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Cable Industry Tries to Kill the CableCARD for Good
by Karl Bode 02:23PM Monday Aug 19 2013
For many years CableCARD technology has struggled to see adoption for a number of reasons. Incompetent regulators and cable operators deserve an even share of the blame. Regulators passed problematic rules they then failed to enforce, while to protect set top box rental revenues, operators rarely advertised the technology and made installations frequently nightmarish and expensive. When sub-par CableCARD adoption stats emerge annually, the cable industry then shrugs and incorrectly proclaim consumers just aren't interested.

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That perfect storm of incompetence and sabotage hasn't been enough to finally kill off the CableCARD, so it looks like the cable industry has drafted legislation that would finally accomplish that goal.

The "Consumer Video Device Cost Savings Act" aims to kill off the authority of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to mandate that operators have to use CableCards in their own set tops.

The law appears to be based on draft legislation written by the cable industry, and is being pushed through Congress by Rep. Robert E. Latta (R-OH). Not too surprisingly, companies like TiVO that have tried to loosen the cable industry's vice-like grip over their set top lease revenues aren't particularly amused.

"Contrary to its stated goals, this bill will not save consumers money or help small cable operators," TiVO said in a statement e-mailed Broadband Reports. "Actually, the reverse may be true. Taking away the FCC’s authority to assure consumer choice of set top boxes will cost consumers in the long run by eliminating competition and tightening the grip of network operators on the choices available to their subscribers."

TiVO is concerned that the cable industry is going to kill off CableCARD, then lobby to have potential CableCARD replacements completely locked down with a wide range of carrier-specific encryption, almost entirely eliminating any possibility for competition and real consumer purchase freedom in the set top box market.

This all may be a moot point. Even with the authority the industry would like to strip (and stripping FCC authority has long been a goal across all fronts), the FCC has already started moving in that direction anyway; in in February they allowed the cable industry to encrypt basic cable, and new FCC boss Tom Wheeler spent many years of his life lobbying for the cable industry.


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