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Old 05-28-2008   #1
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Post Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

From an Associated Press report - By John Dunbar, May 28, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — The set-top box, a necessary appendage for millions of cable television customers for decades, is moving toward extinction.

A leading television manufacturer, Sony Electronics Inc., and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said Tuesday they signed an agreement that will allow viewers to rid themselves of set-top boxes, yet still receive advanced "two-way" cable services, such as pay-per-view movies.

In most cases, cable viewers also could dispose of another remote control since they could use their TV's control rather than one tied to the set-top box.

The agreement marks a significant meeting of the minds between cable companies and one of the world's dominant makers of consumer electronics. The two industries have been feuding for a decade about how best to deliver cable service to customers while allowing them to buy equipment of their own choosing.

Sony agreed to use the cable industry's technology in its sets as soon as possible but could not say when the first such televisions might be appear in stores.

The agreement is between Sony and the nation's six largest cable companies: Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks. The six companies serve more than 82 percent of cable subscribers.

Cable subscribers are generally locked into renting a set-top box from their provider if they want more than the most basic cable TV service.

More than a decade ago, Congress ordered the cable industry to allow outside electronics makers to compete for the boxes. The industry responded by developing the "cable card." The cards are inserted into competing boxes, televisions or other devices and unscramble the cable signal.

The cards have been the source of frequent customer complaints and never proved popular. In addition, sets can only receive signals from their cable company, not vice versa. Subscribers were unable to enjoy "two-way" features such as video on demand, on-screen channel guides and cable company-provided digital video recorders.

Customers will still be able to attach their own devices — like TiVo digital video recorders, according to the NCTA.

Under the new system, customers will still need to get a cable card from their provider, but the agreement means, hopefully, technical glitches will be eliminated, "two-way" services will be available and there will be no need for the clunky boxes.

The cable association said it was hopeful other electronics manufacturers will also agree to use the same technology.

The industry hopes to head off action by the Federal Communications Commission to impose a two-way standard on the industry.

"Every member of the FCC has encouraged the parties to resolve these highly technical issues in private-sector negotiations," said Kyle McSlarrow, president of NCTA. Tuesday's announcement means they have done so, he added.

The FCC declined to comment on the agreement Tuesday.

________________________________________ ______

Revival of the CableCARD? It's overdue!
Ken S is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2008   #2
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Default Re: Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

Thanks for the info Ken S. This sounds like a move in the right direction.
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Old 05-29-2008   #3
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Default Re: Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

Screw that, I'm all for a mandatory standard placed on the cable companies. This is their way around it. Which means it can't be good for us.

When has the cable company ever made a good decision for us?

I'm ready to move to France so I can have broadband that is 1GB per second for the same price I pay for 15MB per second!
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Old 05-30-2008   #4
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Thumbs down Re: Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

Have a nice trip, Lotus. Be sure and send us a postcard to let us know how that mandatory 35-hour-maximum work week turns out for ya.
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Old 05-30-2008   #5
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Default Re: Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

Your pay for 15 of those hours will probably go back to the government to help lower your high-speed internet costs.
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Old 06-06-2008   #6
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Default Re: Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

Good news. It sounds like it should help. But there's no substitute for enforced standards.
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