Yep, total failure. There is no real 3rd party marketplace for CableCARDs and what the network operators provide is limited in functionality while costing the same as a set top box (e.g. Comcrap’s CableCARD doesn’t support on demand). On top of everything else, the signal processing capabilities in the CableCARDs was suspect, in my own experience I found the image to be highly pixelated compared to set top boxes.
CableCARD was supposed to be the fix, but it was slow to deploy, was never widely supported, and had huge limitations. Early versions of the host spec supported only one-way access, so electronic program guides, video-on-demand, and other two-way services didn’t function. The FCC then tried to force the industry’s hand, all but demanding innovation by requiring cable operators to use CableCARDs even inside their own leased set-top boxes, just to level the playing field.
[From FCC admits CableCARD a failure, vows to try something else]
The cable industry has a boot to the neck of consumers and Comcast in particular is intent on having a piece of it’s equipment between every television and cable end on their network. As I wrote here, they have been successful in dismantling the very notion of “basic cable” and it was one of the reasons why I dumped them for Directv.
With the tech industry preoccupied with the FCC regulating the internet I am concerned that cable companies will use the time to tighten their stranglehold on customers. Given the way that licensing works these companies are operating regional monopolies with government stamps of approval yet there is little in the way of on the ground regulatory action that is intended to increase competition. As convergence between the Internet and television draws nearer this is not a good set of conditions to deliver innovation in, and with Comcast acquiring content networks there is much to be concerned about.
I noticed something interesting a few weeks ago, 2 of the televisions we have that don’t have cablecards or set top boxes stopped receiving some channels. After many calls to Comcast I learned what many people already know, it doesn’t matter if you have a digital TV because Comcast took advantage of the DTV conversion to change their channel package. Channels that were previously on “expanded basic” and required no set top box now require a converter box and more importantly, Comcast’s remote control.
The way cable works, and why it was better for us than satellite, is that you don’t need any converter box to decode the signal for the channels we often watch while in our kitchen, as one example, like cable news. This makes for a very clean installation with no extra hardware or additional control units while giving us exactly the channels we want.
Comcast took something that worked really well, broke it and called it an upgrade… they are really earning a Comcraptic reputation.
What I find particularly aggravating is that Comcast is taking advantage of the federally mandated digital TV (DTV) conversion to push through something they call “digital transition”. Comcast customer support kept repeating the phrase to me “the government is making us do this” and this is patently false and misleading. Comcast’s “digital transition” is a plan to open up bandwidth on their network, it doesn’t have anything to do with the federal mandate.
It’s very clear that the DTV mandate doesn’t force the cable companies to do anything… what Comcast did was a choice they made and part of a larger strategy to get a piece of their hardware on every television their customers have. The timing was deliberate and intended to obscure their actions under the umbrella of what the federal government was doing to over the air full power broadcast station on public airwaves.
This totally makes sense.
Big doings at Plaxo today! We are really excited to announce some of the biggest news in the history of Plaxo: We have just signed an agreement** to be acquired by Comcast, the nation’s leading provider of entertainment, information and communications products and services (and our largest customer and partner).
[From Plaxo's Personal Card]
Consider this: One side in the debate actually went to the trouble of hiring people off the street to pack a Federal Communications Commission meeting yesterday—and effectively keep some of its opponents out of the room.
Broadband giant Comcast—the subject of the F.C.C. hearing on network neutrality at the Harvard Law School, in Cambridge, Massachusetts—acknowledged that it did exactly that.
Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Khoury said that the company paid some people to arrive early and hold places in the queue for local Comcast employees who wanted to attend the hearing.
[From Comcast F.C.C. Hearing Strategy - Portfolio.com]
As if hiring people to warm seats in the hearing for Comcast employees is better than hiring people who don’t care about the issue to sit in the hearing. Equally unfair would be not allowing Comcast employees to attend a public hearing to begin with but a company willfully attempting to suppress the voices of it’s critics in a government hearing is intensely troubling.