Currently cable companies must deliver broadcast channels in a way that enables tuners to display those channels without any extra hardware.

Cable companies are suffering from flat and declining cable TV subscription numbers.  So now cable companies are lobbying the FCC to force every cable subscriber to rent cable boxes or cable cards even if they don’t want or need them now.

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.

Now the cable companies are asking the FCC to change the rules and turn access off. Their main excuse being that it will reduce the need for the cable guy to drive to your house to disconnect your cable and thus be better for the environment. Considering this ruling would also mean millions more set top boxes and cable cards are manufactured, distributed, and attached to electric outlets (see below for consumption), their argument doesn’t hold water. 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.

energy use

Their real motivation is to prevent you from being able to connect the cable from the wall directly to your TV or Boxee Box. You will need to rent a set-top box from your cable provider, pay an extra $5-$15 per month and it will no longer work with your Boxee Box or similar devices.

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.

Company 3Q’11 Video Net Adds/Losses
Comcast -165,000 (a)
Time Warner Cable -128,000 (b)
Charter -64,800 (c)
Cablevision -19,000 (d)
Total -376,800

There is another interesting thing about the proposed rule-making. There are no benefits for consumers. None. Millions of users who currently connect cable directly to their TV or tuner (without a set top box) will see their screens go dark. To bring back the signal they will need to go pick up a box or schedule a visit from the cable guy… with the extra “benefit” of having to pay a monthly fee for that new box…

As Public Knowledge noted in their blog post on Monday, this is an issue the government should take its time to understand and get right.

At Boxee, we’ve created an affordable alternative to cable that’s more in-tune with the way people watch TV today. The cable companies don’t like the idea of increased competition and in this case they are trying to get the government to help them block alternative devices such as the Boxee Box.

The Cable companies spent more than $50 million last year on lobbying, so we decided to spend a few hundred dollars on a train to D.C to meet with the FCC.

The FCC is in charge of regulating the monopolistic cable industry, ensuring consumers’ interests are being protected and fostering innovation and competition in the market. Avoiding the visibility of proposed legislation that dogged SOPA and PIPA, the cable companies are trying to sneak in an anti-consumer, anti-competitive policy change, telling the FCC that it is only a minor technical thingy and that only few consumers and companies would be affected.

In contrast, we demoed Boxee Live TV and presented a few slides to the Commission explaining how this could affect many consumers and have an impact on innovation and the environment. We were excited that the Chairman of the FCC and his staff took the time to listen to our arguments.

The FCC is also paying attention to what consumers are saying. It would be great if you could write a short note to the FCC expressing your concern about having to give even more money each month to your cable company. Please take a couple of minutes to make your voice heard!

Photo credit: CBC News

Via Boxee


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