TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates

Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates

Deborah Yao, AP (
Thu, 05 Jul 2007 12:03:00 -0500

By DEBORAH YAO, AP Business Writer

Cable companies are planning to charge more for set-top boxes to help
pay for new, more expensive versions mandated by the Federal
Communications Commission.

They say the price increases are a result of the government's push to
spur competition for the boxes, which are required to receive digital
programming and change channels. It's not yet clear how much the
charges will rise.

The FCC has been trying for nearly a decade to open up the set-top
market so subscribers actually buy their own and then use a
cable-company-provided card to decode their programming. The retail
market for the boxes, however, has largely failed to materialize and
millions of consumers still rent the boxes from their cable company.

As of July 1, cable companies were required by the FCC to start
shipping the new set-top boxes with detachable cable cards.

The companies have lobbied against the rule, saying the new boxes are
more expensive. Consumer groups say it's yet another excuse for cable
companies to raise rates.

And higher rates are definitely coming. Cable industry officials said
even consumers using the older set-tops will likely be hit if the
cable company decides to spread the cost to all box renters.

Cable operators won't yet say exactly how much more consumers will pay
to rent set-top boxes. It's also unclear whether the fee increases
will apply to cable cards.

Both cable trade groups have said consumers would see $2 to $3 more in
monthly rental rates for the new boxes, but that doesn't take into
account spreading the cost out to all box-renters.

Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable operator
with 24 million video subscribers, is planning to spread out the cost
of the new boxes among all cable box renters.

The FCC cable card requirement "amounts to an FCC tax of hundreds of
millions of dollars on consumers," Comcast said in a statement.

Time Warner Cable Inc. spokesman Alex Dudley said the company agrees
with the cable industry's stance that the FCC cable card rule is a
"tax" on consumers. New York-based Time Warner is the second-largest
cable company with 13 million video subscribers.

The FCC has said that it's time for cable operators to comply with the
law, especially since the industry had already been granted

The American Cable Association, which represents 1,100 smaller cable
operators, said their members will be charging more for set-top box

"It's guaranteed," said Ross Lieberman, vice president of government
affairs for the trade group. "We can't absorb this cost. This rate
will be passed along to consumers."

He said the increases would likely come when cable operators typically
raise rates: in early January after an announcement in late December.

The cable industry is upset that the FCC on Friday denied its petition
for a blanket exemption to the cable card mandate and yet granted a
temporary one to Verizon Communications Inc. New York-based Verizon is
rolling out its fiber-optic television, phone and Internet service.

The FCC said Verizon provides needed competition against cable. The
agency also gave waivers to several other video providers, including
those that roll out all-digital systems by Feb. 17, 2009.

"The commission's 11th-hour action on the many long-standing waiver
requests doesn't bode well for consumers," said Rob Stoddard, a
spokesman for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in
Washington. "There's nothing in these decisions to stave off a $600
million set-top box tax likely to affect the great majority of cable
customers while providing no benefit to consumers."

But Chris Murray, senior counsel at Consumers Union in Washington,
said it's convenient for cable companies to blame regulators when
they've stalled about complying with the FCC rule for years. Cable
operators also have had no problem raising rates regularly for various

"They raise rates three times faster than inflation every year, for
more than a decade," he said. "Cable companies want to have absolute
control. We don't think they should have it."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at . Hundreds of new
articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at (or)

For more news and headlines, please go to:

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Ron Kerber: "Desk Fax"
Go to Previous message: Jennifer LeClaire, NewsFactor : "'DVD Jon' Cracks iPhone Activation"
Next in thread: "Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
May be reply: "Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
May be reply: William Warren: "Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
May be reply: Bill W1AC: "TELECOM Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
May be reply: Barry Margolin: "Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
May be reply: Neal McLain: "Re: Cable Firms Raise Set-Top Box Rates"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page