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Government Television The Media Entertainment

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

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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  • by edcalaban ( 1077719 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:50PM (#41662983)
    And cut the cord. The streaming services out there are good enough for me.
  • My guess (Score:1, Informative)

    by geoffrobinson ( 109879 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:54PM (#41663041) Homepage

    Having worked at Comcast previously, my guess is their main motivation is to save bandwidth and being able to digitize every single channel. (Analog channels take up more bandwidth.)

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Re:My guess (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:01PM (#41663147) Homepage

    Digitize for Clear QAM takes no more bandwidth than Encrypted QAM. Most areas have not had analog at all for 2 years now.

    I used to work for Comcast in the headends and OTN locations, I know more about this than the CSR's or installers ever hope to know.

  • Re:My guess (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:02PM (#41663163) Homepage

    Most comcast locations already fired all the techs. They use independent contractors. Most of the guys did dish installs, Direct TV installs and Comcast installs all in the same day.

  • 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 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.

  • by spire3661 ( 1038968 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:35PM (#41663549) Journal
    I have this http://www.antennasdirect.com/store/ClearStream-C2-VHF-Combo.html [antennasdirect.com] in my second story attic at 47 miles out from the transmitters, roughly 50 feet above sea level. Mounted it to an attic cross beam, aimed it with my iphone compass and was good to go. Works like a champ.

    Go here http://www.antennaweb.org/Address.aspx [antennaweb.org] to evaluate how your location in relation to your local transmitters.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @05:51PM (#41663677)

    It seems you missed the other other part of this:

    Unfortunately, smaller operators like Cablevision and Bright House (each of which tally millions of customers) are exempt from these restrictions for now.

  • 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 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
    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

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

    by MichaelJ ( 140077 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @07:05PM (#41664309)
    It's not just the cable company. It's the production company, too. I have Verizon Fios, and on my TiVo, an hour of a 1080i AMC show like The Walking Dead is 3.25GB, while an hour of the ABC show Once Upon a Time is 5.86GB. It's very obvious, too, The Walking Dead looks blotchy, full of glitches and artifacts.
  • Re:THERE GOES CABLE! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Datamonstar ( 845886 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:00PM (#41664929)
    You can watch Daily Show and Colbert Report for free online.
  • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:25PM (#41665393) Journal

    Man, what did we do for ensuring we were purchasing quality goods before peer review?

    Well, in this case an understanding of the laws of physics would have taken care of it. Anybody claiming 150mi reception of TV signals is a bald-faced liar. The curvature of the earth, and the propagation of the frequencies involved simply makes that impossible in the general case. The standard numbers are 60mi for UHF and 100mi for VHF. It's along the same lines as all those 12v air compressors that claim to produce 250psi... twice what high-end shop compressors are able to produce. They're lying, and once they're lying to you, who knows how many other nasty things they're doing, like cutting corners on build quality.

    But to answer your question, we did a few things... First, we shopped at stores we could trust. These days retailers will stock any PoS they think they can make money on, and take no responsibilty for the items they stock, but it doesn't have to be this way, and it wasn't the norm, even just 20 years ago. I personally avoid Walmart, because they intentionally stock inordinant amounts of crap, because they want to advertise a lower price, and don't care that they're screwing their own customers for the sake of a few cents price difference. My favorite retailer is Sears. While they're not perfect, they still have some traditional values and try to stock products that aren't complete junk, and they usually do so at about the same price as the junk dealers like Walmart and Home Depot. Kenmore appliances are nearly as cheap, and put the low-end brands at Home Depot and other to shame in a big way, but for some reason, people haven't wised-up.

    Second, there were brands we could trust... It was only 10 years ago or so that well-known brands decided to cash-in their reputation and start selling complete crap. You can see this in cheap HP printers, Levi's, Sony branding on DVD Burners and other devices they don't make, and much, much more. The brands used-to mean something, and people were caught off-guard when things suddenly changed.

    These days, I've adopted a dual strategy. I still believe paying more for a good product is eminently good strategy, but I no longer just trust that a given brand is selling high quality products.

  • by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2012 @12:22AM (#41665923) Homepage Journal

    They are required to because cable companies use public rights of way for their cables. The rights of way are typically controlled by the city, and the city generally requires that the company serve the general public interest if they are going to get to use the rights of way.

    Serving the general public interest included providing the over-the-air channels that they get FREE and that they are allowed to rebroadcast for FREE in order to make sure that people don't have to have cable AND rabbit ears. Cable companies WANTED to include local channels, and they generally don't PAY for them.

    So they don't get to CHARGE for them since the originator of the programming gets nothing from them.

    Satellite companies use public airwaves for their transmissions.

    The commons is rapidly (and immorally) becoming privatized.
    Rights-of-way, eminent domain being used to give property to private companies, increasingly intrusive IP laws and the weakening of fair use, etc.

    If the cable company doesn't want to feel like the owe the community something, then they can tear out and take down the cables that they run through the community's property.

"What the scientists have in their briefcases is terrifying." -- Nikita Khrushchev