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Canada Television News

Canadians To Get Unbundled Cable TV Channels 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the shut-up-and-take-my-money dept.
Jerry Rivers writes "The CRTC, Canada's communications regulator, has approved changes to the way cable companies bundle programming to allow the purchase of selected channels while dropping others they do not want. However, the customers won't necessarily be paying any less. 'The flipside is that the fewer channels that are subscribed to, the more expensive each will become, people familiar with the matter said, asking for anonymity because details of the decision are confidential. The decision is a small step toward an "à la carte" model long talked about by regulators — and longed for by consumers — but resisted by TV channel owners and distributors for fear of undermining the economics of cable television, which have come to rely on subscriber fees from those channels.'"
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Canadians To Get Unbundled Cable TV Channels

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  • What I'll pay (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rtaylor (70602) on Friday July 20, 2012 @05:53PM (#40718711) Homepage

    I'm willing to pay $15/month for HBO, SyFy, and the Food Network.

    If it comes with extra, that's fine, but I'm not going over that amount (adjust for inflation).

    • Re:What I'll pay (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:06PM (#40718863)

      I'm willing to pay $15/month for HBO, SyFy, and the Food Network.

      Will that price cover the costs of fixed plant and personell? You know, those fixed costs that are irrespective of the number of channels you get? Will it cover the rental of converters and such?

      Considering that HBO is a premium channel that is on the order of $10/month to start with, that leaves $5 to cover SyFy and FN and all the fixed costs. I doubt that you'll be paying such a small amount for any cable connection anytime soon.

      • Re:What I'll pay (Score:5, Insightful)

        by masternerdguy (2468142) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:14PM (#40718945)
        Sssh, this is slashdot where there's no such thing as "brick and mortar". The only thing that matters is the cost of sending the data down the wire, and there are no other costs that really exist (it's all regulator BS and fat CEOs trying to siphon your hard earned money). Who cares if it takes actual people to run an operation?
        • Re:What I'll pay (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:37PM (#40719163) Journal

          Sssh, this is slashdot where there's no such thing as "brick and mortar". The only thing that matters is the cost of sending the data down the wire, and there are no other costs that really exist (it's all regulator BS and fat CEOs trying to siphon your hard earned money). Who cares if it takes actual people to run an operation?

          While a strawman is always fun, I think that people(at least the slashdot crowd) would much prefer to see a 'this is the per-location cost of keeping the system up' base charge, with the option to purchase various sorts of services(channels, data, etc.) over the wire, rather than giant opaque bundles or 'a la carte' pricing that obfuscates the fixed costs by having some byzantine sliding price for each item based on how many items you are buying, that's just intended to be confusing.

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        HBO costs a lot more than $10 per month. To get it, I have to subscribe to basic cable, plus digital cable, plus the cable box, and then finally I can pay $10 on top of that to get HBO.

        I already have the 10Mbps Internet connection and a Roku box that supports HBOGo. All I want is to be able to subscribe to HBOGo for $10 per month without having to pay another $50 per month on top of that.

        • At least in my country, HBO's parent company wants you to subscribe to CNN, HLN, TBS, TNT, TCM, and Cartoon Network before you're allowed to subscribe to HBO.
        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          HBO costs a lot more than $10 per month.

          The cost for just HBO is about what I said. That's just for the HBO. I wasn't talking about any of the other costs that are covered by the service tier you are on.

          and then finally I can pay $10 on top of that to get HBO.

          So, like I said, the cost of HBO is $10, but the cost of the other equipment to get HBO is more. Someone who says they want "HBO and X and Y for $15/month" is ignoring those costs that you just went on about. $15 for HBO and two other channels? Ain't gonna happen.

          All I want is to be able to subscribe to HBOGo for $10 per month without having to pay another $50 per month on top of that.

          Wait a minute. You can't do that. You need the internet service and the cable/DSL

      • by Firehed (942385)

        Then he doesn't buy. Free market at work here. Good/service X is worth $y to me. Company offering said good/service is asking $z. If $z = $y, I buy it. If their costs are such that they can't offer the thing to me at a price at or below what I'm willing to pay, then I go without. If going without really bothers me, then $y is actually higher than I stated earlier (unless it's artificially capped by what I actually _can_ pay, i.e. I simply can't afford it, but would buy if I could)

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Yes this stuff doesn't come for free. I used to subscribe t the "limited" locals-only service and Comcast charged $7 a month. Since local TV is free, I figure 7 dollars is how much it actually costs to maintain the antenna, the cable, and associated equipment. Just like it costs ~7 dollars for basic phone service with no included calls.

        As for the original poster, I've seen cities that have ala carte charge $2 per channel.

        So HBO + Syfy + Food would be $10 + $2 + $2 plus the $7 hookup fee I discussed above

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Since local TV is free, I figure 7 dollars is how much it actually costs to maintain the antenna, the cable, and associated equipment.

          Ok, then you add a satellite-fed service and the maintenance and costs of the satellite dish and decoders etc. Greater than $7 now.

          So HBO + Syfy + Food would be $10 + $2 + $2 plus the $7 hookup fee I discussed above. About $21 per month.....

          Except all three channels will cost more because fewer people will be paying for them. Changing the economics of the system and expecting the prices to stay the same is a bit naive. Kind of like saying that the fixed plant cost must be $7 even when adding all kinds of other things to it. Or expecting the low-income pricing that is heavily subsidized by everyone else to stay th

          • by bryan1945 (301828)

            Didn't read to carefully, did you? He was talking about over the air channels he gets on an antenna. No satellite, etc.
            The rest is OK.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      Realistically, it's unlikely that the monthly bill will be any less than at least the most rudimentary cable subscription, which tends to start at about $45 per month. *ANYTHING* that you get over and above the basic channels is going to cost you extra, whether you go a-la-carte or get additional ones in package deals.
    • Content bundling (Score:4, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:11PM (#40718919)

      I'm willing to pay $15/month for HBO, SyFy, and the Food Network.

      If it comes with extra, that's fine, but I'm not going over that amount (adjust for inflation).

      But suppose Viacom won't sell dishnetwork Nickelodian but wants to bundle Nick their AMC channel. The cable and dish networks are not the only bundlers. If the cable folks stop bundling shows, the content producers may start bundling their channels, leading us right back to where we started.

      The difference is that it's been proven that the content producers are much more powerful than the cable and sattelite providers in dictating terms.

      • Is there some reason why there isn't scrambled broadcast TV? There are so many digital broadcast channels not theres no reason to have Cable TV. Wait you say, HBO is only on cable. Yes so it is, but that has nothing to do with Cable. why can't they broadcast HBO scrambled? Then you could cut out the Cable provider and pay the broadcaster.

        People in cities that pay for cable are mainly doing it because thats how they are used to doing it. Between broadcast and streaming cable is obsolete.

        What cable c

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          In my apartment, in the heart of downtown of the second largest city in Canada, or the sixth largest city in the US/Canada, I get a grand total of zero digital channels. Before the digital switchover, I got three or four analog, all but one with very poor quality (double/triple images, lots of snow, etc), and that one that came in well was only viewable if I stood in a certain place in the room, less the image degrade.

          At the same time, satellite dishes are forbidden, and IPTV from the phone company requires

          • by Ichijo (607641)
            Here's a very good antenna [amazon.com]. Before I got it, my old Terk indoor antenna only received one digital channel. Now I get about 10, even with the antenna mounted indoors next to the TV.
        • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:18PM (#40719551) Homepage Journal

          Is there some reason why there isn't scrambled broadcast TV?

          In the United States, there is. It's called satellite. The problem in Canada, I'm guessing, is that it's so far north that one is less likely to have a good enough view of the southern sky.

          • by cdrguru (88047)

            As far as I know neither Dish or DirecTV operates in Canada. I am pretty sure it has to do with satellite "footprint" where the signal can be received reliably. Sure, there are plenty of people getting DirecTV along the southern edge of Canada, but they can't advertise their service there because it doesn't work even over the lower provinces. I am not sure Canada would let them get away with saying that if you can receive the signal then fine, otherwise too bad.

            • by Fjandr (66656)

              Last I was aware, neither DirecTV nor DishNetwork would sell subscription service if you did not have a service address in the USA, despite reception being perfect in Central America. I know a number of people who have dual residences who pay their service in the USA and simply imported the equipment to the country they live part of the year in. Once the service is activate they can't control reception based on geographic location unless there is an actual physical line-of-sight impediment.

              That said, I coul

          • I could be mistaken, and please correct me if I am, but I do believe Canada has its own satellites. You don't point your dish South there.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          Is there some reason why there isn't scrambled broadcast TV?

          We've tried that already and it didn't work all that well. Now, with the far smaller range of television stations, it would be even less practical.

          Back in the 1980s in Chicago we had Channel 44 which was scrambled movies and adult content in the evenings. You needed a really good UHF antenna to get their signal clearly outside of the city limits, which is maybe 25% of the population or less. Because the signal was broadcast there was a proliferation of "Channel 44 Decoder" boxes that were available and a

        • by sjames (1099)

          I can't say in Canada, but in the U.S. the allocation for television broadcasts required that the transmissions be in the interest of the general public. Scrambled signals are worthless to the general public so are forbidden. That requirement being because the spectrum is a public commons.

      • The difference is that it's been proven that the content producers are much more powerful than the cable and sattelite providers in dictating terms.

        Except that this is Canada we're talking about, where with the exception of a couple of independent stations, the content providers are all part of the Shaw, Bell, Videotron, or Rogers media empires, and where the cable/satellite providers are Shaw Direct, Bell TV, Videotron, or Rogers.

      • Re:Content bundling (Score:5, Informative)

        by Guspaz (556486) on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:02PM (#40719389)

        Amusingly, most of the channels mentioned (HBO, SyFy, Food Network, Nickelodeon) are not available directly in Canada. AMC is, assuming it's not a watered down Canadian version, but most Viacom channels (like Comedy Central) are not available.

        The CRTC has "cancon" (Canadian Content) regulations that require:

        1) Canadian channels to show Canadian productions for a certain percentage of their airtime
        2) Cable providers to have Canadian channels as a certain percentage of channels offered
        3) Consumers to subscribe to a certain percentage of Canadian channels

        For cable companies in Canada that already have a-la-carte offerings (my provider, Videotron, will sell you basic cable and you can a-la-carte the rest) require that your a-la-carte selections adhere to the cancon restrictions.

      • by swalve (1980968)
        That IS how it works. If DishNetwork wants FX and FoxTV, they have to take Fox News, Speed TV and whatever other tripe they put out, for $6 a month per subscriber. They won't just sell FX alone. (Well, they might, but then it's $8 a month.) Viacom and ABC and the rest are the same way. That's why you hear about this set of channels or that one not being available for a time on Dish or Comcast- they are negotiating the price for all those channels as a bundle.
    • most likely not going to happen but i wanna see the maths on how many setups will save you money if you grab Your Channels and also grab say "The Fae TeaGarden Channel" or some other channels that they just can't get viewers for (now of course you get them because they are bundled with the Ultimate Platinum Package (with the other 300 channels)

      • by whoever57 (658626)

        but i wanna see the maths on how many setups will save you money if you grab Your Channels and also grab say "The Fae TeaGarden Channel" or some other channels that they just can't get viewers for

        I think that your example is exactly why the cable companies don't wnat to eliminate bundling. The cable companies don't pay for "The Fae TeaGarden Channel", but how to explain that if the customer doesn't want that channel, there will not be a reduction in the monthly charge?

    • Re:What I'll pay (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Macrat (638047) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:16PM (#40718961)

      I'm willing to pay $15/month for HBO, SyFy, and the Food Network.

      Remember when the SyFy channel actually showed SciFi programming?

    • Re:What I'll pay (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:58PM (#40719363) Journal

      What's good on the Food Network anymore? It used to have good cooking shows with advice you could actually use (esp, Good Eats). Now any time I turn to it it's just that bleached spiky haired jackass or some really stressed out chefs bitching at each other.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The fact that you lump HBO with the other channel show you don't really know how it works. So good luck on getting that. Also, a unicorn that poops cheese burgers.

      • by rtaylor (70602)

        I don't buy the service at the moment. If they want me as a client those are my terms.

    • Re:What I'll pay (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pepty (1976012) on Friday July 20, 2012 @11:10PM (#40720965)
      I'd be up for metered cable: $1 per hour for all of the shows and movies I watch; the catch is that I'll need to be paid back $1 per hour for all of the commercials that come with that programming. These days that means a net of 40-80 cents per hour to them. But I'm willing to throw in product placement for free!
  • ~5 years late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigjarom (950328) on Friday July 20, 2012 @05:54PM (#40718715) Journal
    This is great, but it has become a moot point for myself and others who have long since abandoned cable television.
    • by tom17 (659054)

      I almost cancelled Rogers this year, but they managed to get my VIP package down to $60 so I am in for one more year.

      This may just be what they need to do for me to cut that down to ~$40. Then I will be happy.

      They will of course be crying of reduced profits, but they won't see it as $40 instead of $0, they will see it as $40 instead of $60...

    • This is great, but it has become a moot point for myself and others who have long since abandoned cable television.

      I think I read an article about you: http://www.theonion.com/articles/area-man-constantly-mentioning-he-doesnt-own-a-tel,429/ [theonion.com]

    • by danomac (1032160)

      Ditto. I cancelled in September 2010 and put up a TV antenna. Couple with that my mythtv box I use to record with, don't miss Cable at all.

      I may only have six channels, but there's really no difference to having six channels with nothing on or 150 channels with nothing on. There's still nothing on!

    • Re:~5 years late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:26PM (#40719635) Homepage Journal

      look at me, I don't use cable. This topic has nothing to do with me and won't impact me but I just wanted to tell you how hip I am that I already cut the cable.

      See how you sound?

    • by MrLogic17 (233498)

      Agree. Too little, too late.

      Cable is on death row, and nothing will save it from the Internet.

      I'm waiting for the networks to discover that they can stream their own channel on the Internet from their own servers - and thus have complete controll over commercials, based on the viewer's IP, time zone, and other demographics. Neilson can only dream of the ratings data they could gather. If Facebook can IPO for a gagillion dollars, why can's [your-favorite-channel] make a killing without the cable company as a

    • Unbundle the channels? Yeah, it's already too late for that. Unbundle the shows completely. Just give me a data connection and somewhere to get the show content, no matter where in the world I live.
  • Unbundle this.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:06PM (#40718853)
    Unbundle the endless parade of commercials and then maybe I would be interested. We only do Netflix at home. Im vacationing/visiting for the month and wow.. the commercial to program ratio on cable is pretty abusive once you break loose from cable for a while.
    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      Unbundle the endless parade of commercials and then maybe I would be interested.

      The only commercials the cable company has control over are the local-avail spots, and if those aren't used by the local cable company they are filled by commercials from the programming provider. The cable company could do away with ALL of their commercials and you'd still see just as many commercials.

      There's no way you are ever going to get the local broadcast channels to stop using ads, nor will you see any of the non-premium satellite services drop them. Cable companies will never have enough clout to

      • by geekoid (135745)

        they could, but people would need to pay 5 times what they do now for the service. ALL the customers.

        • by Fjandr (66656)

          Exactly. Neither the content producers nor the distributors are going to give up their revenue streams willingly, so those commercial spots leaving would be replaced by billing subscribers directly. The likelihood of that happening is pretty near zero, and as Hulu shows even people there will put up with increasing advertising despite paying for streaming.

          Odd as it may sound, I actually would see Hulu increasing the breadth of their ad selection as a good thing, but only because being forced to display the

    • Just wait (Score:5, Insightful)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:14PM (#40718939)

      Unbundle the endless parade of commercials and then maybe I would be interested. We only do Netflix at home. Im vacationing/visiting for the month and wow.. the commercial to program ratio on cable is pretty abusive once you break loose from cable for a while.

      When Cable TV started the big selling point was no commericals cause you were paying to the shows. Now it's pay for the shows and get commercials too. Do you think this won't happen with streaming? Go watch Hulu. It will happen just like it did with Cable.

      • Re:Just wait (Score:4, Informative)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:23PM (#40719601) Homepage Journal

        "When Cable TV started the big selling point was no commericals cause you were paying to the shows"
        No, it was not. The only cable that ever said that was ON TV, and that wasn't for 'shows', that was for shows on their channel. Like if HBO has it's own box on your TV.
        No other cable company every promised that because it makes no damn sense.

        People who sold satellite, the big ones, would say things like that because the feeds weren't scrambles, so you could get shows before commercials were inserted.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          People who sold satellite, the big ones, would say things like that because the feeds weren't scrambles, so you could get shows before commercials were inserted.

          They were saying that about the pay channels like HBO because there are no ads (were, I don't know if you shouldn't count the ads for HBO programs) in the programming already.

          Every advertising-supported satellite service came from the uplink with the ads already there. They had to. There was no easy or cheap way for the cable companies to break the programming up so they could insert ads themselves, they could only replace ads in the program stream with their own -- called "local avails".

          Or, they wou

        • Re:Just wait (Score:4, Interesting)

          by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Friday July 20, 2012 @10:24PM (#40720725) Journal

          Well, if you want to be technical about it...

          My Grandmother had Cable TV because she lived in a valley with big ol' hills on all sides of her. Cable TV was once "Community Antenna" TV and the idea was that you put a big ol' antenna at the top of the hill and then distribute the programming to the people in the valley.

          So what it meant was that she could get all the broadcast channels--ABC (Channel 8), NBC (Channel 4), CBS (Channel 3), and PBS (Channel 11) stations--and the picture looked great whereas if she stuck an antenna on her roof, she'd be lucky to pick up anything. But she still saw all the advertisements.

          Later on, as I understand it, the companies that did this also mixed a satellite dish in there and gave people HBO for an extra amount. You could also get WTBS out of Atlanta and other "super stations"--but you still saw the advertising.

          Now if you had your own satellite dish, you could skip the local advertising. Years ago, the company I worked for had a satellite dish and I remember watching Monday Night Football directly from the ABC satellite. You saw the network ads and then you were treated to several minutes of broadcasters chatting, shots of attractive women in the stands, and anything else that caught some producer's eye.

    • by kenboldt (1071456)

      If Netflix didn't completely suck in Canada, and I had some reliable way to watch the live sports that I wanted, then I would consider going that route over cable television.

      My wife and I did the free trial of Netflix and thought, wow, this would be great if all you wanted to watch were movies from the 1980's and seasons 1 and 2 of television series that are in their 9th season. Even at $8.99 a month Netflix in Canada seems like a complete waste of money. If the content was the same as in the US, then tha

      • It's $7.99/mo in Canada, and pretty much every series it has is complete. They're not all old series, either... just yesterday, I was watching Mad Men, where they have the current season. They've got the current Top Gear (UK), and they just added the current Torchwood and Breaking Bad series, too.

        If you want to watch current seasons of stuff though, Netflix has never been the place to go. Just go to the website for the appropriate station, and stream it from there.

      • by Fjandr (66656)

        You must've tried it in its infancy. While it's not necessarily predictable exactly which movies will take a long time to hit NetFlix, it routinely gets movies within 6 months to a year of their theatrical release, and the only incomplete series are those which are actually still in production. This is because the content producers won't deviate from their release schedule. If it hasn't hit DVD, they won't license it to anyone else either. So yes, there is a lag of a couple years in the release of any curre

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday July 20, 2012 @06:07PM (#40718879)

    Pure ala-carte would indeed seem to raise cost. People won't want to subscribe to just one more channel that they watch only rarely. However what I think they need is a finer grained model. Instead of a typical "only the bare necessities" vs "basic" vs "premium" that they have now there need to be small bundles. Ie, 5 kids channels in one bundle, or discovery+science+history+natgeo in a second bundle, things like that.

    • by PPH (736903)

      or discovery+science+history+natgeo in a second bundle

      Dream on. It will be Discovery plus 4 Barney the Dinosaur channels in one bundle.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      reallt is shouldbe:
      natgeo+history+syfy+ghost network.

      History and natgeo no longer care about actual science.

  • One side effect of picking what channels you want instead of a bundle is the cable companies would know for sure what channels customers actually liked at what price point. Right now they get data from the digital boxes on what you are watching and that helps in their bargaining with the content providers, but real sales data would bring real market forces to bear.

    You just know they would experiment with varying prices to see what the revnue maximizing price is for each channel. And I wouldn't have a prob

  • ... would be to just pay for the specific shows you watch

    You watch shows X, Y, and Z on whatever channels? You watch them every day or every week? Fine... subscribe to those shows, and then the PVR provided by the cable company automatically records those shows for your perusal later (or you could watch it "live", if you happened to be around at the time).

  • The Canadian CableCos are about as "competitive" as the Cel companies. Then again, they're usually both.

    The likelihood of any ordinary consumer seeing any saving from this is more or less zero. You now have two choices:

    a) Accept bundles of channels that include all sorts of crap you don't want.
    b) Pay through the nose to choose a smaller number of channels, the result being that your monthly bill doesn't change.

    I'll stick with c) do neither.
    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Right, because there are obviously no available choices for television service in Canada. Why, a person in Montreal can choose between only six different services (Illico digital cable from Videotron, FibeTV IPTV from Bell, BellTV satellite from Bell, ShawDirect satellite from Shaw, Colbanet IPTV from Colbanet, Zazeen IPTV from Acanac) from five distinct companies over three different transport mediums... No competition whatsoever!

      • Leaving aside that two of your choices are both Bell, from this I can assume that in Montreal you already have amazing options in choosing your mix of channels and pay low low prices?

        Or perhaps do you pay the same price as everywhere else - that somehow creeps towards $100 a month for most households?
        • by Guspaz (556486)

          I can't speak for "everywhere else". My cable bill is something like $60-70, but I've got a rather large number of channels, I'm not getting any bundle discounts, I'm virtually locked in via a bunch of silly rules in my lease, and the non-incumbent options haven't been around long enough to have any impact on price. Some of them do have rather large potential savings.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          I should mention that we've had a-la-carte selection in Montreal for years. Not completely, and there are all the cancon restrictions the government puts on it, but you can get basic cable and then pick most other stuff a-la-carte except for a handful of specialties like HBO Canada, but that's a restriction from the owner of HBO Canada that forces the cable companies to sell it as a bundle (even if cable carriers wanted to they couldn't sell it unbundled)

  • What about a sports only plan where you just pay for the sports channel and not crap like lifetime, OWN, logo, mtv, vh1, ETC.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      How about a plan without any sports channel. I can not imagine those channels are cheap.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      What about a no-sports plan where you don't pay for the sports channel

      FTFY

      Really, that would have the most value to me. ESPN is (or so I have read) one of the most expensive sets of channels for the cable companies to acquire, so it annoys me to pay for them, when I never watch them. Of course in the scenario where I can choose (and actually pay less) for not getting ESPN, that is going to increase your cost of ESPN.

  • So you only pay $10 for it if you want HBO also disney used to be a pay more channel and even it acts like now days with west feeds and stuff like disney XD, disney JR and so on.

  • Canadians get the better WGN with all the local (Chicago OTA only) sports as well.

  • Don't care (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sean (422) on Friday July 20, 2012 @07:56PM (#40719857)

    Torrents are already unbundled.

Any circuit design must contain at least one part which is obsolete, two parts which are unobtainable, and three parts which are still under development.

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