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Old 02-10-2014, 09:00 AM   #1
Lyrical1
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Is AT&T an exempt cable company?

Over the years I have learned a great deal of useful information here. As a newb, I remember getting great advice on everything from how use the finer points in programing season passes to how to use a multiswitch for DTV. Thank you to all who’ve helped.

One of the things I learned on the TiVo Community Forum is that cable companies are required to offer cablecards for TiVos and other devices. So, here’s my newest question: Why is AT&T exempt from this regulation?

I now live in an area whose television is served by Comcast and AT&T. I have had a Comcast cablecard for years, although I get a huge amount of marketing material from AT&T who want me to switch to their U-verse service. When I call AT&T and ask about cablecards they give me evasive answers. Either they “don’t know what a cablecard is.” Or, they may “offer them in the future.”

Is AT&T not a cable service? Are they not regulated by the same organization (FCC?) that regulates Comcast, Time-Warner Cable, Cox, et al?
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:14 AM   #2
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AT&T is not a cable service. They deliver their TV programming via IP over their DSL network, and therefore they would be categorized as an information service.

Because they do not use any traditional "cable TV" technology, CableCards are wholly incompatible with their service.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:35 AM   #3
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It's the same reason satellite TV companies are exempt, and it's why the AllVid initiative exists. They don't use cable TV technology so they are exempt. AllVid wants to require all MVPDs to adhere to a cablecard-style requirement.

FiOS is not exempt because they use cable TV technology, the only difference is that it's fiber all the way to your house instead of fiber to your neighborhood. Once it hits your house and turns to coax, it's essentially the same as cable TV from Comcast or anyone else (with a few minor differences that are insignificant when considering CableCard rules)
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:40 AM   #4
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Thanks for the quick response. Now I understand.

It does make me wonder about the cablecard requirement rules and the intent of those rules, but I'm not a lawyer. I suppose AT&T was smart by using a lot of preexisting infrastructure to deliver TV service and to avoid this regulation.

It is frustrating. I'd like to see more competition and, possibly, lower prices, better service and faster speeds. From what I've read we're far from the top of the list of the speediest industrialized countries that have internet.

Thanks.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:59 AM   #5
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I've never had U-verse myself, but from everything I have read it is a pretty substandard technology. Using the same unshielded, decades-old copper telephone lines that were never designed to carry large amounts of data to transmit broadband internet/television service is really absurd when you actually think about it. The lack of bandwidth over unshielded telephone wire creates multiple problems:

1. Your data speeds drop off drastically after about 2500 feet from the node.
2. Unless your house is less than 1000 feet from the node, I seriously doubt you will ever get internet speeds above 30mbps in practice.
3. The lack of bandwidth is why you are limited to 4 simultaneous TV streams (so you can forget about a 6-tuner DVR on ATT ever).
4. To save bandwidth, ATT compresses those TV streams more than those of the cable or satellite, thus decreasing video quality.

We have the option of ATT U-verse in my area, but I doubt I would ever give it a try despite my hatred for Time Warner. I really wish that all telephone companies had been required to go FTTH like FIOS. On principle, I just don't think I would be able to bring myself to reward ATT for choosing to go the cheap route with inferior technology in order to pad their short-term profits to the detriment of their customers. Plus my house is about 2600 feet from the node, so my data speeds would probably be crap anyways.

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Old 02-10-2014, 10:55 AM   #6
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Thanks for the quick response. Now I understand.

It does make me wonder about the cablecard requirement rules and the intent of those rules, but I'm not a lawyer. I suppose AT&T was smart by using a lot of preexisting infrastructure to deliver TV service and to avoid this regulation.

It is frustrating. I'd like to see more competition and, possibly, lower prices, better service and faster speeds. From what I've read we're far from the top of the list of the speediest industrialized countries that have internet.

Thanks.
AT&T didn't go the route they did to avoid CableCard requirements. MVPDs want to gut those requirements, but they don't shape major strategic decisions. AT&T rolled out U-Verse in the way they did because it was cheap to re-use all the copper in the ground already instead of replace it with fiber or coax.

The intent of CableCard was to promote retail devices. When the rules were put into place, the world was completely different. The only exemption was the satellite companies.

Also, internet speeds have little or nothing to do with this discussion.
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Old 02-10-2014, 10:59 AM   #7
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Also, internet speeds have little or nothing to do with this discussion.
Disagree. From what I understand on how U-verse works, your total bandwidth is shared between TV streams and internet. So the more simultaneous TV streams you have going, the slower your internet speeds will be. I do not want to have to choose between watching (or recording) live TV and faster internet speed.
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Old 02-10-2014, 11:09 AM   #8
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Disagree. From what I understand on how U-verse works, your total bandwidth is shared between TV streams and internet. So the more simultaneous TV streams you have going, the slower your internet speeds will be. I do not want to have to choose between watching (or recording) live TV and faster internet speed.
It doesn't have anything to do with cablecard regulation or why AT&T is exempt.
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Old 02-10-2014, 11:12 AM   #9
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It doesn't have anything to do with cablecard regulation or why AT&T is exempt.
If U-verse had the same bandwidth available as Fios, then AT&T probably would have used traditional cable technology to deliver video and would not have been exempt from the regulations.
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Old 02-10-2014, 11:37 AM   #10
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When it comes to the Satellite companies the FCC sold us out, there is no technical reason they shouldn't be using cable cards. The Satellite companies simple didn't want to switch from what they were using and paid off enough people to get themselves exempted from the rules.

AT&T U-verse is a little different in that their type of service was not covered by the law, but again no technical reason for not using cable cards.

The simple reality is that our Government has been bought and paid for by big money/business. Does not really matter if it is Dems or Reps big money/business pays of both sides. It is very unlikely that our Government will ever do anything that is good for the little guy unless it is also be good for big money/business. And of course big money/business expects us to just bend over and take it with a smile, which is about all we can do .
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Old 02-10-2014, 12:16 PM   #11
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If U-verse had the same bandwidth available as Fios, then AT&T probably would have used traditional cable technology to deliver video and would not have been exempt from the regulations.
Not necessarily. Even if they had 100 Gigabits of capacity on twisted pair copper, they might still have decided to go with IP multicast instead of QAM broadcast.

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When it comes to the Satellite companies the FCC sold us out, there is no technical reason they shouldn't be using cable cards. The Satellite companies simple didn't want to switch from what they were using and paid off enough people to get themselves exempted from the rules.

AT&T U-verse is a little different in that their type of service was not covered by the law, but again no technical reason for not using cable cards.

The simple reality is that our Government has been bought and paid for by big money/business. Does not really matter if it is Dems or Reps big money/business pays of both sides. It is very unlikely that our Government will ever do anything that is good for the little guy unless it is also be good for big money/business. And of course big money/business expects us to just bend over and take it with a smile, which is about all we can do .
There are technical reasons satellite and IPTV aren't covered specifically by cablecards, and that is that satellite and IPTV use completely different technology. Now, there's no technical reason that the FCC couldn't require these companies to open up their systems to retail devices, but that's a different story.
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:41 PM   #12
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Not U-verse related, but do cable company boxes have essentially cable cards inside of them? i.e. if you opened one up is there a CC slot?
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Old 02-10-2014, 01:54 PM   #13
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Not U-verse related, but do cable company boxes have essentially cable cards inside of them? i.e. if you opened one up is there a CC slot?
Old ones, ones in service from before the integration ban, no. New ones, yes.

I know the Cisco ones will have a slot, but then there is a plastic cover screwed over it to prevent the card from being removed.
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Old 02-10-2014, 02:26 PM   #14
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I wish there had been a reason keeping me from getting ATT at my rental place in NC. I live in CA and have used Comcast for years, but there the choice was the small city-owned service or U-Verse. I was only there less than half the year, so wanted something as simple and thrifty as I could get. So I went with U-Verse and it was a disaster.

At that time (1.5 yrs ago) there was a separate dept for U-Verse and the customer service was miles worse than anything I've encountered with ATT (I have a landline and my cell w/ them). Their reps must be on commission because they completely lied to me about prices, promotions, equipment, etc to get me to switch from the DSL I had had in the house previously. I must have spent 20 hours on the phone with them after getting my first bill - constant holds and then disconnects after long periods - and never got the issues resolved.

I finally got out with my life and a $500 lighter wallet after two months of -promotional- service (internet and phone.) Seriously. I came close to setting up a blog for horror stories about U-Verse but didn't want to give them any more of my life. It was the biggest consumer nightmare I've experienced. Ever.

Maybe they've gotten better. I hope so.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:09 PM   #15
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FiOS is not exempt because they use cable TV technology, the only difference is that it's fiber all the way to your house instead of fiber to your neighborhood. Once it hits your house and turns to coax, it's essentially the same as cable TV from Comcast or anyone else (with a few minor differences that are insignificant when considering CableCard rules)
I'm pretty sure Verizon FiOS is not considered cable and does not fall under those regulatory rules, as I recall they follow them anyway because they expected if it were ever brought up they would be classified as such.
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Old 02-10-2014, 04:47 PM   #16
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In Austin AT&T just rolled out UVerse service at 300Mbps. http://www.att.com/shop/u-verse/gigapower.html

Besides even over copper, the service is much faster than what the customer gets for Internet access. The video part is not part of the subscribed service.

I've had 4HD streams and 2 SD going at once. How many TVs are you going to watch at the same time?
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Old 02-10-2014, 05:06 PM   #17
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In Austin AT&T just rolled out UVerse service at 300Mbps. http://www.att.com/shop/u-verse/gigapower.html

Besides even over copper, the service is much faster than what the customer gets for Internet access. The video part is not part of the subscribed service.
ATT's U-verse "Gigapower" service in Austin isn't over rotting copper telephone wire, it is a true fiber-to-the-home network. Isn't it strange that ATT only chose 1 market to do a modern network the right way and it was the same market that Google Fiber has chosen to expand into. What a strange coincidence huh?

Speaking of the Austin market, it looks like Austin will have another option for gigabit speed at only $65/month from Grande Communications. So customers in Austin could potentially have 3 choices for 1000 Mbps internet for around $70/month (or maybe even 4 choices eventually if DOCSIS 3.1 holds up to the hype). It's very refreshing to see what true competition in broadband internet looks like. It happens so rarely in this country. I may have to move to Austin.

http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/G...-Austin-127685

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Old 02-10-2014, 07:59 PM   #18
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I've had 4HD streams and 2 SD going at once. How many TVs are you going to watch at the same time?
With a couple of Roamio 6 tuner TiVos one could record 12 channels at once, the number of people watching different TVs is irrelevant. This is a TiVo DVR form after all.
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Old 02-10-2014, 08:36 PM   #19
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AT&T didn't go the route they did to avoid CableCard requirements. MVPDs want to gut those requirements, but they don't shape major strategic decisions. AT&T rolled out U-Verse in the way they did because it was cheap to re-use all the copper in the ground already instead of replace it with fiber or coax.
Exactly. They went with copper because they are cheap, and are looking only at the extremely short-term, not the longer term, where it is fiber or die. They built U-Verse as a cripple from day one, with extremely limited bandwidth.

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I'm pretty sure Verizon FiOS is not considered cable and does not fall under those regulatory rules, as I recall they follow them anyway because they expected if it were ever brought up they would be classified as such.
I think it's regulated as cable. It's delivered to the customer as a 860mhz QAM256 signal, which would get it regulated as an 860mhz QAM256 signal, which is cable.
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Old 02-10-2014, 09:30 PM   #20
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It's the same reason satellite TV companies are exempt,
No, that's not the same reason. The satellite companies are exempt because they got an exemption, not because they are inherently incompatible with the rules.

I know that sounds like I'm using a circular argument, but I'm not. I can't think of a better way to word it though.

The satellite companies _should_ have been covered (so we could have One Card to rule them all, and have one Tivo to record OTA, cable, or satellite) by the same ruling that made CableCards.. But satellite got an exemption, I think because they were comparatively very small when the separate security requirement started.
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Old 02-11-2014, 05:40 AM   #21
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There are technical reasons satellite and IPTV aren't covered specifically by cablecards, and that is that satellite and IPTV use completely different technology. Now, there's no technical reason that the FCC couldn't require these companies to open up their systems to retail devices, but that's a different story.
Satellite isn't covered because they paid off people and got an exception. There are no technical reasons cable card security can not be used with satellite. Yes satellite requires different "tuners" than cable but cable card digital security could have been developed to be used on satellite digital streams, they just didn't want to go through the cost and effort of switching from their proprietary digital security.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:13 AM   #22
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There are technical reasons satellite and IPTV aren't covered specifically by cablecards, and that is that satellite and IPTV use completely different technology. Now, there's no technical reason that the FCC couldn't require these companies to open up their systems to retail devices, but that's a different story.
That's what AllVid was all about and it was DOA after cable complained about the proposal and the FCC rolled over. But I'm not convinced the FCC has any legal authority to impose anything over sat and certainly not U-Verse so it probably doesn't matter anyway.

They were pursuing a requirement that cable come up with an open access IP standard and I believe Verizon was supposed to be leading this effort to be delivered later this year. We'll see.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:01 AM   #23
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The simple reality is that our Government has been bought and paid for by big money/business. Does not really matter if it is Dems or Reps big money/business pays of both sides. It is very unlikely that our Government will ever do anything that is good for the little guy unless it is also be good for big money/business. And of course big money/business expects us to just bend over and take it with a smile, which is about all we can do .
These are my beliefs as well.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:25 PM   #24
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That's what AllVid was all about and it was DOA after cable complained about the proposal and the FCC rolled over. But I'm not convinced the FCC has any legal authority to impose anything over sat and certainly not U-Verse so it probably doesn't matter anyway.

They were pursuing a requirement that cable come up with an open access IP standard and I believe Verizon was supposed to be leading this effort to be delivered later this year. We'll see.
AllVid is not dead yet. After CES this year the AllVid alliance sent a letter to the FCC urging them to push forward with the standard. The head if the cable alliance responded saying that services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu were proof that competition could flourish even in an unregulated market. He also complained that AllVid would violate copyright, trademark and marketing agreements.

Even if the FCC pushes forward on AllVid it's going to be a decade before we see anything. And that's before all the extensions, waivers, etc... These guys don't want us to be able to buy equipment let alone equipment that is interoperable amongst providers and would give us the freedom to switch without consequences.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:29 PM   #25
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The simple reality is that our Government has been bought and paid for by big money/business. Does not really matter if it is Dems or Reps big money/business pays of both sides. It is very unlikely that our Government will ever do anything that is good for the little guy unless it is also be good for big money/business. And of course big money/business expects us to just bend over and take it with a smile, which is about all we can do .
This is true. Our only hope is that a competing big money/business pays off people for something more in line with what we little guys want. The CEA wants more open standards for the MPV sector because they want to be able to make and sell boxes that work with people's existing services. And companies like Google and Verizon are pushing against the established cable operators because they want to be able to sell their internet service to people stuck in a monopoly.
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Old 02-11-2014, 01:36 PM   #26
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This is true. Our only hope is that a competing big money/business pays off people for something more in line with what we little guys want. The CEA wants more open standards for the MPV sector because they want to be able to make and sell boxes that work with people's existing services. And companies like Google and Verizon are pushing against the established cable operators because they want to be able to sell their internet service to people stuck in a monopoly.
I'm sure that companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Samsung would love to have a universal standard. Samsung is big in Smart TV's now and they already sell a CableCard cable box replacement, and I'm sure they'd like a universal standard like AllVid to be able to sell that box to satellite and IPTV subscribers also.

Microsoft (and Sony) would love it too. Just look at Microsoft's XBox One with its HDMI In port. AllVid would make things so much easier for the XBox to hook into your video services. And I'm sure Apple would love for their Apple TV to be able to do the same thing.

So there are clearly some big money interests that will try to push for AllVid, but will it be enough? Only time will tell.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:17 PM   #27
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I've got my fingers crossed.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:34 PM   #28
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Unfortunately the trend is towards complete solutions top to bottom. In an IP world, it doesn't make sense for you to be tied to a video provider based on your geography, and all of the cable and satellite companies are building out IP-based apps for various devices that, for better or worse (mostly worse) they will pawn off as "viable alternatives" to their own set tops because you can use them on Xboxes and iPads that you buy. They completely miss the point (on purpose) that most of the reason people buy things like a TiVo or a Windows Media Center setup is the flexibility, and the alternatives in the UI, not necessarily the retail-ability of the hardware.

Microsoft and Sony would much rather sell you content directly than simply sell you hardware that communicates with the cable or satellite companies. They might be on board AllVid and CableCard, but only so far as that's the only route they have right now. Everyone wants to be the cable company, even the CE companies.
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:56 PM   #29
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Yeah they're still trying to force the "live TV" model on everyone, even though consumer interest is trending toward DVRs and on demand. They think that by releasing an XBox app that allows you to "tune" all your channels that's an alternative. And the worst part is the guys in power are likely to agree.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:52 PM   #30
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DirecTV and DISH are idiots for not working with TiVo to do something like this. They have lost customers because of a lack of support for user-owned equipment.

It seems to me that TiVo's hardware should be able to support U-Verse through Ethernet with a software update, and DirecTV and DISH through USB satellite tuners that could plug into a TiVo or Windows MCE computer.
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