July 5, 2007
The Associated Press is reporting that cable television operators will soon charge customers more to lease set-top boxes, including HD, in response to a FCC mandate to offer more expensive receivers.
Starting July 1, a new FCC rule requires cable TV operators to use the same technology in their boxes as cable set-tops sold at retail by non-cable companies. The rule, however, only applies to digital cable TV boxes deployed on July 1 and beyond. Federal officials say this will give consumers the choice of purchasing their cable box from a non-cable company at the store or leasing it from their cable operators.
Consequently, cable viewers will be able to plug a “CableCard” into the back of either box to receive their digital cable signals, including High-Definition. A CableCard can be obtained from one’s cable operator.
Cable operators say the boxes are more expensive and they will have to pass the costs along to their customers, including those who do not get the new CableCard set-tops.
According to the AP, cable services will not say how much they will raise the rates on leasing the boxes. But trade groups representing the industry suggested the increase could be $2 to $3 more per month if the hike is restricted to customers who get the new boxes.
However, Comcast has said it will spread out the cost to all subscribers who rent cable boxes. The cable operator says the FCC CableCard rule “amounts to an FCC tax of hundreds of millions of dollars on consumers.”