The CableCard Mess: Is everyone is fed up? No, not everyone. Everyone except…

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by clark_kent, Aug 8, 2007.

  1. Aug 8, 2007 #1 of 14

    clark_kent Member

    May 6, 2007


    The cable industry!

    There are a whole bunch of threads and posts from a whole bunch of people with a whole bunch of cableCard issues and problems.

    I don’t have any personal experience to relate to the “getting it work” part, but I did call my cable provider asking about getting a cableCard. I was told, “most people don’t like cableCards and don’t use them.” So I said: OK, but, if I still did want one, can I get one? I was told, “yes, but it would be a special order since we don’t have any in stock.” So, I say how long will it take? I was told “it looks like the last customer that order a cableCard had to wait about 6 weeks for delivery.” I said I would think about it and hung up.

    Admittedly, I have not read all the thread or all the posts.

    Also, I’m not an expert on the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (

    I have read some about the cableCard ( I’m pretty sure I have ADD so I end up not reading everything. But here is some of what I did read about the cableCard:

    “CableCARDs may be used to access both Standard Definition and High Definition channels. CableCARDs are not necessary for viewing unscrambled digital cable channels if the user has a QAM tuner — a feature in some televisions and DVRs. CableCARD support is most common on higher end televisions that include a special slot for the CableCARD and a built-in cable tuner. The card acts like a unique "key" to unlock the channels and services which the cable customer has subscribed to, and the television's remote-control will also control the cable channels. Televisions that support CableCARD should be labeled by the manufacturer as "digital cable ready", or DCR.”

    (Side Note: So, TiVo, tell me again WHY I must have a cableCard to watch UNencrypted channels when the (only) purpose of a cableCard is to “authorize” reception of ENcrypted channels???)

    I have also read a little about CableLabs (

    Apparently, the cable industry invented CableLabs. CableLabs is a research group RUN by a consortium of cable companies! Whose interest is that consortium of cable companies looking out for? Oh, my! Look, it’s the fox in charge of the chicken coop! The cable companies have enjoyed a monopoly (at our expense) for a VERY long time; they have a VERY profitable revenue stream; and, with the ever expanding list of HD channels, an even LARGER revenue stream in the future. So, is it any wonder that they came up with CableLabs to maintain their control. “Our” government on occasionally tries to do stuff in “our” behalf, but (usually) ends up on the short side because (IMHO) it’s “big industry” with all their lobby $$$ that are really in control. IMHO, the cable industry invented CableLabs to basically thwart the Telecomm Act and fly in the face of FCC mandates.

    WHY is the cableCard NOT widely used and accepted: because that IS the way the cable (monopoly) industry wants it to be!!!

    HOW did the cable industry manage to become the SOLE, and ONLY ones allowed to sell/rent a cableCard??? WHY does Motorola (and others that actually manufacture the cableCard), ONLY provide them to cable companies??? Does the FCC mandate that or what???

    IF cableCards where made available to/by TiVo and/or the rest of the cableSLOT consumer industry, we would NOT be in this mess!!! (This “mess” is why a lot of HDTV manufacturers have removed the cableSLOT from their sets!)

    If TiVo and the rest of the cableSLOT industry was able to provider the cableCard (that is so hated by the cable industry), cable providers could/would still charge their fees for various service “tiers” and various encrypted channels. Motorola (and others manufacturing cableCards) would probably NOT object to selling a bunch of cableCards to the whole cableSLOT industry.
  2. Aug 8, 2007 #2 of 14

    MickeS Active Member

    Dec 26, 2002
    All I can say is that I agree with everything you wrote. :)
  3. Aug 8, 2007 #3 of 14

    smbaker Well-Known Member

    May 24, 2003
    As much as I hate to say it, this is one of those rare instances where we need MORE government regulation.

    The cable companies have clearly violated the intent of the law. Sure, they provide unencrypted QAM networks in HD. .... but then they obfuscate the channel numbers, change the frequencies, "hide" the HD channels from their channel lineups so customers do not know they exist, charge extra fees for an "HD package" when HD is included in their service by law, ...

    ... and then we get to the cablecards, which the gov't tells them they need to provide. So yeah they provide them, but ... the installers show up with broken cablecards, don't know how to install them, don't know how to bill for them, the cablecards fail after install, it costs extra money to put two cards in a device because they don't have M-cards, ...

    Personally I think digital OTA could and should be the demise of the cable company. The broadcast networks seem to have plenty of extra bandwidth (i.e. spare digital subchannels). If each local affiliate also made an agreement with a news network or a science network (for example, Fox affiliate broadcast FoxNews, NBC affiliate broadcast MSNBC, PBS broadcast Discovery, History), then I would relieve myself of the $50/mo cable bill tomorrow. Those few remaining shows I needed could be downloaded via amazon unbox.
  4. Aug 8, 2007 #4 of 14

    clark_kent Member

    May 6, 2007
    Thank you.

    I sincerely like to hear from anyone that can shed some light on how the cable industry got "mandated" with being the sole providers of cableCards. And, if anyone is connected to/with the FCC to perhaps UNmandate that provision.
  5. Aug 8, 2007 #5 of 14

    minckster New Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Manhattan NYC


    "Regulatory Capture" is a whole school of economic thought on this issue. Please see:

    (OT: There's a similar theory for Executive Branch control of the Supreme Court.)
  6. Aug 9, 2007 #6 of 14

    yunlin12 Tivonation Citizen

    Mar 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA
  7. Aug 9, 2007 #7 of 14

    classicsat Astute User

    Feb 18, 2004
    Ontario Canada.
    You can view and record unencrypted QAM cable channel in a Series 3 HD TiVo. It requires cablecards to map those channels to virtual channel numbers, so the guide data can record them.
    The mandate is that the providers allow 3rd party navigation/tuner devices. Access devices are totally within the cable industry's domain.
    They could (and some providers do) sell the cablecards.

    Cable provders have to be the ones that control the distribution of access devices, so they can control access to the programming on their network.
  8. Aug 9, 2007 #8 of 14

    AbMagFab What happened, TiVo?

    Feb 5, 2001

    I used to be able to go into CC or BB, and buy any number of satellite receiver boxes manufactured by Sony, Philips, and others. That model worked fine (and has only changed becuase DirecTV was giving up revenue and costing support).

    For CC's, that's already a standard. Cable Companies control the *enabling* of the device, but there's absolutely no justifyable reason they should control the CC itself.

    I think one of the best changes possible would be if CC's were available at your local BB and CC. It would force the cable companies to do what they promised they would do.
  9. Aug 9, 2007 #9 of 14

    vstone Active Member

    May 11, 2002
    Actually, the cable card companies have a legitimate business case for controlling the cards which control access to their network, rather than buying a card at BB and hacking it (can still be done anyway, but). It appeared to me sometime during the time that the card was being installws that thye card was booting linux, but that was 10 months ago.
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Active Member

    Jan 10, 2002

    well actaully you still got the card from directv. They just happened to give sony et al a stack of them to put in the retail box but in the end the cards came from Directv via their vendor (NDS). In the end you couldn't even get a card in the box at certain stores, directv would fedex it to you. And if the cards died or you needed a replacement you called directv and they sent you a new one.

    that said- cable is still evil. ;)

    The biggest thing that I find offensive is that the FCC permitted cablelab's to be the creator of the standards. In my mind ANSI or IEEE or some neutral third party should have been in charge so that everyone could use the same standard- not just cable. What is verizon supposed to do??? Cable wont even let them join their precious little cabel at cablelabs but verizon is supposed to try and make their system work with cablecards. That's just wrong.
  11. clark_kent

    clark_kent Member

    May 6, 2007
    IF CableLabls WAS a real independent body, and cableCards where made available to cableSLOT providers, the cable industry would still maintain their dominating control since the cable provider would be in total control of “authorizing” the cableCard.

    RE classicsat comment on the all mighty “guide:”

    If TiVo did make a conscious decision to require customers to have cableCards for ALL digital channels, including the unencrypted local network channels, (IMHO) that was a stupid(!) decision.

    There’s probably a boatload of TiVo customers out there that ONLY want to be able to record LOCAL broadcast in HD! Which, by the way is unencrypted. If the only solution from TiVo is to FORCE that customer to subscribe to various “tier” levels and all sorts of “channels” they don’t want; will never watch; just to get “guide data” on those few unencrypted channels is just plain ridiculous!!!

    The S3 can view/record unencrypted channels as-is without guide data, but it’s like being back before the stone ages for a hi-end, uber-sophisticated “TiVo.” Setting up unencrypted channel recordings MANUALLY (one shot or scheduled) is simple and it works.

    BUT, you can’t even “LABEL” the channel like you can with a “simple” minded, dumb and stupid recorder.

    If you could at least “label” those channels that the missing the all mighty and sacred “guide” data, you would know what channels you’re watching or recording in terms mier mortals can relate to. And, my wife would not be asking me: where the heck is my “Gray’s Anatomy,” “Medium” or “ER” recording; or asking me “what’s that recording that says ‘manual channel 89.7’
  12. MichaelK

    MichaelK Active Member

    Jan 10, 2002
    interesting points about cable's decision not to allow QAM mapping.

    But i think you are barking up the wrong tree that cable providers shouldn't have control over authorizing the cards on their systems- that's the whole point of the things. And mandated that way through the fcc regulations as required by the 1996 law that mandated people should be able to buy their own tuners.

    It's the same as directv and dish handing out their smart cards, as GSM phone providers handing out their own sim cards, as banks handing out their own visa cards. They are trying to keep control of their networks. You can't call NDS and get a smart card for directv or dish, you cant call visa and tell them to give you a citibank credit card, you can't call the standards body for sim cards and tell them to give you an att sim for your phone.
  13. pkscout

    pkscout Well-Known Member

    Jan 10, 2003
    Honolulu, HI
    I'm not sure those are the best analogies. With satellite cable they do send you an access card, but it can be used in any device with an access slot. You can also easily move the access card from one device to another. Same thing with SIM cards. I had an AT&T SIM card that I moved between a Palm device and a smart phone with no problem. And my ATM card works no matter which wallet I carry it in. ;)

    CableLabs developed a spec that needlessly tied the device and the access card together and added another layer of complexity that is the root of many of the issues with CableCards today.
  14. MichaelK

    MichaelK Active Member

    Jan 10, 2002

    I'm not really sure what you the problem is- honest- sorry not following. I think the OP was complaining that the cable company issuesd the cards- I thought he(she?) was trying to say one should be able to call motorolla and buy a card and then tell comcast to activate it.

    Directv access cards can only be place in receivers approved by directv. And they can get "married" to the receiver so they become junk in any other receiver. So they get "paired" also.

    I'm not to sure honestly about SIM cards (I use verizon)- but I'd GUESS that some agency is approving simcard phones - in fact whoever does it does a good job because from what I do gather it's simple to swap the card from a treo to a small weekend phone. (is it European Telecommunications Standards Institute?)
    Difference is it's not ATT issuing approvals for sim cards but some third party neutral agency. (and again I'm not really up on it but the wiki for sim cards seems to say there is all sorts of numbers being passed around so the card gets paired to the phone and then some 3rd - or even fourth- number is used as the key for service.) And in the end the sim is tied to the phone account.

    and if you switch banks you need a new atm (or credit) card- it's issued by the bank and tied to the account- you can't just call up your bank and say I switched banks my old credit card number is 4444 3333 2222 1111 and I want it to access my checking account at your bank.

    from what i gather you can pull a cablecard out of any device and put it in another and it will work- you just need to call in with the new "data" number it produces to let the cable people know where it is.

    thinking about it- I think I get YOUR point- I can buy a verizon aircard and stuff it in any laptop and get evdo service. I don't have to generate a new "data" number and call that in to verizon. I guess that's a bit of a pain in the rear that cablecards do that but I don't really think it's a major problem in the scheme of things. People don't generally seem to be complaining that they can't take their cablecard out and go to a friends and get their service on the friends tv- most seem to complain that the stupid things don't work, cable doesn't know how to get them to work, and if they do work generally the pricing is predatory.

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