TiVo Responds To The FCC (Cable Discriminates)

Dave Zatz —  December 23, 2009

As you may have read earlier this month, the FCC went on the record in expressing their dissatisfaction with separable security CableCARD technology, related to industry openness and innovation. Something I’ve been harping on for ages. And there’s plenty of blame to go around. (Pot, meet kettle.) So the FCC has opened up the floor to commentary. Amongst the various players with a vested interest, Ben Drawbaugh alerted me that TiVo has just responded. Not only does TiVo slam the potential HDMI-only output limitation, they tell it like it is in regards to the cable industry’s “artificial and discriminatory restrictions” and point to CableLabs continued (tru2way) shortcomings:

Only the few manufacturers who have agreements with cable operators to deploy the cable industry’s proprietary “tru2way” middleware can create devices that access the full range of services currently offered by cable operators. Yet those tru2way products are forbidden by license from (1) providing any choice in user interface when accessing interactive services, and (2) including non-MVPD programming services, such as Internet-delivered content, in the user interface that displays the available cable programming. Deviations must be requested and often are refused. Tru2way thus prevents a device maker from offering a consumer the full range of options that her product is capable of providing, in a single integrated user interface. In order for manufacturers to create true “plug and play” video devices, these MVPD-imposed, unnecessary limitations need to be removed.

All in all, TiVo’s response is a good read. I hope other retail device manufacturers continue to reinforce these points, that the FCC is listening… and that they have the teeth to do something about it.

9 responses to TiVo Responds To The FCC (Cable Discriminates)

  1. I also learned a new word today thanks to TiVo’s reponse: bulwark

  2. The “cable gateway” that TiVo has in Exhibit 1 would be incredibly interesting. I dont think Cable/Satellite would ever let it happen, but one “magic box” in your house and anything with an IP connection can access the video – regular TV channels or VOD. Plus other features like YT, Netflix, DVR, etc.

  3. Don’t stop with Cable – DirecTV and Dish need to open their signal to set top box makers like Tivo.

    JohnG

  4. The way that cablecard is structured right now is that it locks you into a single provider. Because satellite and fiber are allowed to ignore the mandate, consumers only have cable to pick from. Since cable is essentially a monopoly in most places, buying a cablecard devices locks you into their system. Luckily TiVo supports OTA on the series 3, but if I want to go to satellite or Fiber I’m discouraged from doing that because they can’t support a device that I already shelled out big bucks for. It is almost like the DRM for cable is tailored made to what they want. If satellite and fiber were forced to accept cablecard or whatever “gateway” authenticity they are proposing, consumers would have 2 or 3 pay TV choices and cable would have to compete for my money.

  5. Consumers benefit from competition amongst businesses. Thats why (some) businesses try their hardest to eliminate competitors and have monopolies. One of the roles of government is to prevent corporations from having monopolies that could take advantage of consumers. The best businesses are the ones that have learned to serve their customers without gouging them, they gain loyalty and new customers through this practice, cable operators are aware that eventually they will become a pipeline so they don’t care about serving customers, they want as much cash as they can get to buy into the content providing market.
    I agree with what Tivo is proposing, I just wonder how long it will be before technology leaps beyond the necessity of the technology proposed by Tivo.
    We need someone in the FCC who can understand the issues consumers face now and can also envision whats heading our way in the future. Dave, you looking for work?

  6. “…We need someone in the FCC who can understand the issues consumers face now and can also envision whats heading our way in the future. Dave, you looking for work?”

    I wonder if its possible to press Dave Zatz into public service, with or without is consent, and make him the head of the FCC. Is that position an elected one, or appointed?

    :P

  7. I thought I already was doing a public service. ;) Not sure I need to run the FCC, but additional consumer advocacy probably wouldn’t hurt. Of course, the fact that this topic was brought up should be heartening. Unfortunately, these things take so much time to work through. And as proven with CableCARD tech, it doesn’t always deliver as intended. Missteps are inevitable in predicting and preparing for the future. (Cable isn’t innately evil, they’re just doing their best to protect and maximize their business.)

    JohnG, I’m little torn on how satellite plays into this and was planning on remaining silent on that point until (if) my thoughts resolve. Conceptually, I agree. But the (regulatory) dynamics may be somewhat different given the transport mechanism.

    Davis, Due to my location, I can’t get FiOS TV or satellite and have zero OTA ATSC reception of the four major networks. Meaning, I must (and do) pay Cox if I want any TV programming at all. :/ And they lock it down in ways that make it much less useful. Why can’t I move HD programming from the living room TiVo to the bedroom unit? There’s obviously some assumption that I’m a criminal and will offload this onto Bittorrent. Not to mention the whole CC/SDV thing is technically a mess – why do I lose CNN HD every other week for a few hours or days? When I complain, they credit me $6.99. How about a resolution instead?

  8. I agree with Dave, there are people at the FCC that get it, but part of politics is finding a compromise between multiple parties with different interests. The old saying is that a good compromise is when no one is happy.

    Based on the way TiVo laid it out, I’d say the gateway idea would work fine on both satellite and cable, in fact they could probably develop software that would convert an existing box into a gateway. And there could even be multiple gateways in the house which I think would work like those who have multiple HDHomeRuns in the house connected to multiple PC DVRs.

    The bottom line is that all the technology is there and I suppose I should read the cable companies’ comments to try to determine the likelihood that this could actually happen.

    Honestly I think DirecTV and Dish might actually be on board, which is evident by the fact that DirecTV was a founding member of the RVU Alliance, who’s goal is to let you have one STB in the house and deliver content to each TV via the network and a remote UI layer built on top of DLNA. I could see where this gateway would feature the required protocols as well as things like DLNA and RVU.