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You Should be Able to Watch TV How You Want

July 16, 2013 Set-Top Box , Video Innovation

By misreading the law, the FCC took away your ability to buy alternative set-top boxes like Tivo and Smart TVs. We think that’s wrong. 


Congress recognized customers should not have to rely on their cable companies for a set-top box as early as 1996.  When they passed the updated Telecommunications Act that year they included Section 629, which required the FCC to make sure consumers would have a choice of video devices, just like they can pick what kind of TV to buy, or what model of wireless handset to use.  

Just like your ISP doesn’t make its subscribers use only Macs, or only PCs, your cable company shouldn’t make subscribers use the set-top box it provides.

To implement the law, the FCC and industry created the CableCARD system. Because of CableCARD, you can buy a set-top box at a retail store and plug it into your cable system.  The device will still work even if you switch your provider from Comcast to DirectTV later on. This facilitates competition in the subscription TV market by making it easier for people to switch providers.  And bringing non-affiliated companies into the set-top box market leads to improvements like the ability to record TV programs.

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Why the Consumer Electronics Show Will Never be Overrated

January 18, 2013 Innovation , SOPA , Video Innovation

Last week (January 7-11), Las Vegas hosted the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show, the annual trade show where tech companies present their latest gadgets and gizmos.  Speculation about which company will have the largest, sharpest, thinnest, displays or the latest bells and whistles for their mobile handsets dominates the tech world for weeks leading up to CES, and the show officially begins the conversation for consumer tech for the year.  Walking the convention center floor and playing with the newest in consumer tech is a tech fanboy/fangirl’s dream come true.  Public Knowledge sent a delegation to the show this year and was encouraged by the energy of the attendants not only with regard to tech devices but especially toward tech policy.

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AllVid: Not Dead Yet! (Legally, At Least)

January 16, 2013 Set-Top Box , Video Innovation

In a somewhat cursory opinion, the DC Circuit struck down the FCC’s “Plug and Play” order, which has been in place since 2003. The “encoding rules” this order enacted were designed to prevent subscription TV services from making it difficult for people to use home recording equipment, using copy-protection technologies like Macrovision.

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Congress Considers Updating 20-year-old Rules, Witnesses Squabble

July 25, 2012 MVPD , Video Innovation

Congressional Committee hearings have the tendency to come across as a bit dry at times [read, a lot of the time].  Members of Congress attempt humor that falls flat, drop references to their local sports team, and respectfully disagree with their colleagues about legislation or Constitutional interpretation.   The witnesses provide testimony from the perspective of their organizations/industries, take subtle jabs at the opposing position, and answer Members’ questions, or listen to Members use the majority of their question time to make drawn out positions statements.

However, yesterday’s Senate Commerce hearing on “The Cable Act at 20” was different.  It became so feisty at one point that I expected popcorn and soft drinks to go along with the entertainment. 

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Public Knowledge Defends Consumer Choice in “The Future Of Video” Hearing

June 29, 2012 Data Caps , VerizonSpectrumCo , Video Innovation

PK President and CEO Gigi Sohn was back on the Hill Wednesday morning, offering testimony before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology on “The Future of Video.”

The panel featured seven other members, including representatives from the broadcast, cable, satellite, movie, internet and streaming industries. Specifically, that means Charlie Ergen of DISH Network, Robert Johnson of Sky Angel, David Hyman of Netflix, Jim Funk of Roku, David Barrett of Hearst Television, Michael O’Leary of the MPAA, and Michael Powell of the NCTA (and formerly of the FCC) all joined Gigi on the panel. Needless to say, it was a big panel.

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