Would Bundling Your TV, Cell Phone And Electric Bill Make Sense To You?

In the town where I live, the bundling of utilities and billing are handled by the city. Our electric, garbage, water, trash and sewer are billed on a single bill. When I lived in California, each of these services were billed individually requiring separate payment for each service. Now some are predicting the possibility that we could see a bundling of services not only for utilities, but also for cell phone, TV, Internet and other services.

We have seen how cable companies ventured into providing Internet services and have expanded their offering to include phone services as well. This bundling of services by a single entity usually are advertised as a savings to consumers. If you purchase a bundling of services the company usually provides some type of discount on your monthly bill.

In a recent article it stated:

Bundling utility services into cellular and cable TV packages has begun in Australia and some other parts of the world, but it could spread. The idea is both simple and radical at the same time. Power and water are commodities delivered through monthly service contracts, just like Internet service.

When I first read this article the first thought that popped into my mind was Google. For years Google was the search king, but in recent years has expanded into other areas. Google Android now is said to be a commanding leader in software for smart phones, surpassing Apple. Google has also ventured into the computer market with their Chrome netbook, is developing a remote-controlled car, and is also become a venture capitalist interested in the development of a smart grid.

So is Google also in the electricity business? Google has developed their own solar panel grid to power the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA., that supplement their electricity usage. So Google is no strange when it comes to electricity and could venture into the electrical market in the near future.

I guess my main question would be is if you did purchase electricity from your cable company, who would repair the transmission lines during a power outage?

What do you think about the merging of cable and utilities?

Comments welcome.

Source – ecomagination

Another Cable Cutter Throws In The Towel

In order to justify our decision-making, it is always nice to find someone who has done the same thing, with the same results. Like David and his wife eBeth, I had delusions of grandeur that I would someday be able to cut the cord [cable or otherwise], and live a happy peaceful life knowing all of the money I was saving. But like David, sometimes in life you just throw in the towel and surrender to the TV Gods.

I had cut my DishNetwork subscription to the bare bones package. I was going to rely on my Roku to stream programs using either Netflix or Hulu Plus to make up for the programming loss. I tried my best for just about a month. What I found was similar to what David encountered. It was a hassle to try to find programming to match what I had discontinued. The streaming from Hulu Plus left much to be desired since it sputtered and spurted unstable pictures to my HDTV. I finally stop using Hulu Plus after the initial free experience ended.

Here is what David said:

I chose to replace my full slate of cable TV with a combination of over-the-air antenna programming, available for free from local broadcasters, and Internet TV services. eBeth and I experienced first-hand a few big disadvantages to this arrangement, not all of which will apply to other prospective cable-cutters.

Spotty antenna reception. Despite purchasing a $180 antenna that’s appropriate to my location, installing it on the rooftop, and orienting it properly, I couldn’t get reliable over-the-air (OTA) reception of the local CBS station in my area. Other major stations came in well most of the time, but during windy days we experienced outages and breakup even on strong stations–frustrating, to say the least.

I had the same problem. Though I didn’t spend $180 for an outdoor antenna, I also experienced reception problems. I recall one Sunday watching an NFL game when the station went dark. After several minutes of no picture, I changed channels which worked just fine. Back over to the football game which finally came back on. But it was spotty for the remainder of the game which was annoying. FYI. I live about 20 miles from the local stations.

Less programming than cable. Even if I achieved perfect reception by securing the antenna better or cutting down a tree or two, the five major networks available over-the-air aren’t enough for my household.

It wasn’t enough for my household as well. Both my wife and I missed programming that we thought we could live without. It soon became evident that we were a spoiled pair who needed our programs back.

Lack of a DVR. We also missed DVR functions previously taken for granted, such as fast-forwarding through a program or rewinding to catch something we missed–actions that were less convenient or impossible with streaming video.

Not being able to record live TV was my biggest disappointment.

My household is now back on the pipe, dumb as it may be, and I’m back to being able to watch Knicks games legally. More importantly, my wife eBeth can watch CBS daytime shows and Bravo prime time without having to deal with streaming video from TV.com, a wind-tossed rooftop antenna, or paying for individual episodes via Amazon VOD.

So is mine. I am enjoying DirecTV and it is good to have returned to the programs that I liked. My wife is happy as well.

I still use my Roku to stream from Netflix only. I give Hulu Plus a try once they have a more reliable service.

Comments welcome.

Source – CNet

Comcast Says Cord Cutting Is Not Really Cord Cutting – It’s The Economy, Stupid!

Just because 662,000 folks have left Comcast since the beginning of the year, doesn’t mean they have switched to DISH Network, DirecTV, Netflix , or another competitor. According to Comcast these folks are using over the air services. Comcast also explains that the subscribers who have left did so because of economic reasons. The economy sucks and people don’t have the money to spend on cable TV services. At least this is what Comcast says is the reason that its earnings have dropped.

A recent article also states:

A “small number” of former Comcast subscribers did appear to be swapping out cable for a free, over-the-air signal, said Comcast Cable president Neil Smit. But based on exit interviews, he said, they don’t seem to be planning on using the Web or services like Netflix, Apple TV, Hulu, et al as a cable substitute.

On the one hand, that distinction seems to be pointless, since someone who isn’t getting cable anymore isn’t getting cable anymore. Which makes them a “cord cutter,” technically speaking.

But those customers aren’t the ones that worry cable companies and Wall Street–or excite potential disruptors and their investors: When those guys are talking about cord cutting, they’re thinking about customers using the Internet and “over the top” services to get what they want.

So we’re still stuck where we’ve been for a while: Lots of people–many of whom are the kind of people who read sites like this one–say that cord cutting is either here or inevitable. And the incumbent cable companies say they see no sign of it.

The average video customer now pays Comcast an average of $130 per month, a 10 percent bump.

I see it this way. If 662,000 subscribers quit, and your earnings are down, then a 10% bump to $130 a month didn’t cover the loss in subscriptions. Of course, I didn’t attend the Bernie Madoff school of accounting. There are so many downright lies and deceit in corporate America that only a loon would believe any of this tripe.

Comments welcome.

Source – All Things Digital

In Case Of Fire Grab Your Cable Equipment First

In Fargo North Dakota, there was a fire at an apartment complex that destroyed 62 of the units, leaving about 150 residents homeless. Some of the residents lost all of their personal belongings, plus their cable equipment from Cable One. In the fine print Cable One requires that the customer be responsible for any damaged equipment and pay for it if it is destroyed. Some residents are stating the cable company now wants to charge them between $500 and $1,000 depending on the type of equipment the customer was using at the time of the fire.

Service agreements that customers sign say you’re responsible for returning equipment in good working condition. But Rich Smith says he wasn’t responsible for the fire, and what it did to his third-floor home. He admits the cable wasn’t the first thing on his mind after the fire, but when he called CableOne Wednesday, “The operator I talked to said it was a big loss to the company. I really had to bite my tongue because I know she didn’t write the policy.”

CableOne’s general manager said, in a phone call, that they’ll work with customers on a case by case basis. It will be based in part on their payment history, and the depreciated cost of older equipment. They won’t charge for modems or DCTs, but they will for DVRs, which are worth $500 when new. G-M Scott Geston added, “We’ve been hurt too.”


This one statement made me think. What is the real value of a used DVR?

but they will for DVRs, which are worth $500 when new.

For any of us who have had cable service, we are aware that the equipment that is supplied may be used when we receive it from the company. We are all aware that used electronic equipment, no matter what it is, loses its value fairly quickly. For those who lived in the apartment complex and who had insurance, it would be interesting to see the value that the insurance company would put on a used DVR.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – Today

Cable Companies Still Don’t Believe That Consumers Are Cutting The Cord

Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg told a Goldman’s media conference that cable TV is going to go the way of the landline phone. He further stated that consumers are getting ready to cut the cord and head on over to the Internet for their video entertainment. But this one statement really hit home:

The next generation of consumers won’t have any interest in paying for it.

“Young people are pretty smart. They’re not going to pay for something they don’t need to,” he said. “Over the top is going to be a pretty big issue for cable.”

So when will this happen? It is going to be a while before this happens but the hand writing is on the wall.

“We take the over the top issue with video very seriously,” he said. “I think cable has some life left in its model…but that it is going to get disintermediated over the next several years.”

Seidenberg’s argument is that over the top is a much bigger deal for cable guys like Comcast (CMCSA), who have an entire business built around the bundle, than it will be for his company, which is a relative newcomer to video. Theoretically, he’ll be be able to replace some video subscribers with subs who pay for robust broadband connections. But like it or not, it’s going to happen, he says.

I was recently at our daughters home and they have a new blu-ray player that streams video from various sources. In the morning after she fed her 2 year old, she fired up the blu-ray player and streamed cartoon video’s of her choosing. She was able to control the content and when she wanted to have her child watch it.

I believe that one day we will be getting the majority of our entertainment via the Internet including TV.

Comments welcome.

Source – All Things Digital

Are We Getting Closer To The Day When We Can Dump Cable or Satellite TV?

First let me say that there are so many new products hitting the store shelves, that for the casual TV viewer, it is too much to grasp. I know because I am a casual TV viewer and I get lost looking at all of the new products and trying to figure out which to buy. There is also confusion in the market place as to when we can cut our ties with satellite or cable TV. More importantly is the question is if we ever will be able to cut our ties to what some describe as our bondage to paid cable or satellite services.

So this afternoon when I read a piece from MG Siegler over at TechCrunch, I was glad to read that I was not alone in trying to understand the new products like Apple TV, Google TV and other devices. Here is what he stated:

As everyone is well aware, Apple TV hasn’t been a success up to now. I like mine, but the content model on it is flawed. The move to TV show rentals is definitely a welcome one. But with only content from ABC and some content from Fox, the selection isn’t good enough. My hope is that this model proves to be a success and the other networks/stations get on board quickly. (Though it doesn’t look too promising right now.)

More interesting about the new Apple TV is the AirPay functionality that is going to allow you to push almost any video content from any iOS device right to your Apple TV (and soon other devices that have this built-in). Yes, that includes Netflix and the MLB app.

Sports remain an issue in general, but some are supposedly coming to Xbox Live compliments of ESPN shortly. And there is ESPN 3, the online component of the network that allows you to watch games live online — if your provider has a deal with them to carry it (Comcast does).

Meanwhile, Google TV is set to launch as soon as next month. It’s a little bit different because it seems to be a layer that will exist on top of current television offerings. But it will also be pushing online video as well. That could definitely help change the stigma that is still associated with online video versus television.

All of this stuff is chipping away at the cable television stronghold. There isn’t going to be one “killer”, but all of these combined are slowly doing the job. And they’ll continue to get better at it.

There is this statement which I believe is going to be the future:

Eventually, everything, including all video content, is going to be served over one pipe — the Internet

I’ll admit that I am just as lost as most consumers when it comes to these new devices and which is going to do the best job. Right now I am just waiting to get a Roku HD for my birthday so that I can stream Netflix to my HDTV. I know. I am not supposed to know what my birthday present is but I cheated. LOL.

What about you? What device are you looking at and why?

Comments welcome.

Source – TechCrunch

How The Nielsen TV Ratings Work

The Nielsen TV rating system uses 25,000 households in different demographic areas of the country and each household is given a black box to monitor the viewing habits. The households are warned not to change their viewing habits juts to try and make a favorite TV program look good. The households are selected by Nielsen which uses a secret formula to determine which households would make the best candidates. In addition the households are sworn to secrecy that they have a black box from Nielsen, so that they will not be hassled by family, friends, or coworkers to watch a favorite show.

In a recent article it also states that:

So why doesn’t Nielsen just collect data from all of the millions of set-top cable TV boxes around the country?

According to Jon Gibs, Nielsen’s senior vice president for analytic and insights he states:

You know, I think overall, there’s some very interesting stuff that’s come out of set-top box data. [But] there’s some very difficult challenges with using that dataset. You don’t know how many people are watching the TV show at a given time, [just] if the set-top box is on or off. It’s difficult to know if someone is still watching the program or not. We still appreciate the granularity of the data, but accuracy is important. [Ratings data] is the measure of accounting for the TV industry… This is what dollars and cents are being traded upon.

And then there’s the DVR issue. Gibs claims that Nielsen collects data about what shows you’re watching on your DVR the same way other television-viewing is recorded. But Amel insists that actually, Nielsen has no way of knowing what you’re watching on a DVR. “All they can say is, [people] are watching ‘the DVR channel.'” The data on DVR viewing is all extrapolated. And Nielsen assumes that people mostly watch DVR-ed programs within a week, which isn’t necessarily true.

And that gets to the heart of the most important critique of Nielsen — the company isn’t moving fast enough to keep up with the way in which most of us actually do watch television. Not just DVRs, but also video on demand, and viewing online via services like Hulu, iTunes and Netflix instant. Gibs admits that Nielsen isn’t moving as quickly as some broadcasters and advertisers would like to take account of these trends.

I don’t know about you, but I can not remember the last time I had to sit through watching ads wince most everything I watch is from the DVR. Take America’s Got Talent finale. There was no way I was going to sit through all of the ads, nor did I want to watch the acts that were used to fill-in while we rated for the results. I checked the ratings over at Nielsen for AGT, which showed about 10 million watched the finale.

I watched it as well, but on my own terms. No ads, no junk, just the facts on who won.

What about you? How do you watch the tube?

Comments welcome.

Source – iO9.com

Google, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple & Amazon To Cable Companies: We Will Bury You!

I must admit that I am prejudiced when it comes to cable companies and the television service they provide. My experience in having used cable at three different home locations, from three different companies, have left me with a sour taste for cable. I have never experienced such poor picture quality nor poor customer service as I have experienced from the cable companies I have used. But I know I am not alone in my experiences and have once again reaffirmed, from someone else, how poor cable service is.

Last week when I was visiting our kids in Texas, I spent an entire day with my son-in-law who was installing a DirecTV satellite service and two new LED televisions at a residence in Shreveport, LA. The home owner had no trouble describing their bad experience with their cable provider, including no reception on the morning we arrived. They stated they had called the company so much and with poor results concerning reception that they finally just gave up. I am sure some of you who read this may have had similar experiences.

So when I read about companies like Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Apple, and Amazon going on the attack against cable companies, I must admit that it brought a smile to my face. In a recent article it states that:

Just take a look at the big picture. Everyday there is a new story about how one of the aforementioned tech giants is on the verge of something new meant to control our time spent watching content — and much of it from the living room. Today’s story is about Google’s big pay-per-view movie plan for YouTube, a new service they’re hoping to debut later this year with full Hollywood studio support. If they land it, it could be huge. But that’s just today’s example.

On Wednesday, at an event in San Francisco, Apple is widely expected to debut their next iteration of the Apple TV — which will likely now be called the “iTV”. Alongside it, they’re expected to unveil a new layer of iTunes that will allow people to rent television shows for $0.99 a pop. Again, that too could be huge.

But it doesn’t really matter if one of these individual things doesn’t hit it big (and certainly the current Apple TV hasn’t). It’s the fact that all of these giant companies are clearly focused on this one thing: invading the living room and changing the way we consume video entertainment.

And they absolutely should be focused on that space. It’s a multi-billion dollar goldmine of potential that is sitting around begging to be disrupted. Consumers want this — even if many don’t realize it yet.

You see, there are plenty of us more tech-savvy consumers who have long thought about severing our ties with cable television — and some of us already have to varying degrees. Most average consumers simply don’t realize there are better alternatives out there yet, because the truth is that there is no singular better alternative right now. But these services from the likes of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, etc. keep moving forward. And as more enter the game, they keep pushing each other to improve at a more rapid pace.

The sentence that stood out to me was this one:

Most average consumers simply don’t realize there are better alternatives out there yet, because the truth is that there is no singular better alternative right now.

Like the folks I met in Shreveport, LA, they were not aware that a better alternative was available until it was presented to them. Once they viewed DirecTV on their new LED HDTVs, their jaws dropped open. They could not believe how great the picture was and mentioned how pleased they were with the new systems.

Comments welcome.

Source – TechCrunch

Dish Network Subscribers Can Access Programs For Online Viewing

If you are a Dish Network subscriber, you will be able to view programs online starting today. The new feature is currently in beta and currently features about 1200+ TV programs for your viewing pleasure. In addition Dish Network states the following about their latest addition to their programming:

“People are shifting where they watch video, and I want to shift with them,” Dave Shull, Dish’s senior vice president for programming, said in an interview. Dish is the second-largest satellite carrier behind DirecTV, with about 14 million customers.

The DishOnline.com site will show some free video clips, but cable shows and many movies will be available only with a subscription. Free clips of the film “Iron Man,” for instance, may be available to any customer, but a full streaming version would be available only to pay-TV subscribers or for a one-time rental fee.

Some of the DishOnline.com features showcase what can happen when a customer’s set-top box is connected to the Internet. Customers with a top-of-the-line device will be able to view live television or any of the shows that they have recorded on their digital video recorder.

I went to the Dish Network site and after logging into my account, was able to access several TV programs, which were being presented by Hulu. I also learned that if you wish to record these programs to your DVR, you need to have the Dish receiver connected with by a phone line, wireless or hard wire to your router.

The online offering from Dish Network  is currently in beta testing so the program selection is limited. There is about 1200+ programs listed. I would venture a guess that the selection will expand in the near future.

Comments welcome.

Source – NYT

Google TV Ads To Be Shown On DIRECTV

Google and DIRECTV have formed a partnership in which the satellite company will start to show Google TV Ads. According to a blog entry on Google Inside AdWords, the TV Ads will be on the following stations:

DIRECTV’s national satellite inventory on Bloomberg Television, Centric, Chiller, Current TV, Fit TV, Fox Business, Fuel, G4, Ovation, Sleuth and TV Guide will be available through the Google TV Ads platform across all dayparts, including primetime.

In addition Google stated that:

We’re partnering with DIRECTV because of our shared commitment to innovation in the television advertising space. You’ll have the ability to target this new inventory along with over 98 other cable networks already offered through our platform.

I am currently reading the book Edge Of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall. Last night I read a chapter in which the authors described a time in the future, when all television programs were on the Internet. As I read the chapter there was mention that congress was duped by the television companies into thinking they [the tv companies] could be trusted. Certain companies were allowed to merge and the end result was that only a few companies were left and they had all the power. What was disturbing is that these television mega companies were eventually bought by foreign countries who controlled what news was being presented to the American public.

Though it is no surprise that Google is entering into the tv advertisement business, it does make you wonder just how this will play out. If I was DIRECTV I’d be thinking that Google may be in the market to buyout the satellite TV giant. Just my 2 cents.

Comments welcome.

Source – Google Inside AdWords

Cable Companies And Networks May Offer Lower Priced Bundles

In these tough economic times, and with increased competition from Google, Netflix and others, the cable companies may start to offer lower priced bundles. Over the years most cable companies added channels which increased the cost of their packages and at the same time annoyed consumers who did not want a ‘package deal’ on specific channels. Most consumers wanted to select and choose which channel were to be included, but these requests have been and are ignored.

But now cable companies and networks are scrambling to keep existing customers who may not be able to continue to pay for higher priced packages. In a recent article it also stated that:

But with a tough U.S. economy, weak job market and competition for disposable income from telecommunications services like Internet access and mobile phones, cable distributors and program makers realize consumers may look elsewhere for entertainment as a way to save money.

“It would be a good thing if we could all figure out a way to have one or more smaller packages that would be attractive to people who can’t afford bigger ones, especially if we could do it in a way that the entertainment companies are still able to finance the product,” said Glenn Britt, chief executive of Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable company.

Some Wall Street analysts have warned the cable industry could harm itself by continuing to raise prices well ahead of the rate of inflation.

If cable companies start to offer smaller packages at reduced prices, one could only hope that Dish and Direct satellite companies may follow the lead. But before you start to count your savings, you must remember that there is so much greed out there, that some networks may not be willing to reduce their fees.

Only time will tell how this plays out.

Source – Reuters

Good Advice From Hulu CEO – Don’t Dump Cable

Most of you are aware that Hulu now offers a $10 a month paid subscription program called Hulu Plus. The company is offering additional features with its Plus paid edition that free users will not be receiving. But in a moment of  candor, the CEO of Hulu is telling consumers not to dump their cable service. I would imagine that this same advice would apply to those who have satellite service as well.

As with most technologies, Hulu Plus is meant to complement, not replace, traditional TV services. The CEO made a comparison of how smart phones complement, but do not replace, the traditional PC. A recent article also stated:

To spell it out: Hulu’s network owners — GE’s NBC, News Corp.’s Fox, and Disney’s ABC — all have corporate cable siblings, and they all make lots of money from cable subscription fees. (And the broadcasters themselves are trying to get the cable guys to pay them for their stuff, too). So they have no interest in upsetting the likes of Comcast by creating a real cable competitor.

Doesn’t matter what Kilar says, argue the Web TV optimists/cable cynics. They believe that sooner or later the content guys will eventually want to break free from the cable guys and go “over the top” — by selling their stuff direct to consumers, or via rival middlemen like Hulu or perhaps Apple.

Interesting take. But wouldn’t it be more likely that one of the cable carriers like Comcast would buy Hulu?

Comments welcome.

Source

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall, Who Has The Fastest ISP Of Them All?

Any time anyone tries to compare the speeds of different ISPs, one can be suspect of the results. But this morning I read an interesting article over at PCMag.com that seems to have done a fairly good job of testing speed as well as determining customer satisfaction. The general consensus among those who have used the service is that Verizon FIOS is the fastest broadband in the U.S., It seems that PCMag agreed and their survey also indicated that Verizon customers also gave the company a high rating.

But while the lucky few have access to Verizon FIOS, the remainder of us have to connect to the Internet via a cable connection or DSL. What is surprising about some cable companies is that they provide fairly close speeds to Verizon FIOS and AT&T fiber is no slouch either. Here is what PC World presented in a simple chart form:

In another chart they listed what services were being used by region for cable, DSL or FIOS:

The cable company I use for internet connection is a smaller regional company called Suddenlink. I would rate the speed as about average and the same with customer service. I downloaded Surf Speed2, which was the software PCMag.com used and my speed was 883Kbps. Like I said, average.

But what about you? Who are you with and how would you rate your ISP when it comes to speed and customer satisfaction?

Let us know.

Source – PCMag.com

Dish Network vs. DirecTV – Who’s Really Cheaper? You Decide

We have seen the commercials from both Dish Network and DirecTV, both claiming they are cheaper than each other. The only thing they both can agree upon is that anything is better than cable. No offense cable users, but I have tried cable TV on and off for more years than I care to recall, and I have never been satisfied with the service nor the pricing. Just my two cents.

But is Dish Network or DirecTV really cheaper as they both claim? I personally doubted the claims of either company and here is the reason why. Each of us have different requirements for our homes. The options from both companies make comparisons difficult, because each uses different types of equipment.

Example. I have Dish Network using an HD-DVR set top box that works for two televisions. For DirecTV you would need one HD-DVR box for one TV and another HD receiver for a second TV.  DirecTV states with this setup you can then watch recorded programs from either TV. But, with two boxes, you have to pay an additional $5 for the second box. Does this matter? Nope, not at all.

Once you compare the two services, pricing is fairly close. I used my current system and tried to duplicate the same with setup using DirecTV. As I previously mentioned, I have both DVR and HD service, I have the 250 channel setup [don’t ask – LOL], the HD Premium service, and local HD channels. Last month my bill was $71.60.

I went over to DirecTV and tried to match a similar package and came up with a price of $70.88. Like I said, the pricing is very close. One must also remember that the pricing for DirecTV was for new customers only.

But as of six months ago, I was paying $91.60 a month. So I called Dish and said I wanted to cancel because I could save $20 a month going with DirecTV. The nice folks at Dish decided that since I was such a wonderful human being, that they would knock off $20 a month to keep me as a happy customer.

Bottom line is this. Both Dish and DirecTV have their good and bad features, but I believe that pricing is fairly close.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Here Is How The FCC Gave The Keys To The Kingdom To Hollywood

The FCC is going to allow the Hollywood movie folks to control your set top box in what it cites as being a move to prevent piracy. Here is how it is going to work. The movie people want to add additional revenue to their coffers by showing their movies on satellite and cable TV, before the movie is released to DVD. This would position the viewing of the movie between the time it is shown in theaters until the time it makes its way to DVD.

So the FCC is going to grant access to the digital output of set top boxes to limit or to prevent copying by the viewer. A recent article stated:

The order concerns an anti-piracy technique known as “selectable output control.” For a movie made available before its release on disc, a studio will be able to instruct pay-TV operators to turn off the analog connectors on viewers’ set-top boxes, transmitting the movie only through encrypted digital outputs. Analog connectors have rudimentary anti-piracy controls at best; encrypted digital outputs, such as HDMI with DTCP, can be programmed to bar or limit copying.

A 2004 FCC rule had forbidden pay-TV operators from using selectable output control, largely out of concern for the millions of early digital-TV buyers whose sets don’t have encrypted inputs. But the commission had also said the prohibition could be waived for a new Hollywood business model.

As for the harm to consumers, it’s hard to see how anyone is hurt when programs are made available in additional ways in a format that only some people can access. That kind of thing happens any time a new technology is introduced — witness HDTV and Blu-ray discs, for example. And the FCC smartly barred studios from turning off analog outputs for more than 90 days on any given title, to avoid the possibility of consumers who rely on older TVs and conventional DVD players from being cut off completely.

Though some may disagree with my assessment, I personally believe that allowing access to any set top box could one day allow Hollywood to control or limit even access to legitimate devices in legitimate ways. Allowing Hollywood and the record industry too much control over our lives is not going to be beneficial to the consumer.

Comments welcome.

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