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Cable Subscribers Are About To Get A Sneaky Fee

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussion' started by CatfishRivers, Dec 10, 2012.

  1. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    Cable subscribers are about to get a sneaky fee - Business on NBCNews.com (click for full article)

    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 ConsumerWorld.org


    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."
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  2. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    This was one aspect of the new ruling (mentioned in the article) that I especially don't like:

    "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."

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    Currently I have Comcast basic cable - and I just run the coax cable from the wall directly to my TV - and use my TV's QAM tuner to tune in the Comcast basic channels. Using this procedure I get many channels in HD (without paying any additional fees). When the basic tier is encrypted - I will have the hassle of having to use another Comcast box, use more electricity, have degraded picture quality, and have to pay an additional $10 HD Fee if I want the channels in HD.
     
  3. ChrisG8

    ChrisG8 Well-Known Member

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    I see no problem with this and it is no surprise that cable companies have been given the option of running their business with proper controls to prevent theft of service. I don't believe it should be a government mandate that cable companies must open their service to theft or be required to use cumbersome manual controls to prevent theft when an easier, more effective method is available. Whether or not all or most cable companies will choose to no longer offer unencrypted signals is a different question but it should be their choice. Consumers that don't want to rent a cable box have other options for TV service.
     
  4. CatfishRivers

    CatfishRivers Well-Known Member

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    Chris wrote: " Consumers that don't want to rent a cable box have other options for TV service."

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    From my location even an outdoor antenna is very spotty. So if the basic tier is encrypted - then what would be my "other options" if want TV service without a cable box? (And I don't feel like spending hundreds on a Tivo with a cable card).

    Plus it's my understanding that Comcast doesn't offer a cable card for the "limited basic tier".

    http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r27735233-Cable-Card-Basic-cable-can-I-get-a-cable-card-


    I pay $10/mo for limited basic cable - and I'm not interested in upgrading to a more expensive tier. If I have to use the new adaptor to unencrypt my limited basic tier - I understand that the picture quality isn't the greatest and I will no longer have HD channels. I consider this to be a degradation of my current service.
     
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2012
  5. ChrisG8

    ChrisG8 Well-Known Member

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    I don't know what Comcast will do in your area and if you don't want what Comcast offers there may only be more expensive options for TV where you live. I would like to have free use of a 2012 Corvette but that isn't good reason for the local Chevrolet dealership to have to offer that option for me. Cable companies should get to decide how to run their own business and consumers should get to decide whether to subscribe to the service offered or not. I believe in allowing competition to determine what services are offered at what prices, cable TV is not an essential service requiring government controls. I dropped cable and DirecTV in 2009, we had both for a couple of years because I was contractually committed to DirecTV and an adult child in the household wanted Comcast digital cable, she moved out, my contract expired and I put an antenna on the roof. There are various services available here, U-verse, Dish Network, Comcast, DirecTV, OTA and all of the internet TV options. I get to decide what services I want and each company gets to decide what services to offer to me and at what prices.

    Offering unencrypted digital TV may not make any sense to a company that has spent tens or hundreds of millions of dollars building the facilities to offer service and I sure can't see any reason in the world that our government should mandate that be available. On the other hand if that option makes good business sense that is good news for consumers, but a business decision such as that should be made by the company offering the service.

    I hope free OTA TV service can continue but I am not sure that business model can survive much longer. You indicate you can't receive OTA or at least it isn't a viable option for you, that is a very rare situation in this country, a huge majority of the population can receive TV signals OTA. Some will require an antenna on the roof, I sure do, and others can receive a good signal with a simple inside antenna. You get to choose where you live so if you want less expensive TV options, it seems to me the solution is in your hands, no coherent argument can be made that a company must offer what you want.
     

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