I just got a fancy new digital TV and then unfortunately found out that I have to get a converter box for $9.95 a month ! I have one box free, now the second one costs $9.95 a month. Why can't I purchase this outright ? Comast is making a killing on this. The box might retail for $250 or so, meaning they'd recoup their money at about 2 years. So If I live here for 10 or 20 years, they're making a killing. There is zero extra overhead for them for me to have the box. If they charged $5 a month, I wouldn't bat an eye.
The life of a digital box is not 10 or 20 years, the boxes that came out in 2000 to 2003 are all being replaced because they are obsolete and the processors are too slow and too small of memory. The next generation of boxes that were being deployed from 2003 to 2007 are also going to be obsolete soon as everything starts going to MPEG4. Only the boxes built 2008 and after have enough horsepower, memory and MPEG4 capability for any of the future features coming out.
If you bought your own box, you would have to buy another in 5 to 7 years if not sooner, where renting keeps Comcast supplying you with updated boxes when they become end of life.
The cost of the rental is also part of the upgrade process so Comcast can keep purchasing new equipment as the old stuff becomes end of life.
There is also loss due to castrophic storms, flooding, theft, electrical surges, lightning damage, hardware failure that is also part of the cost of rental replacement equipment. If you own your own equipment, a surge, hardware failure and obsolence would be your cost to replace with new equipment.
You are welcome to purchase a Tivo or Moxi DVR and add a Comcast supplied cable card to authenticate the channels on your digital package.