Oct 17 2012

News - FCC to Allow Encryption of Basic Cable Channels

Earlier this year, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Agency teamed up for a scuffle with the cable companies. The dispute arose as the FCC was reviewing rules that prevented cable companies from encrypting basic tier channels. Cable companies had been restricted from encrypting these channels for a number of years, but the FCC was reviewing whether the restrictions should remain in place as part of the review of the analog must-carry rules. Boxee and other consumer electronics manufacturers were concerned that they were about to be locked out of offering products that could be plugged directly into a coaxial jack. 

The FCC has decided to go ahead with raising the prohibition on basic channel encryption, but the 6 major cable companies will have to meet one of two criteria before they can move ahead. The cable companies can choose to offer converter boxes such as the ones that Boxee and Comcast agreed to work on this summer that will enable devices to receive the encrypted signal, with the stipulation that the convertors be made available for free for a minimum of two years. Alternatively, the cable companies will have to develop software-based decryption systems that can be licensed to CE manufacturers for inclusion in their devices. Undoubtedly the cable companies already have a phalanx of accountants crunching numbers to see which nets the greatest return in the long run: rental fees for the convertors or licensing fees for the software-based solution.

The days of plugging a TV into the wall and getting cable are coming to an end. After a lengthy review process, the FCC has granted cable operators permission to encrypt their most basic cable programming. But the commission is inserting a number of measures it's hoping will prevent the public from suddenly finding themselves without access and open the door for third-party set-top boxes like the upcoming Boxee TV. 

The Verge

Sep 29 2012

News - Cable Companies Reportedly Looking to Stream Games

Mario and Yoshi on CableFor many, there is a growing sense that in the future, all media will be streamed over the Internet. Indeed, most of us who got into HTPCs early on did so specifically because a PC is the single most flexible device for tapping into any streaming service. Video games represent one of the last great hurdles to the total IP streaming living room. Gaikai and OnLive are two companies that have stepped up to take on the challenge of bringing streaming gaming to the home, and despite OnLive's recent woes, the two companies may be facing some stiff competition in the near future. Your friendly, neighborhood cable company may well be looking to move in on the still nascent game streaming market. With increasingly capable settop boxes already in use and with a more direct connection to subscribers' homes than companies like GaiKai and OnLive, the cable companies will have some serious advantages in making a game streaming service successful. With the right selection of games and a capable enough service, the cable companies could even turn the screws on traditional game consoles.

Your modest cable box may soon serve as a game console that can stream high-end game content running on powerful remote servers. That's according to a Bloomberg report that says AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Cox Communications are all in talks to bring streaming game technology to their subscribers.

Ars Technica

Jul 03 2012

News - Boxee and Comcast Reach Agreement, Developing System to Access Encrypted Basic Cable Channels

Boxee Live TV Screen

Back in February, Boxee and the Consumer Electronics Association announced that they were working together to convince the FCC not to overturn rules that required cable television service providers to offer basic tier channels unencrypted. The FCC had indicated that they were open to revisiting the rules regarding unencrypted cable channels as part of a required review of rules requiring service providers to offer both analog and digital transmissions. Cable television service providers, anticipating a relaxation of the rules requiring analog retransmission, were hoping to further streamline their digital offerings by turning on encryption for all tiers. Boxee, who had just recently released their Boxee Live TV add-on, was concerned that the move would shut them out as encryption would return cable television service to the days when every subscriber had to have a set top box all of the time.

In a filing with the FCC last week, Boxee and Comcast announced that they have come to an agreement and are working together to develop a system that would allow retail consumer electronics to access encrypted basic tier channels. Initially, the system would involve an ethernet-based digital transport adapter (E-DTA) that would sit between the set top box and the consumer electronics device. In the long term, their plan calls for a standard for an integrated E-DTA that would eliminate the need for a set top box or service provider supplied E-DTA. This does not appear to have any impact on the development of CableCard or AllVid, but would rather serve as a modern update on establishing cable-ready TVs and devices. Access for such devices would still be restricted to basic-tier channels. Although the agreement is only between Comcast and Boxee, the language does suggest that the two companies could offer the solution as an industry standard, however, without a timeline or specific details on which standards bodies would provide certification, it might be a good idea not to get one's hopes up until other companies or organizations start to weigh in on the concept.

Boxee users may soon be able to access encrypted basic cable channels, thanks to an agreement with Comcast.

In a June 27 filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the companies said they have resolved a dispute over access to Comcast's basic-cable tiers via devices like Boxee's Live TV dongle.

PC Magazine

Feb 09 2012

News - 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. 

Mr. Boxee Goes to Washington

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.


Dec 03 2011

News - Cable Companies See Tipping Point on Horizon, Looking at Usage-Based Billing

Evidently U.S. cable companies have decided that they have had enough of Netflix and Hulu nipping at their heels. Craig Moffett, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., is predicting that at least one major U.S. cable company will start charging Internet customers based on how much data they consume. The cost of securing content and networks continues to rise and the cable companies are increasingly concerned about being relegated to the role of bit-pushers. If Craig Moffett turns out to be right, then it's a fair bet that cable company is going to set off a firestorm. There is no one, other than maybe cable company employees, who thinks of the cable companies as providing a good value and anything that smacks of a major rate hike is going to draw consumer ire. What's more, Netflix is already drumming up the anti-competitive pricing rhetoric. If more than one cable company decides to try out some usage-based billing plans, don't be too surprised if Netflix starts dropping the word "collusion", which is sure to grab the attention of a senator facing a re-election challenge.

Netflix and Hulu’s subscription services have driven up Web usage at peak hours once reserved for watching TV. Google, Amazon, Apple (AAPL) Inc. and premium channels HBO and Showtime have also put shows online and followed viewers onto mobile devices like iPads and Android tablets.


Aug 26 2011

News - Apple Still Eyeing Cord Cutters?

AppleTVSome of you have probably toyed with the idea of cutting the cord, while others may have even taken that drastic step.  According to some insiders, Apple may still be looking to get in on a piece of that action.  Personally, I don't like Apple products, but the success of iTunes shows just what they're capable of when they decide there's a market for something.  Regardless of how you feel about their products, I think we can all agree that having more options than cable or satellite can only be seen as a good thing.  Right?  Would this be something you'd be interested in?

The latest buzz notes that digital video is where the action is happening, and Apple wants in on the fun. Apple is already experimenting with its "hobby" device, the Apple TV, and has seen moderate success in that area—especially after reducing the price to $99 and adding things like Netflix, MLB, and NBA "apps," not to mention the ability to stream all manner of video from iOS devices via AirPlay. But Apple executives have repeatedly said on earnings calls that this is an area the company is still feeling out, so it's no surprise that Apple is looking into how it can further expand into the video market.

ars technica

Aug 05 2011

News - Comcast CEO: No Viable Streaming Biz Model Outside of Cable

Well, it seems like Comcast still views Internet streaming as a niche add-on and not as a serious business model.

Don’t expect Comcast Corp. to launch a subscription video-on-demand service similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime anytime soon.

Speaking Aug. 3 to analysts, CEO Brian Roberts said Comcast remained focused on delivering content to cable subscribers through various channels, including its TV Everywhere app, Xfinity TV.

Roberts had been asked if Comcast would attempt to offer streaming to non-subscribers or consumers outside of its service areas, which one analyst pegged at 50 million homes.

“I don't think there's yet a business model that we've seen that … [allows us to] make money,” Roberts said of streaming to non-subscribers, adding that attempts to offer free on-demand programming via proved unprofitable. “… I think it's better when you already have a relationship with the customer to add these services on.”

Home Media Magazine

Jun 26 2011

News - Your Set Top Box Uses More Energy than your Fridge

This is fairly surprising and I'm sure it varies depending on your cable company, but according to the NY Times, says that the power a set top box consumes is more than a refrigerator over the course of a year. I don't blame consumers so much as I do the CE manufacturers behind the boxes, which the Times goes into a bit. But it's always good to remind people...that an HTPC on Standby only consumes about 4 watts, and can automatically wake itself up to record and then go back to sleep. I'm biased though Smile


These set-top boxes are energy hogs mostly because their drives, tuners and other components are generally running full tilt, or nearly so, 24 hours a day, even when not in active use. The recent study, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, concluded that the boxes consumed $3 billion in electricity per year in the United States — and that 66 percent of that power is wasted when no one is watching and shows are not being recorded. That is more power than the state of Maryland uses over 12 months.

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