The least Hot Hardware in the world might be your set-top cable box. It unscrambles your signal and changes the channel. The FCC thought it would sex up the lowly technology and spur competition by requiring set-top boxes be configured to allow the end user to purchase the box, with an installable card supplied by the cable provider to make it go. But the law of unintended consequences kicked in. The retail market for set-top boxes is essentially non-existent, and now cable companies say they must raise prices on all those rented boxes to cover the cost of the more expensive hardware.
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.
Comcast, 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.
Time Warner Cable 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.
"They raise rates three times faster than inflation every year, for
more than a decade," said Chris Murray, senior counsel at Consumers
Union. "Cable companies want to have absolute control. We don't think
they should have it."
We are sympathetic to the end users that Consumers Union tries to help, but the cable companies never have "absolute control." You could turn it off, Chris. That's total control. But remember, don't look directly at that bright orb in the sky the first time you go outside, it gives you a headache much bigger than your cable bill.