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Comcast, Let My TiVo Go

By Matt Wood in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 15, 2007 3:10PM

Like many people in Chicago, Comcast is the only cable option for Chicagoist, and for the most part we can live with it. From what we can tell, it's no better or worse than the RCN service some parts of the city receive, and while DirecTV might be a little better, we're not about to bolt a satellite dish to our roof. Comcast delivers the standard network shows, sports, and Law & Order reruns we watch, and that's enough for us.

One thing about them that always annoyed us, and digital cable in general, is that we had to have a separate cable box on top of whatever fancy TV/home theater/TiVo setup we had working. This always meant more remotes, constantly swapping back and forth on the volume controls, having to turn on two or three different machines just to watch the news, etc. It also wreaked havoc on our TiVo setup with the whole two-step channel changing process, enough so that we actually gave up on the smiling, dancing TV for a Comcast-issued DVR. But now, thanks to the FCC of all people, we may have more choices in the gear we need to catch every episode of 24.

chicagoist_200701_comcasttivo.jpgThe FCC, which usually protects big corporate interests like Tank Johnson's pit bulls protecting their food, struck a blow for the average consumer by approving new rules that prevent cable companies from forcing you to use their own set-top boxes. Instead, customers will be able to get a card from their cable provider that can plug into whatever cable box, TV, DVR, or home media computer they want and receive the same services, instead of dealing with their proprietary, clunky, and non-responsive menus. Comcast requested an exemption to this rule of course, but the FCC shot them down, and unless Comcast wins their appeal, cable customers will have more options by July 1.

Comcast must have seen the writing on the wall, because they've been busy working with TiVo on a new cable box/DVR that integrates TiVo's user interface, much like what DircecTV customers already have with their satellite tuners. Early models were supposed to be available late last year, but we haven't heard about any sightings in the Chicago market. We're sure it will cost an extra $10-15 a month to upgrade your current box, but considering the amount of time we waste now waiting for the channel guide and menus to load, it might be money well-spent.

Image from Engadget.