Some cable subscribers may have been "forced" into purchasing a set-top box and a more expensive digital subscription to receive certain basic cable channels, according to a new investigation launched by the Federal Trade Commission.
The FCC sent out letters (PDF) to Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable and other major cable companies, requesting a tabular list of information, from the "number of overall subscribers in each affected cable system at the time of the analog-to-digital channel change" to "whether Company permitted subscribers affected by the analog-to-digital channel change to modify their service at no charge for 30 days after receiving notice of such change." Verizon Communications' FIOS network, which isn't explicitly a cable service, is also being investigated. The investigation doesn't affect satellite providers.
The investigation seems to have been initiated by a letter that the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, sent to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, according to Ars Technica.
Switching to digital is good business for cable. The New York Times reported that Time Warner Cable and Cablevision had better than expected profit this quarter. While Time Warner attributed this to phone and Internet subscriptions, it still "lost 31,000 basic video subscribers in the quarter, but added 124,000 digital video subscribers." Cablevision also gained a significant amount of digital cable subscribers.… Read more
Think you've seen the worst of the global financial collapse? Well, you haven't. Microsoft's dipping its toe into subprime software lending, otherwise known as providing free software to start-ups making less than $1 million. We'd call it the "crack dealer" model, but it doesn't have the same current-events gravitas. Also today: we can now officially project that Yahoo is the biggest loser of them all. Sigh.Listen now: Download today's podcast EPISODE 846
No more GooHoo: Google pulls out of ad deal with Yahoo http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2008/11/ending-our-agreement-with-yahoo.html … Read more
As an avid cyclist, my biggest concern about riding my bike in New York City isn't king-size potholes, wayward pedestrians, or even the hordes of aggressive cabbies itching to smash me into gray matter, but rather the constant fear of getting my bike stolen. I've been a victim of bike theft in the past, and it literally feels like the loss of a limb (not good), so I'm constantly researching new ways to deter thieves from snatching up my precious Surly Cross-Check. Whether it's making my bike ugly with stickers or carrying around extra locks in my bag, there's only so much you can do, because if a thief wants what you got, they're gonna get it no matter what.
Michael Lambourn gives cyclists one more bullet in the barrel with his SmartLock design. It's a cable lock with colored liquid inside that explodes everywhere if the lock is cut. It's a clever idea, and one almost certainly hatched after a freak skunk accident, and I applaud Michael Lambourn for making an effort to make cycling safer for paranoid city dwellers like myself. The goal is to achieve peace of mind while your bike is locked up, and the SmartLock is definitely a step in the right direction. If this product is successful and helps get people out of their cars and onto the bike, then I'll get behind it 100 percent. I just have a few critiques to make in the meantime.… Read more
If you subscribe to a broadband Internet service today, more likely you use cable than DSL. According to a study released Thursday by J.D. Power and Associates, cable modem usage is increasing at a faster rate than DSL usage among Internet customers, as dial-up use continues to decrease.
The firm has performed the Internet service provider residential customer satisfaction study for 11 years. Every year, the study measures customer satisfaction with high-speed and dial-up Internet service providers based on five factors: performance and reliability, cost of service, customer service, billing, and offerings and promotions. It uses a 1,000-point … Read more
On Tuesday, Myvu announced that you can attempt to offset the geekiness of the glasses, since the Crystal is now fully compatible with the iPhone and iPhone 3G thanks to the new Works With iPhone cable.
The cable is available for $24.95 from Myvu's Web site.
Hi--I've read your articles on Comcast/TiVo, but I'm still puzzled by the Comcast/TiVo connection. I have basic Comcast cable (haven't upgraded to digital cable yet) and I'm running two TiVo Series 2 DVRs (no cable boxes at all). Can I upgrade to Comcast digital cable service and keep my current TiVos or will I be forced to use Comcast's DVRs or Comcast's TiVo software? I asked Comcast numerous times and 50 percent of the time they say I can use my current setup and 50 percent of the time they say "no, you need to upgrade the DVR equipment." Can you shed any light on this? (In my zip code in Chicago, Comcast doesn't yet offer Comcast DVR with TiVo service).--Nathan in Chicago, via e-mail.
Good question, Nathan. Keep in mind that you're not likely to be able to keep using your existing all-analog solution for much longer. That's because many cable systems throughout the U.S. are in the process of upgrading their system to accommodate a larger line-up of digital channels. (For each bandwidth-hogging analog channel dropped, a cable system can add at several digital channels, which use bandwidth more efficiently.)
While these changes aren't directly related to the February 2009 analog shut off (that only affects over-the-air broadcast viewers), a lot of cable systems will be using the resulting "end of analog TV" publicity and confusion to woo their customers to digital service. Once a cable system goes all-digital, devices with analog tuners--Series 2 TiVos, analog TVs, VCRs, and DVD recorders--will no longer get a signal when you plug the RF cable from the wall directly into them. Instead, you'll need a digital cable box in the mix, which will convert the digital signals back to analog (via the RF/coaxial, composite, or S-Video output).
Panasonic has announced limited availability of two Tru2way plasma TVs. The two plasma flat-panels, the 42-inch TH-42PZ80Q and the 50-inch TH-50PZ80Q, become the first products available to consumers that are Tru2way compatible, making good on Panasonic's pledge to have the debut products in stores by year's end.
Tru2way is a new technology that allows full interactive ("two-way") access to digital TV and HDTV cable systems without the need for a standalone cable box. That's an improvement on the earlier CableCard technology, which couldn't be used to access interactive services (such as pay-per-view and video-on-demand) via third-party devices such as the TiVo HD DVR.
The Panasonic Tru2way models will be priced at $1,600 and $2,300 for the 42-inch and 50-inch model, respectively. Compared with their non-Tru2way predecessors, the TH-42PZ80U and TH-50PZ80U, it looks as if the new technology will cost consumers a premium of $500 to $670.
For now, distribution will be limited to the Denver and Chicago areas, where the cable systems have been certified to be Tru2way-ready. That area should widen as more cable operators around the country add the capability. Additional manufacturers--including Sony, Samsung, and RCA--are planning to release Tru2way products in 2009 and beyond.
So my prediction that we don't see (Tru2way TVs) until sometime in 2009 was dead wrong. But, to my mind, the technology still needs to address three key points before it's truly ready for the mass market: … Read more
At first glance, Panasonic's Free Angle HDMI cables look to be the perfect solution for HD connections in tight spaces. The cables--available in lengths of 1.5 and 3 meters--are so named because the HDMI plugs on each side can rotate up to 180 degrees. That means you can fold the plug down to a 90-degree angle with the cable (as shown), allowing it to fit into spaces as tight as 1.2 inches--ideal for wall-mounted TVs, for instance.
The cables worked just as well as standard HDMI cables in a quick and impromptu test. The only problem, then, … Read more
A crucial undersea fiber-optic cable that will provide more Internet capacity between the U.S. and China was completed Monday, according to news reports.
Six of the world's largest phone companies have finished building an 18,000-kilometer "Trans-Pacific Express" cable that will link the U.S., China, South Korea, and Taiwan, according to the Dow Jones news service.
The high-speed link will provide more capacity for the region, which is currently served by a single low-capacity cable that provides connectivity between mainland China and the U.S. Most Web traffic between the U.S. and China goes … Read more