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DirecTV: You know, CableCards DO suck

Fri, 04/30/2010 - 10:50am
Brian Santo

The idea behind CableCards wasn’t a bad one, really. No one argues against giving consumers more choices that can lead to better service.

The cable industry always hated CableCards, for two very good reasons: 1) Designed as dictated and then implemented, they proved to attract almost precisely as little consumer interest as cable had predicted – in short, they didn’t do what they were supposed to; and 2) Only cable was subject to the rules, and not other service providers.

The basic concept of giving consumers more choices that can lead to better service remains in the National Broadband Plan. And so does the basic concept of the CableCard, only it has morphed into the notion of an “AllVid” device that would act sort of like a CableCard, but it would work in the set-tops of not only cable providers, but also DBS and IPTV companies.

Cable actually favors the AllVid concept – on a provisional basis. The provision is this: it applies equally to cable, DBS and IPTV. If cable has to deal with it, so should everyone else.

Now the realization seems to be dawning among those outside of the cable industry that the proposed technological fix for the perceived problem – the CableCard/AllVid approach – isn’t a very good idea at all.

Eric Shanks, executive vice president for entertainment at DirecTV, testified before a House committee yesterday. “Allowing third parties to strip out our services ... and develop their own user interface will diminish the industry-leading customer service they expect from DirecTV," he said, according to a report in PC World.

"We receive 140 million customer calls a year, including a great number regarding the set-top box,” Shanks said. “Who will take these calls, and more importantly, who will solve the customers' problems?"

Well, yeah. On the other hand, he still thinks CableCards are a good idea for cable, but still, it’s almost like progress that other people are beginning to realize that the recommended technological fix fixes nothing.

Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee expressed skepticism about the AllVid proposal and are challenging the idea.


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