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Prominent MUSA Citizen
Prominent MUSA Citizen

Joined: Mar 27 2009
Status: Offline
Points: 1014
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 409 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Cable TV fee
    Posted: Dec 09 2012 at 10:58pm
Herb Weisbaum, NBC News contributor

Cable subscribers are about to get a sneaky fee

If you have cable TV service, you probably have at least one set-top box in your house. On Monday, a federal rule change takes effect that could eventually force you to rent more cable boxes.

Right now, most cable systems don’t scramble the “basic tier” service which includes local broadcast stations, public, government and education channels, as well as some non-premium programming. Buy basic service and you can plug the cable into a digital set that has a QAM tuner and see these unencrypted channels without a set-top box.

Cable companies want to scramble everything coming through their wire, including basic service. They say this will allow them to reduce theft – prevent people from watching programs they didn’t pay for – and improve customer service.

Their plan is to keep every cable household connected to the network and then activate or terminate service remotely, rather than sending out the cable guy. They say this will improve efficiency – technicians can focus on more difficult installations – and reduce the need for customers to stay at home waiting for service.

The Federal Communications Commission had prohibited the encryption of basic cable since 1994. But in October, the commission voted to allow it, starting on Dec. 10.

“By permitting cable operators to join their competitors in encrypting the basic service tier, the Commission has adopted a sensible, pro-consumer approach that will reduce overall in-home service calls and accelerate cable operators’ transition to all-digital networks,” said Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) in a statement.

Should your cable company do that, you will need a set-top box on every TV in the house to watch any cable programming.

A charge for every television
“The cable companies, with the FCC’s blessing, have figured out how to pick the pockets of cable customers and charge them for every television they have – even when they don’t really need a cable box,” said consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, founder of

Dworsky told me he has “secondary” television sets in his kitchen, office and guest room. Each of these has the cable wire from the wall connected to it so he can watch his local TV stations. If his cable company encrypts those stations, which he expects it to do sometime in the next six months, he’ll need to get converter boxes for each of those sets – or buy an antenna.

The FCC acknowledged that its rule change would “adversely affect a small number” of cable subscribers.

Dworsky calls that “ludicrous.” And he points to comments filed by the City of Boston, which warned the commission that allowing cable operators to encrypt basic service “would result in real and substantial benefits for cable operators, and equally real and substantial costs for consumers.”

None of the six major cable companies in the country has announced a date to encrypt basic channels.

In an email to NBC News, NCTA spokesman Brian Dietz noted that Cablevision already encrypts basic service in New York City under a waiver granted by the FCC in 2010. Dietz said the company did not receive any complaints from its customers.

When asked what it planned to do, Comcast, the country’s largest cable service provider, said in a statement:

“Currently, we do not have any announcements to make. Should we plan any changes in the future, we will notify any impacted customers well ahead of time.” 
(Comcast is the parent company of NBC Universal, which owns NBC News.)

Dworsky insists Comcast and other cable companies would not have lobbied so hard for the rule change if they did not plan to scramble basic cable channels.

The details of the FCC’s encryption decision
Before a cable company can encrypt basic service, it must give customers 30 days advance notice. The FCC rule requires them to give two free converter boxes to customers with only basic service for two years and one free box to everyone else for one year. After that, the cable companies could sell or rent the boxes.

The FCC’s decision does not require those free converter boxes to deliver high-definition signals. For basic service in HD, customers would have to rent an HD box which could cost as much as $10 a month.

Consumer advocates say these box rentals will become a new revenue stream for cable companies.

“People have gotten used to seeing these channels for free, so this is going to be a setback for many folks,” said Linda Sherry, director of national priorities at Consumer Action. “People have to ask themselves if cable TV is something they want and can afford, because it’s going to continue to go up in price.”

Dworsky hopes unhappy customers will let the FCC and their cable companies know how they feel about the rule change.

“This will be a good test to see which cable companies really care about their customers and which care more about their bottom line,” he said.
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Mike_Presta View Drop Down
MUSA Council
MUSA Council

Joined: Apr 20 2008
Location: United States
Status: Offline
Points: 3483
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Mike_Presta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 10 2012 at 5:11am

City Hall could help with this.  They could stand with the low-income and fixed-income residents of this city by refusing to renew Time-Warner’s franchise unless they hold the line on their rates.  They could also insist that TW allow users to BUY the equipment such as remote controls and set-top boxes instead of renting them

Do any of you realize exactly how ridiculous it is, for example, to be required to “rent” a remote control for $10 per month???  The remote probably costs TW no more than $25!!!  It is “paid for” many times over in the course of even one year.

Yet, does anyone think our city leaders would do this for us mere citizens???  I doubt it.

NOTE: TW currently charges long-time users $124 per month for basic cable plus internet service!!!

“Mulligan said he ... doesn’t believe they necessarily make the return on investment necessary to keep funding them.” …The Middletown Journal, January 30, 2012
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VietVet View Drop Down
MUSA Council
MUSA Council

Joined: May 15 2008
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote VietVet Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 10 2012 at 6:19am
I like how the FCC and the other government agencies stick up for the consumer. The PUCO does this everytime Duke or CG&E wants to jack up the rates too. I don't remember ever reading where these agencies have told the providers they can't have what they are asking for and the paying customers have no representation nor clout at all. Where are our reps to hold the line for us?......oh wait......they don't need us anymore.....we already gave 'em our vote and re-elected the scumbags.
I'm so proud of my hometown and what it has become. Recall 'em all. Let's start over.
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Bocephus View Drop Down
MUSA Citizen
MUSA Citizen

Joined: Jun 04 2009
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Bocephus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: Dec 10 2012 at 2:36pm
Hold on to your hats guys the EPA is "cleaning our air" and imposing strict polution standards on Americans remember when Obama said electric rates will skyrocket back in 2008 ? We aint seen nothing yet.
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