Consumers No Longer Forced To Lease Decoders From Cable Company

As of last Sunday, cable operators will no longer be able to mandate that you have lease their cable decoder box. The industry agreed on a descrambler format, the CableCARD, which can be loaded into a cable box made by any company. Consumers should see equipment price drops, along with a range of new features. However, the CableCARD will probably only be available to new installations and upgrades.

Sunday begins new era for cable subscribers [USA Today] (Thanks to David!

(Photo: satinpeter)


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  1. 5h17h34d says:

    Good luck getting any service from said cable companies though…

  2. dbeahn says:

    OK, so now instead of leasing a cable box we’ll have to lease a cable card. One small step for law, one even smaller step for mankind.

  3. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    One of the provisions of this mandate is that the equipment (set-top boxes, dvr’s) the cable companies provide use removable security (i.e., cablecards) as of 7/1/07.
    HOWEVER, this applies only to new equipment which has never been used. Existing equipment in a customers home is not affected. Existing equipment in inventory at the cable company which had been used by a customer is also not affected. This means the mandate for the cable companies to provide equipment with cable cards as their standard is pretty much on hold until all of the existing equipment the cable company has are used up.

    ON THE PLUS SIDE…you will eventually be able to run down to CC/BB/Tar-zhay/Mao-Mart and buy your own cable box instead of ‘leasing’ the box from the cable company.

  4. rbf2000 says:

    What’s the point? A CableCard costs the same as a cable box to lease.

    The only reason I would use a CableCard is for a series 3 TiVo, for which you need two cards, which is the same price as the DVR rental fee, plus then you have to pay the TiVo service fee.

    Also, is this any different than before with the CableCards? Were the cable companies doing us a “favor” before by letting us lease CableCards when they weren’t required to do so by law?

  5. Motor_Head says:

    I have 2 cable cards from Comcast. The first one is free, the second is 1.91.

    Here’s a link to the FAQ that states the cost:

    I’m happy I got rid of their crappy DVR and switched to a tivo series 3.

  6. vr4z06gt says:

    so am i to understand that this a 1.91 fee, a one time fee, nowhere does it say reoccurring or monthly, just that it costs 1.91.

  7. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    It’s between 1.50 and 1.91 per month for the second card in the TiVo series 3. Compare this to $26.90/month for the Scientific Atlanta HD8300 DVR box, with the fabulous SA interface. (Yes there is a monthly fee to TiVo, as much as $16.95/month, but this includes their program listings which go out 2 weeks + as opposed to the brick wall 7 day listings on the SA box, and don’t even talk about the interface).

  8. Anitra says:

    Some TVs have a built-in slot for the cableCARD, so you don’t need an external box at all. Our LG LCD TV does, and it allows us to bring up listings and program information within the TV’s software.

    In the past two years, we’ve been with Charter and with Comcast, and neither one has made us pay for the cableCARD.

  9. AskCars says:

    Here’s the big deal people:
    Now third party manufacturers can build DVR/HD DVD/All in one devices with a cable card slot and you can buy what you want, have just one device etc. and just plug in your card.

    Take my HD Comcast box for example. It prevents HDMI switching. Meaning I can only plug the HDMI cable directly into the box and not into my HD receiver and into the box. Yes folks, I must unplug the HDMI from my TV to the Comcast box and into my HD receiver when I want to watch a DVD.

    That’s why this is a big deal. Also you can return your cable box for a new one at any time. They’re leased. I’ve done it twice when the one they lent me wasn’t working properly and once when it was filled with another guys programming which also acted screwy.

  10. stopNgoBeau says:

    Cablecards have been around for a while. Most companies would allow you to rent the cablecard on a monthly basis just like you would for the set top box (STB). I’ve had two installed in my TiVo Series 3 since February. They are often cheaper than the STB, but not always. I pay $2 per month per card. Your cost will vary between providers. Even within the same company (i.e. Cox) the cost will be different in different parts of the country. Some even give them to you for free.

    The purpose is not to go out and buy your own STB (which you can, if you want) but to buy a TV with CableCard capabilities in it, so there is no need to have a STB if you want to watch your premium and HD channels.

    I wouldn’t recommend running out and buying a new TV just to get cablecard, however. Users often complain of bugs or glitches in the way it works, though mine has worked fine since I got it. Also, within the next few years, the CableCard 2.0 standard will be released which will allows for On Demand type programming. The current CableCards are strictly a “1 Way” only device.

  11. JustAGuy2 says:

    Nope, that’s a monthly fee.

    Instead of leasing a cable box, you’ll lease the cable card, and be able to plug it into the device (TiVo, TV, set top box, computer) of your choice.

  12. pragakhan says:

    I read consumerist a lot, this is the only time I have felt stupider after having read it.

    1) When did cable companies mandate you have one of their boxes? Is it their fault you want HBO, or their fault you don’t have a TV with a digital tuner? Or is that you have cable confused with dish?

    2) Cheaper? So let me get this straight, add more equipment and the price goes down? I don’t see how that works at all.

    Or maybe again you are confused and you are assuming you couldn’t get a cable card up until now. Wrong, cable cards have been around for years. Had TiVo had a cable card slot in it 2 years ago you could had been recording digital cable since.

    As a matter of fact this changes nothing, except makes it a wee bit more expensive for you because guess who gets to pay for that cable card in your new DCT that you didn’t really ask for? You do.

    Let me break it down simpler.. Nothing else has changed, cable cards existed way before this, now the government just wants them in your cable box for arbitrary reasons.

    Thank you Government!

  13. Trick says:

    Did someone say “prices drop”?

    Shirley, you must be kidding!

  14. FLConsumer says:

    Tried the CableCard thing…but it didn’t give me the program guide.

    Also not mentioned in this article is that Verizon FIOS is EXEMPT from this legislation.

  15. yg17 says:

    So, I guess Tivos and other things with cablecards can get all of the 700 billion digital channels, but can they do pay per view and ondemand?

  16. SexCpotatoes says:

    Next UP: Pirate Unlocked Cable Cards! Get ALL channels free!!! Etc…

  17. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @pragakhan: You’re not going to get subscription programming without either a cable box or a cable card. Lots of programming is scrambled, not just HBO.

    Who gets to pay for that cable card? You do if you want to get anything other than ‘lifeline’ cable.

    Now go fix your rabbit ears so you can watch the rest of wrasslin’

    @yg17: No PPV, no onDemand. Don’t need them. The picture quality from the TiVo S3 is HANDS DOWN way better than the cable companies box.

  18. darksly says:

    You all know that the Cable Companies do not make any money from renting Cable Boxes. The life of most cable boxes end before they have been paid for. Most Motorola equipment that is used in my area ranges in cost from $250 for a DCT 2500 to $700 for DCT 3416 Dual Tuner HDTV DVR. This will cut down on overheads eventually for Cable Companies now that customers will be purchasing their own equipment.

  19. dragonpup says:

    Some questions and answers from someone who works for a large cable company(who is not representing his company in any form)

    So what is ‘Separable Security’?

    It means the cable company provides a CableCard that provides decoding so you can go and buy a 3rd party cable box.

    So…it’s cheaper?

    Yes and no. At first, I expect the cost for the boxes to be a bit on the high side, but will eventually go down. Will you end up saving tons of cash over the cable company’s boxes? Too early to tell. But the advantage is you get your choice of box and features.

    Also note that should your owned cable box die, you will need to deal with the manufacturer.

    Personally, I believe that customer owned boxes will save relatively little money for most consumers, but instead give them choice and allow more innovation.

    So I can get a box that gives me all the movie stations?! ZOMG!

    Well, the CableCard that is controlled by the cable company does the decoding. And using a box that descrambles channels you don’t pay for is still double-plus illegal.

    Why did my cable company tell me that they are now short on boxes?

    Cable companies had to dispose of a good number of unused, new boxes. Due to the fact this effected every cable company at the same time, there’s a crunch on boxes. This is highly likely part of the reason why the exception to refurbished boxes is in the law.

    Again, I do not represent my employer in any way, shape or form here on Consumerist, but I thought I might answer some commonly asked questions.

  20. FLConsumer says:

    Anything has to be better than BrightHouse’s Scientific Atlanta HD DVR box.

  21. Jbjohn942 says:

    I’m a Bright House customer and they’re making Cable Cards just as expensive as Cable Boxes. The price went up from $2/mo to $4/mo in one year. If the FCC is going to regulate the use of these, they need to look at pricing as well.

  22. network_papa says:

    Time Warner Cable in NC – charges $1.91/mth to use a cable card but charges $44 to install the card – for each card!! You do not have the option of installing the card yourself. A technician must come out, install both cards into my Tivo 3 box, use my phone to activate then charge me $88!!! It’s the best example of legal theft I’ve ever seen. Customer service admits it’s a rip off and suggest you use their DVR for an additional $7/mth with free swap.