Set-top box manufacturer Boxee published a blog post this morning and lambasted ambiguous cable companies while decrying them of blocking competition and forcing consumers to spend more money.
Boxee Founder and CEO Avner Ronen claimed “cable companies” are lobbying the Federal Communications Commission to make television viewers rent company-issued set-top boxes and cards. The FCC regulates all things communication, and thus prevents the industry from becoming monopolistic by protecting competition and aiding innovation.
Ronen said cable companies want to stop consumers from connecting wall coaxial to a television or set-top box, and start forcing them to rent a set-top box from service providers for an extra monthly fee. The corporations’ set-top boxes will no longer work with the Boxee Box or similar devices. Such regulation could also affect Google TV, Apple TV, and other products that stream Internet video to the television.
Moreover, the purposed measure would also take away from millions of customers who already connect to a television/tuner without a set-top box by subsequently coercing them to purchase a device and pay a monthly fee to cable companies…
“Currently cable companies must deliver broadcast channels in a way that enables tuners like Boxee Live TV (and the ones in your TV) to display those channels without any extra hardware,” contended Ronen. “Now the cable companies are asking the FCC to change the rules and turn access off.”
According to the blog, cable firms spent more than $50 million last year lobbying, and now those same service providers want a change in rules to supposedly reduce energy consumption and help the environment. Of course, the simple act of cable guys no longer driving to connect/disconnect service at consumer homes is the corporations’ main method of going green.
Boxee was quick to point out that the assertion is baseless, because the manufacturing, distribution, and configuration of set-top boxes would consume substantial amounts of energy, as well.
“It’s akin to a cable executive taking a private jet to an FCC meeting, but insisting on having recycled toilet paper on-board to help save the environment,” Ronen added.
It is also worth mentioning that the purposed regulation might also lead to employee cutbacks, considering how the service providers already view the measure as a way to reduce home visits.
“The cable companies are losing subscribers every quarter. If they want to reverse that trend they should look into building better products, reducing prices and improving customer service, not going to the government asking for rule changes to force consumers into spending more money and blocking start-ups from competing,” Ronen said.
Nearly 100 documents filed with the FCC on both sides of the fence illustrate the position of cable companies, electronics manufacturers, and consumers, and how a change in the rules will disrupt the future of television.
Public Knowledge weighed-in and further explained the messy details of the issue-at-hand with a blog post:
Today cable systems have to provide the “basic tier”–which is basically just broadcast stations–unencrypted. (A quick note: “Basic tier” cable is not the same thing as “basic cable,” which usually means the basic tier plus the most popular cable networks.) That means you don’t need a set-top box or other decoder to access them. It’s possible to subscribe to just the basic tier (which might be attractive if, for instance, you can’t get decent over-the-air reception), or you might watch basic tier stations on a second or third TV in your house without needing a set-top box. In the late eighties and early nineties, increasing numbers of cable systems started to encrypt their signals, and the rule was adopted to allow people to at least access some programming without renting a converter box.
The FCC recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that suggested it is considering dropping the rule that requires the basic tier to be unencrypted, which would then require all United States customers to rent a set-top box or CableCARD to watch any programming.
A CableCARD allows viewers to watch and record digital cable without the use of a set-top box. Meanwhile, a set-top box is a next-generation video device pushing the television industry forward by seamlessly integrating consumer content, Internet video, and over-the-air or unencrypted cable. However, the entire industry will soon face endangerment if the FCC entertains the service providers’ wishes.
To prevent such measures from passing, click here and tell the FCC how it would negatively affect you.