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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

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October 19, 2012

Looking Forward, Looking Backward at Television

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

It seems like just a few months ago, I was writing about how television (broadcast, but mostly cable) was imploding of its own stupidity and greed. It's still going on, and this week two stories got sent to me that perfectly illustrate how and why this is happening.

First, the good folk at TechCrunch pointed me to their (glowing) review of the new Boxee TV. This product, as the story illustrates, is aimed squarely at the new generation of cord-cuttters. People who want their television a la carte, in the cloud, and available on any device. Record multiple channels at one time? Sure. Unlimited storage? Sure. Have the latest from streaming providers like Netflix? Sure.

If the damned thing didn't cost so much I'd order one for myself today. The per-month price tag is hefty and would significantly cut into the savings I'm enjoying from cancelling my cable TV. But prices always come down and I can wait.

What's most interesting to me, looking at this from a business perspective. is that I don't see Boxee offering anything that the major cable providers could not have offered. The only reason they can't (didn't) is that they are still locked into that tie-down, cord-from-the-wall, one-device (ours) etc model. It's all about control for them.

Which brings me to the second item: a notice that the FCC is finally going to allow cable companies to scramble basic channels, although they're going to have to bend over backward to accommodate for a couple years. These basic channels are the ones that are usually broadcast over the air - free, you may recall - that cable companies first howled about being forced to carry, and then tried desperately to control. Scrambling the signals is just one more sign that the cable companies remain mired in the 1990s, clawing for every single bit of control they can get. Heaven forbid someone should see television channels for free! I have no words.

Chris Welch's story is deliciously ironic, opening with the sentence

The days of plugging a TV into the wall and getting cable are coming to an end.

You got that right, Chris, and sooner than people think.

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