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Government Television The Media Entertainment

FCC To Allow Cable Companies To Encrypt Over-the-Air Channels 376

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-free-ride dept.
alen writes "The FCC is now allowing cable companies to encrypt free OTA channels that they also rebroadcast over their networks. 'The days of plugging a TV into the wall and getting cable are coming to an end. After a lengthy review process, the FCC has granted cable operators permission to encrypt their most basic cable programming.' Soon the only way to receive free OTA channels via your cable company will involve renting yet another box or buying something like Boxee."
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FCC To Allow Cable Companies To Encrypt Over-the-Air Channels

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  • Do Not Want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:50PM (#41662979)

    well there goes my HTPC build. For those that like to build their own media centers, dvr's, etc this is utter crap. Of course I can spend $200 to get a tuner card that will accept a M-type cable card but then that is yet another piece of equipment that I have to rent from said cable company.

    who wants to bet said FCC people have coushy jobs lined up at some major cable company.

    • Re:Do Not Want (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:53PM (#41663023) Homepage

      NO you are just using the wrong recorder....

      eztv.it, set up the RSS feed and your torrent catcher.

      Screw the cable companies and dish companies. Best $12.95 a month I spend is for a VPN outside the USA to get all the TV shows I want to record off of my DishTV.

      • Re:Do Not Want (Score:5, Insightful)

        by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:00PM (#41663139)

        My recorder is fine. I cut the cord long ago. But since the line is still active to me having a cable modem this solves the issue of getting a decent antenea in order to get the OTA's. Currently I can just plug my system / TV into the wall and still pickup those said channels as they are broadcast in clearQuam as required under current regulations.

        This is just a move that gives me the finger and forces me to put an ugly ass antenea on my roof in order to get semi decent reception as my town of 20k people is at least 50 miles from the nearest broadcast towers which causes all kinds of issues with reception.

        Now if they can also encrypt those channels over the same line even though they are free (as i don't need a subscription to get them). Guess i go netflix only and just do the over the interwebs route.

        • THERE GOES CABLE! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:07PM (#41663237) Homepage Journal

          Look! TV just killed itself!

          I have two tween kids. They don't know what Cable, satellite or OTA are...

          There's YouTube, NetFlix, Amazon and PutLocker.

          They also know some suckers who pay for HuluPlus, to watch the unwatchable.

          • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:49PM (#41663655) Homepage Journal

            There's YouTube, NetFlix, Amazon and PutLocker.

            Do these services have live sports or political talk shows? In my survey sample, one head of household, would rather go back to dial-up than drop ESPN and NBCSN (formerly Versus), and the other would be lost without MSNBC.

            • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:43PM (#41664149)

              These are kids he was talking about. Political talk shows are out.

              As for sports, that is the only real thing holding back a lot of guys I know from switching.

              That being said, Cable Companies keep raising the costs year after year above and beyond what people are receiving in cost-of-living raises . ESPN, especially. They can go fuck themselves.

              Young people are cutting the cords faster than ever, and in the case of kids, never accepting the cord in the first place. That's why the Cable Companies will die.

              1) No incentive to younger people to shell out $50-$60 per month (base rate). It's hard enough for younger people to find money in the first place, let alone spend it on stupid shit. It's basically a cell phone plan, or Internet plan in terms of cost. What does it deliver that is as attractive, or more attractive, to younger people than Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu or pirating ?

              2) Pricing themselves so high that older people are increasingly looking to save costs by switching to something else. Guys that need to have sports are really just buying it for sports then. That's not an audience that will keep revenue streams at the levels they are now, which means sports would need to increase their revenue streams even more.

              • by SeaFox (739806)

                These are kids he was talking about. Political talk shows are out.

                As for sports, that is the only real thing holding back a lot of guys I know from switching.

                That being said, Cable Companies keep raising the costs year after year above and beyond what people are receiving in cost-of-living raises . ESPN, especially. They can go fuck themselves.

                I would agree with this but it's not the cable companies that are the problem -- it's the employers. You can replace the phrase "cable companies" with any number of other groups, "grocery store chains" and "oil companies" being the first that come to mind. The real issue is the "cost-of-living raises" people are getting (don't know who this is btw, I haven't gotten a raise in over four years) aren't meeting the actual increase in said costs. It's supposed to be a reactionary adjustment to compensation. The

            • You've been taught to watch this stuff. You may not realize it, but it's a fact. ESPN being the most glaring example. Because media companies continue to refuse to accept the new world they live in, the gap is being filled by others. They are going to be replaced, and it's their own fault. Their ratings will continue to slide into oblivion while they blame it all on piracy. Meanwhile my wife drops $16/month on some MMO I've never heard of. Imagine if CBS could get $16/month from all of their viewers... oh w
          • by Talderas (1212466)

            TV broadcasting has 10 years to unfuck itself. That's when their NFL contract expires.

        • by BigDish (636009)

          My recorder is fine. I cut the cord long ago. But since the line is still active to me having a cable modem this solves the issue of getting a decent antenea in order to get the OTA's. Currently I can just plug my system / TV into the wall and still pickup those said channels as they are broadcast in clearQuam as required under current regulations.

          This is exactly why they are doing this. What you are doing currently is considered theft of service.

          • by Bigbutt (65939)

            Seriously? I pay the cable company for my Internet access and they throw in Basic cable for free (which is, plug my TV into the wall and I get basic channels). Depending on where I lived would determine just which channels I'd get. Just a bit south of here, I would get some HD tv. Where I am now, I get all low def but I get the channels I want to watch (Local News and Big Bang Theory).

            My ex picked up a cable box and HBO so she could watch True Blood (I think, or Breaking Bad or some other cable show). Now t

      • Why bother with a VPN? That of which we do not speak is $50 for 1TB. That's lasted me over an entire year of just my TV shows. I max out my home cable connection. I don't have to deal with seeding.

        Just use Sickbeard [sickbeard.com] and XBMC.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Don't give up on the HTPC, give up on cable instead.

      Get yourself an OTA tuner, amazon/netflix/hulu plus and go for it. Unless you are addicted to some sport that is not OTA it really is the way to go.

      • Re:Do Not Want (Score:4, Informative)

        by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:03PM (#41663173) Homepage Journal

        Don't give up on the HTPC, give up on cable instead.

        Get yourself an OTA tuner, amazon/netflix/hulu plus and go for it. Unless you are addicted to some sport that is not OTA it really is the way to go.

        HDHomeRun is the way to go; install it in your attic (where the signal is probably strong enough even if you are a ways from the tower) and enjoy it on MythTV...

        • by Aardpig (622459)

          Highly recommend this setup. Have digital antenna up in roof, feed comes down to HDHomeRun in basement, and from there hooks into my Mythbox via ethernet. BTW, OTA digital quality is better than cable, since the cable companies re-compress the datastream and thereby degrade it.

          • Re:Do Not Want (Score:4, Informative)

            by tgeek (941867) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:22PM (#41663963)
            And if you really want save some bucks on an antenna, just google "single bay gray hoverman" for plans and instructions to a sweet attic antenna you can build for about $10-$15 (assuming you have to purchase everything). Or an outdoor version that'll cost a few bucks more (pvc frame, lightning suppression etc.)
        • by Jaktar (975138)

          I put together my HDHomeRun with a small antenna about a month ago & dropped my DirectTV sub.

          MythTV skips a little bit during playback while to MediaPortal works just fine on my old P4 machine. Windows Media Center does an excellent job as well.

          My only problem is some FM interference from a local WISP. It works quite well.

          I wish I could have installed the antenna in the attic. Unfortunately, whoever ran the cable decided to run it through the wall instead of the attic. I mounted it to the same pole

        • Re:Do Not Want (Score:5, Interesting)

          by spire3661 (1038968) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:23PM (#41663425) Journal
          47 miles out from the transmitter and i get every major network on an attic mounted $60 antenna. CBS signal looks a bit weak on the meter, but ive never had a drop out yet, and im recording their entire weekday primetime lineup(stress test, dont judge me). Im recording using a Windows 7 VM on ESXi. About once a week I run the batch of Recorded TV through a Quick Sync conversion and throw it on my web accessible NAS.
    • OTA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitalaudiorock (1130835) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:09PM (#41663261)

      I know it's not an option for some, but I live where I can get New York OTA channels, and even Philly stations if I want, with my roof antenna and rotor. I record everything we watch on a MythTV system with a TB of disk space. I haven't had pay TV in 25 years.

      I have cable for internet only. Every time the cable company calls me trying to sell me a TV package, I tell them exactly what I'm currently using, and exactly why I want no part of their any-consumer bull shit. I wish more people would do the same thing.

      What sucks of course is that, because all the available internet providers are TV providers, you pay a premium for internet when it's not part of some fucking package. The whole situation just blows to put it mildly...and the fucking FCC, whose supposed to be working for us, can go straight to fucking hell too.

      • Yep. FCC went too fucking far this time.

        I'm putting a big fucking antenna right on the roof of my condo, laws and bylaws be damned. Anyone who tries to take it down is in for a fight.

    • by Burdell (228580)

      Aside from the fact that this decision is crap (I agree), and you'd have to spend $$$ to get a tuner card, you might not have to pay your cable company anything for a CableCard. For example, I have Comcast (sucks, but beats my other local cable company in every way: price, channels, and quality), and they include the cost of a tuner box in many of the packages. I have a TiVo instead of one of their boxes, and I get a $2.50/month credit for customer-provided equipment.

  • And cut the cord. The streaming services out there are good enough for me.
    • Me too. Most stuff is streamed plus an HD antenna for the OTA channels. Works even better because the "OTA" basic Comcast isn't HD.

      • by 2starr (202647)

        Works even better because the "OTA" basic Comcast isn't HD.

        You need a CableCard, but you can get OTA channels in HD with basic Comcast service... although my understanding is there may be differences in some regions.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:51PM (#41662993) Homepage Journal

    Wait, 99% of TVs sold today don't bother supporting it... Shit!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or you could just use an antenna to receive the free OTA channels directly without involving the cable company at all. You can get some pretty diminutive aerials these days for inside use if you can't mount one outside.

    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@NosPaM.cornell.edu> on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:55PM (#41663057) Homepage

      There are many places in this country that the OTA signal is not reliable unless you have a massive antenna due to LOS issues.

      • There are many places in this country that the OTA signal is not reliable unless you have a massive antenna due to LOS issues.

        Funny... that old 1950s analog technology for beaming TV signals worked just great. No LOS issues, or anything else. But then, there was something about being able to make a ton of money selling off that bandwidth, then changing around all the protocols, technology, etc., so that consumers had to pay a fortune to get less and less... and now you can't even find something that can do what a VCR did in the 80s.

        I suspect that lack of reliability is quite deliberate.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Any good antennas you can suggest? Indoor or outdoor would be fine. I would prefer not to have to move it though. Multiple would also be better than having to move one.

      • by Ichijo (607641)

        Here [amazon.com] ($20) is a great one for indoor/outdoor use. I have mine mounted indoors on the pole of my TV stand.

        It's is a clone of the Antennas Direct DB2. There's also a 2-panel DB4 and a 4-panel DB8 [amazon.com].

        • by cvtan (752695)
          Whoa! This antenna looks dangerous. From the Amazon description: "Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs."
      • Any good antennas you can suggest? Indoor or outdoor would be fine. I would prefer not to have to move it though. Multiple would also be better than having to move one.

        OK, truth time: I was trying to find some ridiculously massive, hopefully homemade mess of an antenna to post for kicks, when I came across this gem:
        http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005US5M50?tag=wppk-20 [amazon.com]

        Motorized, 360 degree rotation, multiple outputs, and comes with a remote?

        Count me in!

      • by evilviper (135110) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:29PM (#41664029) Journal

        Any good antennas you can suggest? Indoor or outdoor would be fine. I would prefer not to have to move it though. Multiple would also be better than having to move one.

        First you should go to http://tvfool.com/ [tvfool.com] and check your address for OTA digital signals.

        Note the "Real" channel on the tvfool chart. If it's 7-13, you'd need a VHF-high antenna, if it's 14-51 a UHF antenna will pick it up. If it's 2-6, you're probably in Alaska, and sadly will need an old, full-range VHF-lo/hi antenna.

        Any channels that are Green or Yellow will likely work with a simple, cheap, indoor antenna (preferably in your window, facing towards the transmitter). The simplest old indoor antennas seem to work the best... better than more expensive indoor antennas that are tunable or have a useless (for short cable runs) amplifier. Nice long "rabbit-ears" at a 45 degree angle will do a good job for VHF (real: 2-13) channels, while a nice big "loop" antenna will do very well picking up UHF channels.

        If you're in the red, or worse, you MIGHT be lucky and receive the station(s) with an indoor antenna with minimal dropout, but at this point, you're probably at the point that you should invest in a roof-top antenna.

        VHF is pretty simple, and easier to receive over longer ranges, and around obstacles like mountains, buildings or trees. For antennas, you have a couple choices which are both about equivalent in reception and price (about $40):

        http://www.solidsignal.com/pview.asp?p=Y10-7-13&sku=716079000994 [slashdot.org]">Antennacraft Y10-7-13 100mi 120" VHF-high
        or
        Winegard YA 1713 100mi 100" VHF-high [solidsignal.com]

        For UHF channels, reception is a bit tougher, as curvature of the earth, and any obstacles cause more issues. There's some debate over how the top 8-bay antennas should be ranked, but it's an easy choice when you see one of the contenders costs nearly half as much as the rest:

        Winegard HD 8800 8-Bay 60mi UHF [solidsignal.com]

        Now, if you need both UHF and VHF-high antennas, connecting them with a splitter will cause you to lose a significant amount of signal strength. Instead, a purpose-built VHF/UHF splitter/combiner will perform much better. Just about any one will do, but here's a link for an in-stock $2 model:

        Pico Macom UHF/VHF Band Separator/Combiner [solidsignal.com]

        And finally, if you're going to run the coax a non-trivial length, or if you are going to connect the antenna(s) to a splitter to serve multiple TVs or just multiple tuners (eg. TV+DVR) then you'll get a big benefit out of a mast-mounted pre-amp. The key is to get the lowest "noise" figure you can. There are a range of ridiculously expensive options that will get you a just-slightly lower-noise signal, but once again Winegard is much cheaper, and close enough:

        Winegard AP-8700 VHF/UHF Pre Amplifier [solidsignal.com]

        Thanks to FCC regulations, you can put this all up on a mast as high as 12' above your roof line, without anyone being able to require you to get a permit or similar (unless you're in a historic area, or there's serious safety issues like overhead power lines). And if you happen to NEED to go higher to get reception of local stations, they MUST grant your permit request for minimal cost and in a timely fashion.

        To deal with the risk of lighting starting fires or blowing up your TV, you need to ground your mast and the coax. A coax grounding block costs about $1, and like your mast, just needs to be wired to metal water pipes, or a grounding rod. Some more advanced coax surge suppressors exist, but I would never forego the simple task of grounding everything first.

        That should be all the equipment you need, and the information on tvfool will tell you EXACTLY which d

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Sorry, I've got a DTV antenna, live outside of the downtown area of the largest city in my state, and OTA TV still breaks up every time a car passes by. I watch SD analog cable even when I get the same channel in HD OTA, it's that bad.

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:35PM (#41663545)

      My folks still do this, and it's what we had the entire time I was growing up (personally, I rely on Netflix, Hulu, etc. these days exclusively). They work great most of the time and can save a load of money on a medium where no one with sense should be investing big bucks at this point. I was surprised how clear the reception was with the relatively small, indoor antenna my parents had directly above the TV last time I visited them.

      Strangely, it seems that many people are unaware that it's even an option. My folks told me about a husband and wife in their early-to-mid 40s that came over for dinner awhile back. The wife made some comment about how she only watches the major U.S. networks yet cable TV is so expensive. When my parents pointed out that they get those channels for free with an antenna, the wife was dumbstruck. Apparently she started insisting that it was illegal to watch TV without a cable subscription. After several minutes of reassurances from both my parents and her husband that it was perfectly legal and had been around since television was introduced, she was left feeling a bit sheepish. Even more so after her husband pointed out that most of the homes she grew up in didn't even have access to cable TV since it wasn't in widespread use at the time.

  • An Antenna... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by John Bresnahan (638668) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:52PM (#41663015)
    will also work for many people. I recently cut my cable TV service when I realized that almost everything I was actually watching was programming being broadcast over-the-air. A $50 antenna and I'm all set
  • by a-zarkon! (1030790) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:53PM (#41663021)
    Seriously, +1 Internets to the first person who can put a positive spin on this one. Wow. Just wow.
  • by Albanach (527650) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:57PM (#41663073) Homepage

    So, after two years they can charge an equipment fee. If you have three televisions,each with a decoder and a $5/monthly fee, the cable company starts taking in $180/year in extra revenue from the lowest paying customers.

  • Still Waiting (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:57PM (#41663085)

    I'll get cable when they make good on their original promise: Pay for TV, so no ads. Part (most) of the money you pay goes to the show to replace their ad income.

    For all you young-lings, TV used to be completely free. To get people to pay for cable, their sales pitch was that you wouldn't get any ads.

    They can pry my torrents from my cold dead heads or stop being lying, greedy assholes. Their choice.

  • by claytongulick (725397) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:59PM (#41663117) Homepage

    You'd think that in today's era of streaming video, netflix, hulu, amazon and iTunes, the cable companies would be doing everything in their power to increase viewership numbers (for advertising revenue).

    Adding obstacles to folks trying to watch their programming seems insane - like they are actively trying to go out of business, driving more folks (like me) away from traditional add supported media. My wife and I do all our watching on Netflix (or Amazon, if there's a show we're willing to buy). I can't imagine going back to the bad old days of television ads.

    Not that I mind, given the advances in cell technology, I think we're less than 10 years away from cable companies being nothing more than legacy internet providers anyway, like dial-up.

    Comcast = Earthlink in ten years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by twmcneil (942300)
      That's a nasty thing to say about Earthlink.
  • Fuck (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:00PM (#41663127)

    This move will only make pirating television more appealing.

    Thanks for nothing, FCC. I'm tired of every last fucking thing on Earth being monetized for no reason other than greed, and the so-called "regulators" doing nothing as the are getting huge sums of money from the parties behind the changes.

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdot@@@davidgerard...co...uk> on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:04PM (#41663181) Homepage

    That is all.

  • by Anaerin (905998) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:06PM (#41663211)

    The way this was agreed was if the cable company is encrypting their channels, they have to make them available unencrypted over IP, so devices like Boxee and others can still receive them, or work with PVR makers to make "Software updates" available so they can decrypt the streams.

    Given that the daddy of all open-source PVR projects, MythTV, already supports IPTV systems (after a little careful setup), this is actually a good thing. And while it is basic channels only for now, hopefully the practise will expand into premium channels later on.

  • Well, it'll be interesting to see if Comcast does this in my area. I'm not going to buy/rent a cable box. If they encrypt my channels, and thus make it so I can't watch their cable with my setup, then I'm dropping my service (both the $7 basic cable, and the $55 internet). Over the air and DSL will be good enough.

    I guess I should write them a letter. As if anyone would read it or care.

  • All are better options then the cable companies.
    We switched from Comcast for TV and net, and now use qwest (centrury link) for FASTER internet, and dish for TV. However, once my kids get older, I want to kill even dish. In the meantime, we will never go back to comcast. Just a plain evil company.
    • Dish, direct, antenna... you forgot torrent.
    • If your kids are young, then cut it now. A few Rokus and a Netflix streaming subscription and you are set. I have a 4 year old and if needed, she can work Netflix on the Roku herself. Doesn't mind watching the same seasons/episodes of Dora, Fresh Beat Band, Franklin, Barney, etc. over and over and over. I find most kids to be like that.

      People like to complain a lot about Netflix content (or lack there of), but they actually have quite a bit of kids content.
  • by rickb928 (945187) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:13PM (#41663305) Homepage Journal

    1. When I was buying my first flat-panel TV, I went into a 'high-end' retailer (no, not Best Buy) and wanted to see the picture on one of the midrange sets. After realizing there was no OTA cable atached, the salesperson admitted they couldn't show me a picture. I found a paper clip, stuck in the jack, and got 3 channels. OTA is not always to hard to get.

    2. MY cable box now is an SA Explorer 3xxxHD something. It has, for a tuner, you guessed it. A CableCard. Next tiem I hear Cox jerming someone around for getting their CC working, I'll send them the spec. Cox knows CableCards, they USE it.

    So I guess I am getting satellite after all. And OTA. Almost everything we want to record is OTA anyways.

  • 90%+ from a DB4 in the attic. I wonder how much my cable bill will shrink when I switch to just data and voice?

    Oh, right. It won't shrink at all, will it.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      If you have a cell, drop the voice.

      It should shrink quite a bit though. I used to have cable and internet then I went just internet and it saved me about $30 a month.

  • by crow (16139) on Monday October 15, 2012 @07:21PM (#41664407) Homepage Journal

    I can certainly understand why the cable companies want this. They have too many Internet-only customers who are getting local TV access without paying for it, and they don't want to have to send out trucks to install and remove filters. This is a perfect solution for them.

    As a consumer, I don't terribly mind, as long as I can decrypt the signals. (Yes, it's a bit frustrating that my QAM tuners are now junk.) I don't want to pay a monthly fee for a cable card, along with expensive tuners that accept them. What would be much more reasonable is a software-only cable card, and there's no reason we can't have that. This would allow any QAM tuner to still be useful. The FCC should require cable companies to support this, and toss out any copy restrictions--if we are paying for it, we should get the raw digital stream to record as we see fit.

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