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Idea: local coops to replace cable/phone/Internet companies


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#1 OFFLINE   grunes

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 02:47 PM

As I see it, cable companies survive, charging 1 - 2 orders of magnitude more than it would cost for a neighborhood coop to do it for themselves, because they have a protected monopoly.

 

But can a small town (or neighborhood which incorporates itself as a small town) choose to create their own coop that functions like a cable company instead, and designate it to be their cable provider?

 

Basically, you need one reasonably high antenna tower, with tuned elements aimed at local broadcast towers. You combine the signals, run it through distribution amplifiers and splitters, and use isolating transformers to prevent ground loops (or eliminate ground loops more expensively with optical cable). You may need a little frequency shifting to handle stations that happen to have the same frequency.

 

And split a shared high speed Internet connection.

 

People who want more channels and programs can subscribe to Hulu and Netflix ($8/month each), and perhaps to other such services. 

 

Initial cost might be a few hundred dollars for the antennas and routers, plus $50-$100 to run pro-grade cable to each home. (Somewhat more to run cable inside people's homes, and the cost of a router if needed.)  Maintenance could be a very part-time job for one person. Basic service could then be a few dollars a year, a bit more for people who want fast Internet. 

 

Maybe there would be a way to broadcast timed feeds from Hulu and Netflix, if you encrypt them so only subscribers can use the feeds, so everyone doesn't need broadband to see them.

 

Almost everyone can replace their phone connections with Skype or MagicJack (and competitor) devices, which would only add a few dollars a month. You could even add neighborhood wireless Internet access points, which would let those devices act much like cell phones.

 

You can hire inexpensive local high school and college students to run the whole thing.

 

Compare this to commercial cable and phone companies, which typically gradually raise their costs to homes with about 3 TVs + DVRs and an Internet connection fast enough to stream video to over $200 / month, if our home is typical. And commercial satellite TV companies (like DISH), which start out fairly cheap (as do the cable and phone companies' intro offers), but lock you into long-term contracts with NO LIMIT WHATSOEVER on how much the prices can go up during the contract period, if I read their offers right.

 

Is this already happening anywhere?

 

What are the legal and practical issues?

 

Are there companies which make it easy for towns to do this, by providing kit-like equipment packages and step-by-step instructions? There should be...



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#2 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 03:31 PM

I'm all for competition, but incorporating a geographical subset of an existing city or town is

fraught with legal hurdles and potential challenges. Also, the  incumbent cable franchisee

will likely have the clout with broadcasters and cable-only channels to be able to "freeze-out"

such start-ups. Your budget for legal expenses should exceed that for capital improvements.


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#3 OFFLINE   gov

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Posted 22 December 2013 - 05:55 PM

Some years ago I was at an address that was able to receive internet service from a farmers type grain cooperative.  They had installed internet links between their facilities and were selling excess capacity to residents in the surrounding communities.

 

Several problems accrued;

 

the installer they had was savvy with their equipment, but hopeless trying to connect to everyone elses random computers,

 

the cooperative was satisfied with their own service and never upgraded any equipment, 

 

wasn't cheap

 

the cooperative lost quite a bit of money on it

 

they sold it to another outfit that was worse, who then sold it to someone else . . 

 

 

 

I'm not saying it's impossible, in fact it would be easier today with the better technology.  But I have had a taste of it and would be rather cautious about jumping back.



#4 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 09:21 AM

But can a small town (or neighborhood which incorporates itself as a small town) choose to create their own coop that functions like a cable company instead, and designate it to be their cable provider?

As long as there isn't a franchise agreement in place ("regulated monopoly"), you can do whatever you want. I suspect that getting an exemption is probably not possible. To assume that it will necessarily be cheaper by orders of magnitude is outright lunacy. Even the local broadcast stations are charging for retransmission now so you'll have to pay for pretty much everything that the neighbors want to watch (and this can be daunting to negotiate if anyone wants something obscure).

Setting up the distribution system (or buying out the incumbent plant) is a prohibitively costly proposition and the FCC is probably not amenable to local broadcast cells. Pole contact leasing and right-of-way agreements are something that won't go away.

I recommend that you take a look at the SEC filings for a cable company and see if you've considered all the costs that appear.

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#5 OFFLINE   kenglish

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 11:47 AM

Last time I checked with the FCC....once you cross a public right-of-way (like a street or road), it becomes a "Cable TV Company", and is then subject to all the rules and regs of a full-blown one.

You might come out better, with a small tower on each block (not having to cross a street), and put up TV receive antennas and a wireless broadband link. Then, you could feed each home, just like an MATV system.



#6 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 23 December 2013 - 12:19 PM

I think the costs you've stated are way under what they'd be. And then there's retransmission fees to consider. Part time college students to respond to a broken cable, or a faulty connector, much less more technical issues, simply will cause dissatisfaction among customers. 

 

Nice concept, though! 


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#7 OFFLINE   inkahauts

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 05:22 PM

It sounds like you are looking to just Get ota and Internet for everything else which generally speaking everyone can do right now. tying everyone's system together in the first place is probably far more expensive than just doing it individually now. Waits few more years and you will see a lot more competition in the Internet business as Verizon and AT&T start pushing lte for home. It's coming it's just a matter of time. So much cheaper than running cable and can be brought in everywhere.

#8 OFFLINE   dstout

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 10:05 PM

You think they are really serious? The cost seem to make LTE a non starter for people that have any other options.

It sounds like you are looking to just Get ota and Internet for everything else which generally speaking everyone can do right now. tying everyone's system together in the first place is probably far more expensive than just doing it individually now. Waits few more years and you will see a lot more competition in the Internet business as Verizon and AT&T start pushing lte for home. It's coming it's just a matter of time. So much cheaper than running cable and can be brought in everywhere.


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#9 OFFLINE   inkahauts

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Posted 25 December 2013 - 01:01 AM

Oh believe me they are more serious than most realize. AT&T wants to get rid Of their copper business completely because it's so heavily regulated. They are testing wireless VoIP for homes right now as it is. It's simply a matter if time before our choices change due to technology getting better.

#10 OFFLINE   grunes

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 08:57 PM

Retransmission consent sounds like a really bad law. 

 

Would an MATV system that covered many housholds in a neighborhood require retransmission consent? That would cover most of what I have in mind.

 

I guess a less ambitious idea would be for many neighbors to band together and contract with an antenna provider and installer to install many similar systems at a discount. Maybe the same for an ISP. 



#11 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 26 December 2013 - 09:21 PM

You still would leave out those who love sports and the HBO's of the world. Also subject to more transmissions being encrypted over time. 


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#12 OFFLINE   grunes

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 03:07 PM

You still would leave out those who love sports and the HBO's of the world. Also subject to more transmissions being encrypted over time. 

 

Unless I am mistaken, you aren't allowed to encrypt broadcast channels in the U.S. - which is all I want from the antenna. I don't believe that encrypted channels on cable, etc., are the wave of the future - Internet is winning (even if it is sometimes from the same companies), as fewer and fewer people get their TV from cable, etc.

 

Sports cable channels are a problem, for sure.

 

If most of a group likes to watch the same sports (e.g., football, BBall), a bunch could split the costs of cable, phone co. or satellite TV for one home, in exchange for having an invite to watch the sport at that home. They could switch which home gets the service every 6 months or so, and/or switch carriers, so they keep getting intro rates. That way, they can yell and scream together, which is the main point of spectator sports. .

 

Sports blackouts on broadcast channels might be bypassed using good antennas, by watching a more distant station in the same network.

 

I'd take Hulu and Netflix instead of HBO any day.

 

Of course, at some point in the future Comcast/NBC/Universal/Hulu (one giant company) could mess the economics up by splitting the Hulu market into many tiers of service.


Edited by grunes, 28 December 2013 - 03:21 PM.


#13 OFFLINE   jsk

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Posted 28 December 2013 - 06:24 PM

If all you are doing is setting up a master antenna and passing the signals through to the residents, I don't believe you would need to pay retransmission costs.


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#14 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 09:10 AM

Unless I am mistaken, you aren't allowed to encrypt broadcast channels in the U.S. - which is all I want from the antenna.

Encrypted OTA TV has been around for a long time. ONTV was such a service that had a channel or two in my area. I well remember the night that they transmitted an in-the-clear hardcore adult movie.

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#15 OFFLINE   Laxguy

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Posted 30 December 2013 - 09:21 AM

A subscription service that requires a decoder box, or summat else? 


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#16 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 08:37 AM

If all you are doing is setting up a master antenna and passing the signals through to the residents, I don't believe you would need to pay retransmission costs.

I'm sure that DISH and DIRECTV thought the same thing but any time money changes hands, everyone wants their cut.

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#17 OFFLINE   harsh

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 08:38 AM

A subscription service that requires a decoder box, or summat else?

OnTV used a decoder box but there were other services that used specially designed (polarized) antennae.

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#18 OFFLINE   grunes

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 08:27 PM

http://www.hallikain...les/2012/76/64/ includes
 


FCC 76.64
Revised as of December 4, 2012
§ 76.64 Retransmission consent.

(a) After 12:01 a.m. on October 6, 1993, no multichannel video
programming distributor shall retransmit the signal of any commercial
broadcasting station without the express authority of the originating
station, except as provided in paragraph ( B) of this section.

...


( B) A commercial broadcast signal may be retransmitted without express
authority of the originating station if—

(1) The distributor is a cable system and the signal is that of a
commercial television station (including a low-power television
station) that is being carried pursuant to the Commission's must-carry
rules set forth in § 76.56;

(2) The multichannel video programming distributor obtains the signal
of a superstation that is distributed by a satellite carrier and the
originating station was a superstation on May 1, 1991, and the
distribution is made only to areas outside the local market of the
originating station; or

(3) The distributor is a satellite carrier and the signal is
transmitted directly to a home satellite antenna, provided that:

(i) The broadcast station is not owned or operated by, or affiliated
with, a broadcasting network and its signal was retransmitted by a
satellite carrier on May 1, 1991, or

(ii) The broadcast station is owned or operated by, or affiliated with
a broadcasting network, and the household receiving the signal is an
unserved household.

( c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:

(1) A satellite carrier is an entity that uses the facilities of a
satellite or satellite service licensed by the Federal Communications
Commission, to establish and operate a channel of communications for
point-to-multipoint distribution of television station signals, and
that owns or leases a capacity or service on a satellite in order to
provide such point-to-multipoint distribution, except to the extent
that such entity provides such distribution pursuant to tariff under
the Communications Act of 1934, other than for private home viewing;

(2) A superstation is a television broadcast station other than a
network station, licensed by the Federal Communications Commission that
is secondarily transmitted by a satellite carrier;

(3) An unserved household with respect to a television network is a
household that

(i) Cannot receive, through the use of a conventional outdoor rooftop
receiving antenna, an over-the-air signal of grade B intensity of a
primary network station affiliated with that network, and

(ii) Has not, within 90 days before the date on which that household
subscribes, either initially or on renewal, received secondary
transmissions by a satellite carrier of a network station affiliated
with that network, subscribed to a cable system that provides the
signal of a primary network station affiliated with the network.

(4) A primary network station is a network station that broadcasts or
rebroadcasts the basic programming service of a particular national
network;

(5) The terms “network station,” and “secondary transmission” have the
meanings given them in 17 U.S.C. 111(f).

(d) A multichannel video program distributor is an entity such as, but
not limited to, a cable operator, a BRS/EBS provider, a direct
broadcast satellite service, a television receive-only satellite
program distributor, or a satellite master antenna television system
operator, that makes available for purchase, by subscribers or
customers, multiple channels of video programming.

(e) The retransmission consent requirements of this section are not
applicable to broadcast signals received by master antenna television
facilities or by direct over-the-air reception in conjunction with the
provision of service by a multichannel video program distributor
provided that the multichannel video program distributor makes
reception of such signals available without charge and at the
subscribers option and provided further that the antenna facility used
for the reception of such signals is either owned by the subscriber or
the building owner; or under the control and available for purchase by
the subscriber or the building owner upon termination of service.


...


Based on that I think it would be pretty hard to claim it was completely legal to share an antenna throughout a neighborhood, unless 
 
(1) the coop were only transmitting "must carry" stations, and was registered as a legal cable company
 
or
 
(2) the entire neighborhood is a single building, and the antenna owner owns that building.
 
What a mess. 
 
I'm not convinced that this law is in the best interests of the public.

#19 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 31 December 2013 - 09:19 PM

I'm not convinced that this law is in the best interests of the public.


It is a permissive law ... without it there would be NO retransmission of broadcast signals (without individual agreements between the stations and each re-transmitter).
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#20 OFFLINE   Jim5506

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 05:19 PM

Section E may be a loop hole for neighbors to get together and erect a community antenna.

 

Each user owns a share of the system and does not pay for the programming.

 

As a co-owner they all agree to pay for maintenance that is necessary as it occurs.

 

New neighbors can be added by purchasing a "share" of the system.


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