January 20, 2005 4:00 AM PST

FAQ: CableCard? What's that?

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their infancy, cable companies usually send over a technician to install the card to make sure it works with the TV. Some cards need to be customized and programmed by the technician.

Can I receive HDTV programming with CableCard?
Yes. The whole purpose of CableCard is to make it easier and faster for new digital TV owners to get crystal clear HDTV signals. With a card, TVs can automatically receive HD signals from their local network affiliates and a select few cable stations. But to get more cable stations in HD, subscribers will still need to use an HD set-top for now.

Can I use a CableCard on my current TV?
It depends. CableCard works only with newer digital devices outfitted with a CableCard slot. That includes many models of digital TV sets, including most HDTV sets. If you're not sure whether your TV supports CableCard, you can do a simple visual check by looking at the back panel. If it accepts CableCard, you will see a slot in addition to other standard hook-ups.

Does CableCard support Wi-Fi?
Not yet.

Will any CableCard work with any CableCard-ready device?
In theory, yes. In practice, not yet. The Federal Communication Commission has mandated interoperability, but reported problems suggest this is still a work in progress.

Who is responsible for ensuring products work together?
Manufacturers and service providers are ultimately responsible for making sure their products work together. They take their marching orders from the FCC.

Who makes CableCards?
The largest U.S. set-top makers, such as Motorola and Scientific-Atlanta make CableCards. Britain's NDS joined the list in 2003, according to CableLabs, the cable industry's research and development consortium.

Why is the FCC interested in CableCard?
The FCC has been promoting the transition from analog programming to digital programming as it looks to free up the spectrum used by analog television broadcasts. CableCard is supposed to help speed up the transition by making it easier and cheaper for consumers to access digital programming.

Are cable companies interested in supporting CableCard?
Yes and no. Cable companies like the idea of cutting the costs associated with set-top boxes. But the lack of features such as pay-per-view has for now kept them from marketing the concept. As a result, CableCard sales have come in well below expectations to date.

Will CableCard eclipse the set-top box?
CableCard appears to signal the beginning of the end for the basic set-top box. But the change will likely take several years to play out. In the interim, new technologies are coming along that could revive the set-top box, or rather, see it evolve. More complex boxes are already on the way that combine digital-video recording, video-on-demand and media server capabilities such as HP's media "hub." CableCard will likely complement rather than replace these newer devices.

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22 comments

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I smell a rat
Why do I get the feeling this is going to directly tie into the flagging method the FCC is, or will be soon, implementing to keep consumers from recording certain programs depending on what the wishes of the producers are.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What bugs me most is...
What bugs me most about this whole digita TV thing is that it is the goverment pushing it because they want the old spectrum to sell off and make a ton of money. I doubt many consumers had asked or pleaded for digital TV. I mean really what's the point. TV shows have gotten lamer, more commercials, scrunched up credits, commercials on screen during the show. It all seems pointless to me.

If the goverment is so hot and heavy to get this spectrum then why should the consumers have to foot the bill for all of this new hardware. The goverment should be telling the makers that you have to see the hardware for no more than $100 a pop with the goverment picking part of the difference and the the stations picking up the rest. I mean really the stations makes tons of money of the commercials they cram down our throats and then they turn around and keep charging the cable and sat. providers more and more for the stations.

Why is it the consumers that are always getting the shaft with this kind of thing. As for these cards why does your Tivo need one when Tivo stopped making their devices with sat. and cable receivers in them. If it costs you $50 to buy a card or $2 a month to rent and you have to have one for each TV, each Tivo, Each DVD video recorder, etc. etc. I don't see how that is cheaper for the consumer buying them or renting them. And, it looks like at least for now you still have to have the set-top box if you want the on-screen guide and pay-per-view so you get hit with another monthly fee.

Plus well all know damn good and well that greedy companies like Comcast aren't going to pass any saving on to us and they will probably charge just as much for a card as they do a box. Seems to me this is all another shafting just like HDTV.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Link Flag
You DO!
This has been coming for a long time - ever since the passage of the DMCA in 1998. As many are aware, this law removes the "fair use" copyright loophole for just about anything digitally based. "Fair use" includes recording for later viewing and making backup copies.

I'm actually surprised that recording devices will be able to use the CableCard.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
Could be a scam - What's the point of digital TV?
To me, the only reason why they are pushing digital TV is to infest it with DRM restrictions. One thing Hollywood wants to see obsolete is the analog connections.
Posted by bobby_brady (765 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Shafted..., AGAIN/STILL...
At least we all know that we, the consumer, are still able to realize when we are about to get the shaft..., again..., sigh!
Posted by Aardasp (31 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yet another Cable Scam
The purpose of this is to let the consumer benefit from not having a cable box? Puleese.

What's going to happen is that the cable companies will require a CC for each device capable of recieving their signal, and likely still charge most customers for a box anyway, whether it be a cable DVR or STB for an older set.
Posted by Stormspace (1028 comments )
Reply Link Flag
One key point missed
Most TV's today don't go past chan 99 becasue they are not digital capible and they contain very cheap tuners. The set top box usually has the latest and greatest TV tuners and they convert the signal from digital to an anolog 55-50 Mhz (chan 2 or 3) so that the TV will understand it.

So TV's containing the more advanced tuners are more expensive to build.

DVR set top boxes and pay-per-view are also good reasons not go take the carblecard TV plunge.

A cablecard TiVo on the other hand.. :)
Posted by Dachi (797 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cable, pffft...
I have digital satellite, better picture, more channels and less cost than cable; let the idiots keep their rip-off technologies and keep cutting their own throats to spite their own faces :)
Posted by Michael Grogan (308 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SatCard
Don't worry - the FCC won't forget you either. I'm sure that they're working to eliminate your receiver too. The end result being that the cable from the dish will plug directly into your TV. That's not all that difficult to accomplish.
Posted by Jim Harmon (329 comments )
Link Flag
Killing the "Analog-Hole"
After any reasonable analysis, the ONLY real reason for this particular piece of FEDERALLY-MANDATED, technology would quite clearly be to eliminate the so-called "analog-hole" (through which consumers can control the programming which they watch).

In other words, after years of trying, and failing, to legally-overturn the Supreme Court's "Beta-Max decision" (which established many of the basic-rights held by consumers for the last twenty-years), a few powerful-interests are quite obviously attempting to mis-use the FCC's-authority to finally accomplish their ultimate goal of eliminating any pretense of consumer- 'rights', choice', or 'control'.
Posted by Raife (63 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
Anything digital....

Consumer control is slipping away. This is most evident with computers as they are the ultimate digital devices to date.

All this will happen under the guise of "looking" better with "more" security and "higher" security.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
I agree
Anything digital....

Consumer control is slipping away. This is most evident with computers as they are the ultimate digital devices to date.

All this will happen under the guise of "looking" better with "more" functionality and "higher" security.
Posted by Prndll (382 comments )
Link Flag
Dgital Roadblock
Unless and until the cable companies make it possible to split the signal as is possible and even necessary in the analog world to put standalone recording devices in the loop, I'm afraid this subscriber will be sticking with analog. Comcast has provided digital service in my area for several years at a reasonable price but we have a total of 4 VCRs and a DVD recorder all connected via amplified switchers to the same cable connection.

So far this can't be done with digital cable because the channels still must be selected at the box.

My question: will future D-VHS (if VHS survives), DVRs and DVD recorders be compatible with CableCard?

One can hope.
Posted by hemistanley (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Remember "cable ready" crap? Same old...
TV"s have had "cable-ready" jacks and electronics for years, but they don't de-scramble - just an added and useless expense, like the "Parental V-chip" that I think is still mandated.

Want something useful? Ask your cable supplier why VCRs have had channel-switch timers for over twenty years but cable boxes (unless you add the cable companies' integrated TiVo or whatever) don't. Or when can we use picture-in-picture (another costly but useless-with-cable feature) or watch-A-while-record-B multichannel?
Posted by broke (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cable Cards
By supporting the cable cards you won't replace the STB it will only evolve to something new. It also will now mean that DTV have more smarts and this industry is changing two fast to keep up. Who wants to replace your $2000+ display because your card reader nolonger works? In addition convergence is coming. What and how will the display support PC functions. Today you still have very poor quality when viewing web pages or playing games. This is due to the current compression used today from your cable and satalite compaines. We don't need smart diplsys we need smart systems that feed the display.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
cable card
Does anyone know of a conflict between Motorola cable card and LG LCD TV?
Thanks
Posted by billsen (2 comments )
Link Flag
CableCard
Is anyone aware of conflict concerning MOTOROLA
CableCard and LG LCD TV?
billsen
Posted by billsen (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I just want to record my shows while I'm at work. I don't have cable service. Will the CableCard work on Tivo without cable service?
Posted by ZipityDoDaDay (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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