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Boxee: attempt to encrypt basic cable is anti-competitive

updated 02:10 pm EST, Wed February 8, 2012

Boxee fights cable lobbying FCC over cable locks

Boxee in a direct criticism contended that cable companies were being anti-competitive in lobbying to drop a requirement that basic cable stay unencrypted. The Boxee Box designer argued that the request, which would let a TV provider require a set-top box or slot-in card to get any signal at all, was only meant to shut out free alternatives and force customers to buy or more often rent equipment. Company chief Avner Ronen argued that it would block devices like the Boxee Live TV add-on and that there was no real upside.

Boxee had gone so far as to travel to Washington, DC and show its TV tuner add-on to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski and staff. The step was deemed necessary not just to show what would go away if the pro-incumbent lobbying resulted in laws but to counter what Ronen cast as an attempt to downplay the impact of losing free TV. He pointed to major cable companies losing subscribers, to a total of 376,800 during just the past summer that he interpreted as a clear sign of cord-cutting, most often over prices.

While it would require that technicians drive out to install or remove cable, the eco-friendliness claims don't work, Ronen said. Whatever savings were had on gas would be more than made up through the higher energy costs of a DVR or other set-top box.

The FCC hasn't responded to Boxee's call, although there haven't been any rule proposals that would enshrine the cable companies' point of view. Past policy decisions from the FCC during Genachowski's leadership haven't necessarily gone as far as fairness advocates would like, but he has typically favored support for startups and giving smaller companies a better chance over strictly courting majors.

by MacNN Staff



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