I’m not a Boxee user and in truth I don’t really know what Boxee does. But I do know that Boxee is some sort of TV device that uses a signal feed of either over-the-air antenna (OTA) or unencrypted cable-TV (clear QAM). And Boxee as well as many other high-tech and some low-tech setups would be significantly marginalized if the FCC has their way. That’s right, the FCC whose purpose is to serve the people of the United States has somehow been co-opted by the cable companies (Big Cable) and is pushing for a measure to force you to have a cable box at every outlet. (Yes, technically, you could use a CableCard at an outlet instead of a full cable box but to be realistic, cable cards are not going to be mainstream devices. Besides, it is still a device you need to get from Big Cable, so there’s not much difference for this discussion from a full cable box.) Ars Technica has a good write up that summarizes the issues.

In their proposal, near the top of page 3, the FCC states that “77 percent of cable subscribers have at least one digital cable set-top box or retail CableCARD device in their home”. That may be true but ignores the fact that there are likely other outlets in the house that do not have a cable box. It also ignores the fact that it’s very likely that a good portion of that 77 percent isn’t very happy about even having that one cable box in the house. So what’s the percentage of all outlets where a cable box is desired? And even if you assume for a minute that there are no other outlets in those 77 percent of households and that all 77 percent of those households are happy having a cable box, what about the other 23 percent? That’s not a trivial amount of households!!! We aren’t talking about a small isolated group of Americans. Even in the most favorable view of that statistic, the FCC is saying they propose that a nearly quarter of all American cable subscribing households will be mandated to add special equipment rented from the cable company!!!

It was only two and a half years ago that Big Cable started this attack by moving all the channels that they were allowed to off of the “cable ready” channels and onto the digital broadcast spectrum. So as I feared then, it was the opening salvo in the war to fully control every television tuner with a Big Cable provided device. The cable provider makes more money on rental and the cable hardware manufacturer makes money on the sale of the device to the cable provider. So everyone is happy. Except for the consumer. That the FCC is supposed to be watching out for.

I think it’s amazing that the FCC thinks it’s important to protect me from a 30 millisecond view of MIA’s middle finger but doesn’t think it’s important to protect the country from an onslaught of corporate takeover of our television equipment.

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