Nov 13 2015

News - FCC Decides DD-WRT Is OK, But Still Not Really

It came out a few months ago that the FCC was seeking to ban the ability for users to install custom/third-party firmware on their routers, specifically calling out DD-WRT. Now they're back tracking a little; no longer is DD-WRT specifically called out, or that third-party firmware specifically banned, just that it isn't OK unless OEMs can guarentee that these won't do things that are illegal. That's my read anyway, feel free to comment if I missed something important.

Sep 03 2015

News - The FCC Wants To Eliminate Custom Wi-Fi Router Firmware

I was quite a shocked the other day to discover that the FCC wants to ban custom/3rd party firmware for Wi-Fi routers like dd-wrt. The goal, which is understandable from their perspective, is to remove the ability of radio wireless devices to work outside of their allowable parameters. The problem is that this is one of those "use a sledgehammer to crack a nut" solutions - it is inappropriately disproportionate. Fortunately it's not too late to act, and someone has setup a page on what we can do which includes sending feedback to the FCC via their website.

Save WiFi


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

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

May 07 2012

News - Senator Al Franken Concerned that XFINITY TV on Xbox Live May Violate Network Neutrality

A few days before releasing the XFINITY TV app for the Xbox 360, Comcast posted a FAQ regarding the app. For many folks, the most interesting tidbit was Comcast's announcement that XFINITY TV on Xbox Live usage would not count against Comcast subscribers' bandwidth caps. Comcast's reasoning was that all of the data transmissions were occurring on Comcast's private network and not being sent over the Internet. Indeed, that FAQ went on to point out that the Xbox app was unique and that this exemption did not apply to apps on other platforms or to PC browser access.

Eye of Franken

Nevertheless, Comcast had to know that the decision would raise some eyebrows. Senator Al Franken, a longtime net neutrality advocate, decided that raising his eyebrows was not enough and has written a letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice urging the agencies to re-examine the NBC-Comcast merger, of which Franken has been a staunch critic, citing the XFINITY app as one example of how Comcast seems to be working to circumvent the conditions of the merger. This comes on the heels of Netflix CEO Reed Hasting's pointed complaints in which he described Comcast's move as "not neutral". 

Franken concludes: "I am concerned that these sorts of delays always inure to the benefit of Comcast and give Comcast further incentive to challenge any aspect of its compliance with the merger order." He's also "very concerned" about Comcast’s announcement last month that its Xbox Live television streaming would not count against existing data caps. Comcast argues the video is "being delivered over our private IP network and not the public Internet."

Ars Technica

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 17 2011

News - FCC Establishes Regulations to CALM Commercials Volume

FCC LogoIn the last few months I have noticed an increase in the number of times that a commercial has come on running at a surprisingly high volume. Not that this is new problem, but, anecdotally, it seems to have gotten worse recently. How appropriate then that the FCC has issued regulations to support the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM) passed by Congress last year. The regulations also set forth a system for lodging complaints with the FCC. Given the waiver provisions built into the regulations, it will probably take a few years for broadcasters to come into alignment, but by this time in 2014 all commercials should be broadcast at the same average volume of the program in which the commercials are embedded. The cynic in me wonders if we will see sudden random spikes in the volume of programs in order to raise the average volume.

The Federal Communications Commission has passed a new regulation known as the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM). The new measure aims to combat obnoxiously loud television commercials, an issue we have all likely experienced firsthand.


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