Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Cable Box

Almost all homes have these antiques. They are the cable box. Apple introduces a new phone at least annually, software is updated monthly, lap tops are replaced about ever 2 years. The cable box has not changed in almost two decades! It is older than my furnace, my water heater and even my roof on my house. I have had 4 cars in the period in which the cable box has sat there collecting dust and thousands of dollars for the cable company. They will never appear on Antique Road Show since they will never be replaced.

ArsTechnica has an interesting piece on the attempt to change this. You see legally even now you should be able to buy your own box, just over $100. Instead you pay $250 per year in fees! Why, well just try to buy your own and install it!

As ArsTechnica states:

What if, instead of renting a set-top box from your cable company, you could get all your TV channels and online video services delivered to a single device that you only pay for once?
The Federal Communications Commission could make it happen, consumer advocacy groups say. "An open set-top box market is a key component of freeing consumers from unnecessary monthly rental fees, and it would enable them to more easily access online video content right alongside their subscription TV programming," the groups said in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler yesterday. The letter was written by Common Cause, Demand Progress, Free Press, Fight for the Future, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, New America’s Open Technology Institute, and Public Knowledge....The CableCard standard created nearly 20 years ago was supposed to make the set-top box industry competitive. And it has succeeded to an extent, letting cable subscribers use TiVo boxes and other devices. But the FCC long ago admitted that CableCard had only limited success. About 99 percent of customers still rent set-top boxes directly from their providers and pay an average of $231.82 a year in rental fees, US senators found in a survey of TV providers last year.

What is the chance of this happening. Zero! Why? The Cable Lobby. They want to keep those mastodons in place.  At some point the FCC ought to consider the customer! For over 40 years we have been able to select our own telephones, what few are left in the home. The cable box is another issue.

Oh and the cable modem is another one of these issues.

It is not that the Cable companies cannot do this. They have massive Deep Packet Inspections operations to check out every customer. They can make the NSA look like tyros. But they are allowed by the FCC to tie-in their boxes and delimit customer choice! Whether it is ESPN or cable boxes, some how the FCC ought to do something. But alas it is Washington after all!