As expected, the FCC met yesterday and ordered some short-term CableCARD adjustments in the name of reform. But, while I’m glad to see these issues in the forefront, I’m doubtful this moves the needle in any significant way. We’re still left with flakey SDV tuning adapters, a generation of hobbled S-Card HDTVs, and non-“cable” television providers, including DirecTV and AT&T U-verse, who will continue to operate closed networks.
Ben Drawbaugh (EngadgetHD) suggests I’m a pessimist. Although, I’d say mine is a fairly realistic view based on past performance. I do believe, at the end of the day, industry will have to collectively decide what’s best for their business to move us beyond this quagmire. As I’m uncertain of the FCC’s legal scope and backbone. So television providers voluntarily opening up their platforms, or at least working business deals, is the most realistic way forward for folks left unsatisfied with the generic STB and walled gardens.
On a practical level, the most obvious change will be the FCC requirement that cable providers permit CableCARD self installs (within 9-12 months) if they allow self installs of their own equipment. Why most MSOs haven’t gone down this path on their own is beyond me, as it’d be more efficient and economical for everyone — all it generally requires is a phone call (or web UI!) to provide numbers for pairing. When moving to my current Cox Communications neighborhood a year ago, the first installer skipped his appointment and the second who actually showed up prepared to work still had me billed me $30 per TiVo/TV — ultimately costing me $60, plus 4 hours of waiting around followed by 2 hours of monitoring the technician. For reference, I believe their own hardware installs were freely provided (maybe promotional) or you could just pick up the gear at the office yourself. So it’ll be nice to see a little parity instead of additional CableCARD roadblocks.
For additional (less pessimistic?) coverage, check out GeekTonic, Engadget, and the Washington Post. Or just review the entire 59 page FCC order below — download it or send it fullscreen for more comfortable reading.