Comcast tries to do an end run around U.S. FCC on set-top box changes

“It didn’t seem like much as far as news about the TV business goes: On Wednesday, Comcast said that it is launching a new feature for its Xfinity service that will allow users to watch their cable through Roku streaming boxes and Samsung smart TVs,” Mathew Ingram reports for Fortune. “Behind that small announcement, however, lies a world of tension between the cable giant and the Federal Communications Commission over the future of the connected TV.”

“To understand why, you have to go back to an announcement the FCC made in February about a campaign it calls ‘Unlock the Box.’ In a nutshell, the campaign is designed to free consumers from the need to pay huge sums to rent a set-top box in order to get their cable,” Ingram reports. “The FCC’s proposal is aimed at forcing cable operators to open up the set-top box market and allow others like Google or Apple to provide devices that do the same thing.”

“So is the FCC prepared to admit that Comcast is moving forward on opening up all by itself, and doesn’t need the regulator’s help? Not even close,” Ingram reports. “In a statement, the commission said that the Comcast plan ‘appears to offer only a proprietary, Comcast-controlled user interface and seems to allow only Comcast content on different devices, rather than allowing those devices to integrate or search across Comcast content as well as other content consumers subscribe to.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Comcast et al. deserve to lose this battle. The “cable box” is one of the most horrid devices to use in the world of electronics; from underpowered hardware to braindead user interfaces, it’s a truly abysmal experience that’s ripe for Apple to fix.

This is how Apple TV really gets to Input 1.

Obama urges agency to open competition in cable TV boxes – April 15, 2016
FCC proceeds with proposal aiming to make subscription TV available via any set-top box – February 18, 2016
Why Apple investors should pay close attention to this FCC decision – February 9, 2016
U.S. FCC wants more companies making cable boxes – January 28, 2016
How to watch free live HDTV on your Apple TV – January 19, 2016
Apple TV review: Channels are dead. The future of TV is apps – October 29, 2015
Mossberg reviews the new Apple TV: ‘This is the one I’d buy’ – October 28, 2015


  1. Comcast and Time Warner both have shown they are complete imbeciles in usable user interfaces and focus on the maximum kludge they can muster, as well as consumer frustration. In my mind all these services are a privilege to offer to consumers (not a right) and if you are not up to the task (essentially because of terminally bad corporate DNA) then pass it on to those who can. Too bad about your hapless brand, it’s already fatally tarnished for all time.

      1. I use imbeciles for those people and companies who deliberately sabotage or stifle a market in their own interests and prevent advancement. Sure it’s human nature (and nothing new for sure) but neither should we have to tolerate it. Inevitably all things must pass anyway. Gracefully step aside or you will be shoved, manhandled & drop-kicked out.

      2. Oh no, they are definitely imbeciles. Time Warner screwed up my billing again, and I have friggin’ auto-pay. If there’s a way to screw up, they’ll do it.

  2. The usual cable TV provider customer abuse.

    …The Comcast plan ‘appears to offer only a proprietary, Comcast-controlled user interface and seems to allow only Comcast content on different devices, rather than allowing those devices to integrate or search across Comcast content as well as other content consumers subscribe to.’

    Therefore, Cut-The-Cable and watch media à la carte over the Internet. No proprietary anything. Reduce the cable to simply a pipe to and from the Internet. That’s the future. That’s sane. Deal with it Comcast, ad nauseam.

    1. The new xfinity X1 boxes and remote work surprisingly well, and I’ve been happy since installation…

      That being said, I would much rather just have a coaxial port on my Apple TV and be able to use the tvOS interface for everything. It’s a lot simpler. Because no matter how many advancements Comcast makes in their UI and services, it’s still convoluted to use. And I have to pay a monthly fee for the new box plus a 19.95 monthly fee for “whole home/cloud” DVR services, that’s ridiculous. It costs basically nothing for storage, and if I would be able just to use iCloud? It would be so much simpler.

  3. With some great luck, the outcome of this campaign will be the standardisation of features and services that cable operators offer, and mandatory publication of their APIs.

    Let us not forget for a second that what all cable operators offer is essentially the same service(s): linear programming (in SD, HD, possibly 4K), which is essentially re-transmission of content of other providers, plus on-demand content, again, offered by other content providers, plus DVR functionality. There is nothing proprietary in these services that one operator has, but others lack. The linear-channel guide grid comes from a third-party provider and is simply formatted for the custom UI by each provider. Possibly the only proprietary features are the ones literally nobody ever bothers using: “widgets”, games, interactive content.

    Much like mobile carriers, cable operators are, as much as they hate to admit, nothing more than dumb pipes for other people’s content and services.

    Forcing standardisation and publication of API (to allow Apple, Roku and other STB makers to develop UI for their offerings) would be the equivalent of forcing AT&T to stop prohibiting third-party telephones on their network. Much like cable operators of today, AT&T, in its monopoly days, used to require customers to rent their phone. Everyone in America had the exact same phone, you had practically no choice of any variety. It wasn’t until late 80s that this went away, and people were allowed to buy their own phones and hook them up to the AT&T network. Until very recently, there were still some people paying monthly rental fee for their phone device to their local landline company (the successor of the monopoly AT&T).

    Let us hope cable operators enjoy the exact same fate.

  4. The Apple TV remote is HORRID, who the hell designed the 5 way button that doest have accuracy. I have not tried the latest version that is made of glass that can break. that looks like they finally fixed that second HORRID desgned one.

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