet-based video, such as iTunes, Netflix or even amateur video, but most TV providers only offer at most a handful of data. Conventional set-tops are also rarely available outside of retail and provide little incentive for customers to upgrade beyond what their TV provider initially rents or sells.

CableCARD by itself provides just one-way data and as such is often blocked from providing many basic Internet features, such as a programming guide or searching for videos. Tru2way offers two-way interaction but has also been ruled out by the FCC as its spec mandates that TV tuning features be kept in a separate interface from other features, all but ruling out integrating tru2way into hardware that doesn't have a provision for a second interface.

Cable and satellite providers have been resistant to CableCARD as it cuts off many of the on-demand movie services and is often more expensive, but they have been relatively open to Internet features as long as they complement rather than replace their more lucrative subscription packages. [via Ars Technica]

by MacNN Staff



  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    not quite

    "Cable and satellite providers have been resistant to CableCARD as it cuts off many of the on-demand movie services and is often more expensive"

    This is false. They are not eager for consumers to have ready access to 3rd party products that enable them to view TV as the consumers want to. They prefer to control how you can access their signals.

  1. Fast iBook

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Apple TV?

    Apple could put cable card in its Apple TV, watch it sell a million units per quarter at 250 a pop.

    - A

  1. ender

    Joined: Dec 1969


    re: AppleTV

    Oh that would be brilliant idea, considering that the whole point of the article is that CableCard has been a failure, due in large part to it being a standard that was completely managed of the very people it was meant to control in the first place, the cable companies.

    It's a nice idea, and if it had been under the control of an independent standards body it might have worked. But the cable companies (via CableLabs) made sure that it would never be a success.

  1. Mr. Reeman

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Cable Companies Don't Make It Easy

    Ever tried to get a CableCard from your cable company for your TiVo or other compatible device? They make the whole procedure a real PITA.

    For starters, you're lucky if the representative you speak to has a clue about what a CableCard is in the first place. Once you get someone with a clue, they try their best to dissuade you from getting a CableCard because you can't access their On Demand services (money generating pay-per-view) with the Card.

    They won't give you one and let you install the thing on your own, even though it's a fairly easy procedure, requiring a call to tech support with addressing the numbers. You must have it installed by one of their prevailing installation fees, which are about $50 -$100 for a house call.

    Often, the techs doing the service calls don't have a clue about CableCards and you're lucky if they happened to remember to have one on the truck.

    I can go on and on, but in short, the cable companies have set up the whole CableCard mandate to fail from day one.

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    If only...

    the FCC pushed the CableCard standard instead of listening to the idiots tell them it was too hard to implement (this, of course, from companies whose techs can't seem to set up a standard internet connection in the first place).

    The only thing cable card doesn't allow are mostly the 'pay' services the catv companies try to sell you like vod and ppv. And they can't then charge you $5+ per box. And extra money for the right to use a DVR, plus the money to rent the DVR box.

  1. dmwalsh568

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Cable boxes have CableCard in them now!

    Because Comcast is moving virtually everything to digital we had to get a standard definition cable box for one of our older TiVo (Series 2) and the funny thing is if you look inside the unit (via the air perforations) you can see it's got a CableCard in it! Heck, it's got a shield with a s**** on the back so a tech can pull out the card and replace it if necessary!

    And I have to agree with how much of a pain it was to get CableCards for a Series3 TiVo. Took forever to get an appointment then it took the technician forever on the phone to get the cards to work. Now that they are in it works like a charm.

    I have to wonder if the cable companies are pushing for the end of CableCards since people are using them to avoid their devices and services....

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