Boxee and the CEA Join Forces Against the Cable Companies
Under current regulations, cable companies are generally not allowed to encrypt their basic, analog channels. This allows the tuners built into TVs and devices such as the recently launched Boxee Live TV to receive the channels without a settop box. Cable companies can request a waiver from the FCC to switch to a fully digital and encrypted system, but to date, the regulatory agency has been reluctant to grant such requests. However, the times are changing and the cable companies are spending big bucks lobbying the FCC to change the regulations to allow all cable companies to switch to fully digital and encrypted systems, a move that will effectively lock out any off-the-shelf consumer electronics with traditional tuners. Cable subscribers will instead be forced to use a cable company provided settop box or CableCard.
Boxee has decided to get involved and throw their support in with the Consumer Electronics Agency, which has been vigorously opposing any change to the current regulations. Boxee recently gave a presentation to the Chairman of the FCC, demoing the Boxee Live TV and attempting to explain the negative impact on innovation and consumer choice that a change to the regulations would have. Like the CEA, Boxee isn't arguing that the cable companies do not have valid reasons to want to switch to digital systems, but that the decision should not be rushed and should instead be put off until a new system, such as AllVid, the FCC's proposed CableCard successor, can be established to continue to offer consumers a choice on what devices to use with their subscription service.
Cable companies have asked the FCC for waivers to these restrictions, arguing that encrypted channels would reduce piracy and that encrypted cable connections can be remotely serviced, eliminating the need for many service visits. The FCC is currently hearing all sides of the issue as it contemplates whether to do away with the restrictions and allow all cable companies to encrypt basic cable. Boxee has filed multiple letters with the commission and met with its staff last week.