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An open letter to Hauppauge TV tuner users

A many of you know, Hauppauge has been supporting TV tuners in Windows Media Center for over 10 years. Our tuners allow users of Windows Media Center in Windows XP, 7 and 8 to watch and record their favorite TV programs, a feature which I personally use every day and find invaluable in my TV watching experience.

Two years ago, the cable TV industry convinced the U.S. FCC to allow the elimination of clear QAM TV (unencrypted cable TV programs) from any cable TV system in the U.S. This meant all cable TV users would need to rent or buy a cable TV box or a CableCARD receiver in order to watch and record cable TV.

While Hauppauge felt, and told the FCC, that eliminating clear QAM TV programs was not in the consumers best interests, the FCC moved forward with these new rules and slowly but surely, all of us have seen clear QAM TV programs being eliminated from our local cable TV networks. How many of you were using a Hauppauge TV tuner to watch clear QAM TV channels from your local cable TV network, and one day turned on your TV tuner and found the screen was blank? I was one of those affected by clear QAM being eliminated and felt the same pain you did.

This left American cable TV viewers with only a choice of renting boxes from their local cable operator, or buying a CableCARD receiver from Hauppauge or others like Tivo, Samsung or Silicon Dust. Now, CableCARD happens to be a very interesting technology in that the FCC several years ago mandated that all U.S. cable TV providers allow any subscriber to buy their own CableCARD TV box and use it on any cable system in the U.S. This is very cool. It means you can buy your own CableCARD TV box and if you move, you are guaranteed you can use this box on a different cable TV system. And you are allowed to own, rather than rent, your cable TV equipment. All of us using CableCARD TV receivers can thank the FCC for this!

But here's the problem.

The cable TV industry has persuaded the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate Commerce Committee to include (in a bill regarding Satellite TV and not even about cable TV) a provision that will effectively kill CableCARD. This bill will allow cable operators to no longer have to use CableCARDs in their own TV boxes, and cable TV companies will no longer have to provide CableCARDs to consumers like us. Today, cable operators need to use the same conditional access which companies like Hauppauge and Tivo use. This rule is called 'common reliance': both cable TV companies and Hauppauge, Tivo and others must use the same way to access the cable TV signal.

If this bill goes through, cable TV companies will no longer have to rely on the same conditional access solution that Hauppauge, Tivo and others rely upon. Making sure that that cable operators must use the same conditional access is the only way consumers have a true choice between leasing an operator box and buying a competitive box.

If this bill goes through, there would be no requirement that your local cable TV company would need to support CableCARD. This means that you would not be able to create your own Windows Media Center system or be able to buy a CableCARD based cable TV box and use it on another cable system in the U.S. This is very crazy and very anti-consumer, but it seems as though the U.S. Congress is moving ahead to eliminate CableCARD!

But there is some hope! Senator Markey, who’s from Massachusetts, has proposed that any attempt to kill CableCARD be put on hold until such time as there is a replacement standard. As an engineer, I know that there are a number of ways in which CableCARD could be improved, but to eliminate CableCARD before there is an alternative is, in my opinion, a very bad idea. It’s difficult to develop a replacement for an important technology without knowing what that new technology is.

Senator Markey's amendment would put off forcing the FCC to revoke its "common reliance" rule until the FCC and cable TV companies have identified a successor technology that would not be unduly burdensome for smaller companies like Hauppauge or big cable TV companies. He is insisting that the full Senate not act on S. 2799 (nicknamed the "STAVRA" bill) unless the bill addresses his amendment.

Those who believe in allowing companies like Hauppauge to sell cable TV receivers, or if you believe in consumer choice and competitive markets, you should join me in urging their own Senators to back Senator Markey's stand.

It would be great if all fans of TV tuners send a letter to their local Senator to tell them that eliminating CableCARD is NOT in your best interests. And that you request them to insist that bill S. 2799 (nicknamed the "STAVRA" bill) not be brought up for a vote until it addresses Senator Markey's “competitive device” amendment.

You can send an e-mail message to your own Senator, or call or write to their office, here:

I do hope you will help me and all fans of PC based TV tuners to save CableCARD and keep an open market for CableCARD TV receivers.

Thank you!
Ken Plotkin - President
Hauppauge
 

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Cable Company's have deployed far more cable card based equipment than the consumer market has, the support for these isn't going away anytime soon.
Although a shift to video-over ip will eventually render devices without DOCSIS capabilities obsolete.
 
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