FCC: Whoops, CableCARD Was a Total Disaster

Yesterday the FCC admitted that CableCARD—a system originally designed to open up the market for video content—is a failure. Here's what they're doing to fix it.

The regulator is seeking comments "on how to encourage innovation," which basically means how to move past the total failure of the CableCARD system and on to something that will democratize how and where you can access cable video streams. If you're never heard about the CableCARD system, it's effectively the only thing keeping you from using your Xbox 360 as a DVR. A potential change could
open up cable signals to all devices, including your TiVo and Xbox 360.

And until very recently, you couldn't even get your Windows PC to be a DVR unless you bought it OEM from HP or Dell or someone, where they would install the CableCARD for you at the time of purchase. Quite opposite from the way people pictured CableCARDs would work—and how it will work shortly.

Just how bad is it? Ars Technica points out that in the FCC report, a grand total of fourteen non-leased set top boxes were available in the US at retail in 2008. That means that nearly every set-top box in the US is leased by a cable company, allowing them virtually unlimited pricing control and no incentive to innovate. Compare that to the 879 devices for sale in the truly competitive mobile industry, and you can see just how throttled the market is by the cable industry.

There's no telling what exactly is going to happen here, but at the very least it's good to see the FCC continuing their push for openness and sanity. We've waited long enough for something that's really not too much to ask. [ars technica]