Setting the Record Straight About CableCARD
Setting the Record Straight About CableCARD
Setting the Record Straight About CableCARD

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    You might have seen Mark Hughlett's article “Change in set-top boxes could increase cable bill” in today's In the News post.

    Mr. Hughlett claims,

    “What seems more certain is that consumers' monthly cable bills are likely to rise a few dollars after the new rule takes effect. That's because the cable box born from the regulation costs more to produce, a cost likely to get passed down to TV watchers, analysts and cable operators say.”

    Let's pick that paragraph apart. To begin, this isn't a 'new' rule at all. The FCC is only trying to enforce the CableCARD provisions that it created years ago, and that the cable industry has skirted for just as long.

    Second, while set-top box prices may well rise in the short term as companies adjust to new open standards, those standards will allow more competition and economies of scale which will almost certainly lead to cheaper hardware.

    Finally, as we have said elsewhere, it is unlikely that enforcing CableCARD will raise monthly cable bills. Today consumers' cable bills include the cost of leasing their set-top boxes. Once CableCARD is enforced, consumers will have the option of buying their own boxes upfront, likely for less than the total cost of their lease.

    Opening up new markets to competition usually lowers prices for consumers, rather than raising them. There is no reason to expect – as Mr. Hughlett does – that the set-top box market will be any different.