The sad thing is that they are backing off on Cablecard just as a pretty decent implementation is finally available. I've been using the Ceton InfiniTV 4 card for a couple of weeks now, and I am very impressed. I'm going to save enough on my cable bill in less than a year to pay for it. That doesn't mean that the interface can't be improved upon, though.
Powell understood that the DTV transition was not only about the TV broadcasters, and unlike most FCC chairmen, he didn't inherently despise the cable TV industry.
The FCC regime of Powell's successor, Kevin Martin, instituted the CableCard mandate for all cable STBs, adding a huge cost burden at zero added value for all cable operators and subscribers. At least Genachowski's FCC has backed off on that senseless mandate.
Michael Powell's FCC intelligently got the digital TV conversion to happen. He used the reclamation of the 700 MHz spectrum as the motivation, he mandated digital receivers in TVs and recording devices, *and* he included the cable and DBS subscribers among those who were no longer using analog OTA TV. So that the 85 percent criterion could be met quickly. Michael Powell also tried to get the cable companies to figure out a standard digital cable interface, so that digital TVs and recorders could incorporate digital cable tuners. He tried to encourage that to be done on a voluntary basis, since the government has little control over these walled gardens. Of course, the walled gardens saw to it that any such consumer-friendly ideas would be stalled as long as possible. In my book, Powell was by a long shot the best FCC Chairman we've had in recent history. Reed Hundt learned as he went along, but he allowed too many self-interested parties to introduce noise in the circuit, until finally he figured it out, toward the end of his tenure.
I went to a talk that Powell gave here at UCSD while he was chairman. I had been curious because of some of the highly technical papers that I had been seeing concerning the changes in spectrum management which was the basis of the current white spaces. At that talk he said that when he got there he surveyed the FCC and was appalled at the large number of lawyers and small number of engineers. He set out to reverse that ratio. He also showed a refreshing idea that he should be serving the public good rather than the policy needs of political contributers. How can you not be impressed by that?
Interesting. What aspects of Powell's FCC was attractive to you guys? I actually liked Reed Hundt's FCC a lot. While some may put him in a category of "doing too much," it was exciting to cover the FCC chairman who had vision and was ready to fight all the time.
It's not just a question of the speed at which things are getting done. The telcos and cable companies seem to be getting their way on a number of issues to the detriment of the public good. Net neutrality access issues, white space utilization, and municipal Internet access all seem to be going the way of the guys with the big checkbooks. Powell's FCC made it a point to understand and own these types of issues. These guys seem quite willing to spend all of their time 'studying' the issues while the current ISPs wall in their gardens and the US falls further behind.
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