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Why does Comcast rent cable boxes ?

Posted by
Regular Visitor
Message 1 of 21
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Comcast provides cable TV. What is being provided? There is an additional charge for a cable box or cable card. The cable box or cable card should free, as part of the cable service, since a subscriber cannot own his own cable box.

 

 

att. FCC

20 REPLIES
Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 2 of 21
2,464 Views
If they did that, then they would have to raise the basic cable rates for everyone, including those who don't require a box.  You'd end up paying about the same amount.



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Posted by
Regular Visitor
Message 3 of 21
2,457 Views

Sorry WarEagle57 that response doesn't hold water. Comcast profits soar (below) and comcast service plummits. Channels are being removed from basic service almost daily; thus making a cable box almost manditory.

 

 

Comcast Profits Jump 80% on Revenue Growth and One-Time Gain ...Apr 27, 2007 ... Comcast Corp., America's largest cable company, reported an 80% increase in first quarter profit yesterday, fueled by ongoing subscriber ...
www.teleclick.ca/2007/04/comcast-profits-jump-80-on-revenue-growth-and-one-time-gain/ - Cached - Similar

 

Comcast Profits Jump 54%Feb 14, 2008 ... Comcast Corp. on Thursday reported a 54 percent jump in fourth-quarter 2007 profits thanks to demand for cable TV and an acquisition. ...
www.xchangemag.com/hotnews/comcast-profits-jump-54-percent.html - Cached - Similar

 

Comcast Profits Rise Despite Recession -- Cable -- InformationWeekApr 30, 2009 ... The company's subscriber base was boosted by the digital television transition, but it is facing increased competition from Verizon and ...
www.informationweek.com/news/services/data/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=217201057 - Cached - Similar

Posted by
Frequent Visitor

Message 4 of 21
2,433 Views

We have lots of choices for watching TV now.  Many shows are free on the internet through their networks or through Hulu, or $2 an episode through amazon.  If you wait a year, you can rent or buy the DVDs.  There is currently also still the choice of finding a friend with a VCR who will record things for you.  You can use the cost, convenience, and quality trade-offs of these options to decide if cable is a good value for you.  If enough people do not find cable to be a good value and drop or downgrade their service, Comcast will have to lower its prices. Otherwise, Comcast will have to raise its prices (to the extent permitted by regulatory agencies) until it finds the supply/demand equilibrium (which is itself a moving target).  While people continue to see cable as a good value, prices will go up and Comcast's profits will rise.

 

I think WarEagle57's point wasn't really about costs, but pointing out that in this case it makes more economic sense (from the point of view of both consumer and service provider) to charge more for more services (like extra box rentals) than it does to charge everyone the same price.  If so, I agree.  In fact, I think it's the case that extra box rental fees are kept artificially low by FCC regulations.  Considering extra cost to Comcast in terms of customer service and equipment, I don't think Comcast comes out very far ahead on the extra box rental fees on the standard boxes, at least where I live (where the fee is $1.99 per month; maybe they are much more where you live). I don't know how much the actual CableCARD hardware costs, so these might be more of a moneymaker; they are also the subject of lots of FCC rules, and Comcast probably accounts these as the source of lots of legal and lobbying costs.


I think there are two important points that can be made here that go along with your complaint:

  • Why do we have to rent boxes instead of buying them?  The FCC is very concerned about this, and seems to have put a lot of energy into trying to make this happen, mostly by CableCARD regulations. On the other hand, I only know of three consumer CableCARD devices currently being sold, the TiVo HD (and Tivo HD XL), the Moxi, and the ATI media center digital cable tuner.  (You can still find some Motorola DCP501s, but these are disappearing.) There may be others I'm not aware of. One gets the impression that there are CableCARD compatible HDTVs, but I haven't seen one on sale for years.  Basically, the FCC has not been entirely successful at this (mostly because consumer demand does not seem to be on their side).  I see lots to discuss on this topic, e.g., the CableCARD licensing terms, listing other CableCARD devices, whether we'll see more of them with tru2way, etc.
  • To make rational decisions about the relative value of services, we need accurate pricing information.  In my experience, Comcast has not been very good at publishing their pricing structure. For example, I could not get a price sheet from my local office (but I did eventually get one through the mail).  In my experience, when I call customer service, the representatives often do not find accurate information about the complete list of additional service fees (extra outlet fees, equipment fees, etc.) that are applicable to extra services.  Discussion on this topic, probably goes in the service forum.
Posted by
Regular Visitor
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Message 5 of 21
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Has anyone purchased a comcast box on say ebay or craigs list?  Does it or could it work?   I want one for my workshop but I don't want to spend $10 more monthly.   I am in bristol county

The CATV CONVERTER MODEL NUMBER IS:  DCT2524/1612 on ebay

Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 6 of 21
2,393 Views
Do not purchase Comcast boxes on eBay, or elsewhere.  Most likely they aren't of any use in the U.S., since they would be stolen, nonreturned, or from Canada, where they may be purchased rather than rented.



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Posted by
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Message 7 of 21
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Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 8 of 21
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I don't know why they don't go and do the whole Cell Phone model.

 

Give a nice selection of boxes with capacity and feature's, much like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc... provide many different selections of cell phones.  

 

Then, like a wireless provider, you can 1) Sign a 2yr contract and purchase the equipment at a discounted rate ie $199, $99, etc.. depending on what box you get.  2) Don't sign a contract and purchase the equipment at full retail value ie $499, $299, etc... 3) Stay with the current no contract/no purchase nessesary / monthly rental model

 

Like a Cell phone, the box would still be 'locked in' to the provider you signed up with until the contract is up.  If I go out and buy an iPhone with AT&T, if I'm a new customer (or eligeable for an upgrade) I can get the IPhone 3G 8GB for $99, or the 16GB 3GS for $199 or the IPhone 32GB 3GS for $299.  Of course I would be in a new 2 year contract, a minimum service level is required, and yes the phone is 'locked into' AT&T.  You couldn't put in a T-Mobile card and expect it to work!  Not unless the operator gives the proper unlock codes.  "Unlocked" boxes, like "Unlocked" cell phones that work on any provider would certainly also be available at a much higher premium.  An Unlocked 16GB IPhone 3G goes as much as $777 on e-bay for example.

 

It works fine for the Wireless companies, and they are very profitable.  Why wouldn't this work for cable companies?  It actually would BENIFIT cable companies, because people would be less likely to go to the office and swap out a box for a newer one, when there's actually nothing wrong with the box they have.  Some of that responsibility would be off of the cable operators back.  Not everyone would have to go with this model.  Some might not want a contract, and not want to pay full price for equipment.  In those situations the current working monthly rental fees would suffice. 

 

I would like a Moderator to forward this idea on to higher powers.  Additionally I would like a comment from a Comcast executive if this is a buisness model that could be considered for the future.   

Message Edited by cypherx on 06-24-2009 08:03 AM
Posted by
Valued Contributor

Message 9 of 21
2,334 Views
One problem is they'd actually have to contract with a cable box provider who provides boxes that actually work (including HDMI)...
Posted by
Email Expert

Message 10 of 21
2,326 Views
Swapping cable boxes is one of the most common ways that Comcast techs try to fix problems. If they couldn't do this, it would make troubleshooting harder, so why would they want to do that?



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Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 11 of 21
2,312 Views

How about swapping Cable Cards and rebuilding the account in the billing system instead?

 

How often does AT&T, Verizon or Sprint swap cell phones to fix problems?  Ok, it's still done but on a case-by-case basis if your warranty is intact.  

 

OK so the argument is, hey, maybe cable boxes are just too complex?  Well it's not really that more complicated than a Computer or an IPhone.  My IPhone is far more powerful.  It does fluid animations and rich graphics, plays video & music, talks back and forth to the network, can be remotely disconnected from the network if I don't pay the bill, etc...  So it has 8GB of memory, a far cry from 160GB in a DVR.  No biggie, just memory size. 

Posted by
Valued Contributor

Message 12 of 21
2,306 Views
I'm sure you meant 8GB & 160GB of hard disk space, not memory. If you've got an IPhone w/8GB of RAM or a Comcast DVR w/160GB of RAM then you're way ahead of the pack...Interesting to ponder though, a DVR w/enough Random Access Memory to accomodate entire movies. That would almost certainly eliminate many issues of current DVR's & speed things up considerably...
Posted by
Frequent Visitor

Message 13 of 21
2,270 Views

Something else to think about. With DirecTv, you own the boxes after you have finished your 2 year commitment, but you still pay the box fee for each additional box, even after the commitment. As well, they charge $50.00 for EVERY service call required. 

 

The Cell Phone model is great... except when you drive over your blackberry without any insurance... then you have to pay the full rate for a new phone. The same concept would work with Comcast. If you own your own modem, for example, if something happens to that modem, Comcast is NOT responsible for it, and therefore you will have to purchase another one. 

 

Personally, I prefer to pay $6.95/month to rent a box and them have the option to have it exchanged, at no cost to me, if something happens to it. My DVR at the moment needs to be switched out, if I had to eat the cost of the DVR, cable TV wouldn't be worth it. 

Posted by
Valued Contributor

Message 14 of 21
2,261 Views
Same here. I made the mistake of buying my first cable modem. Interestingly I bought it from Comcast, at least I thought I did. I had placed a service call with them to get it delivered & hooked up, but it later turned out that it was a third party contractor that came, not a CC employee (which I didn't know at the time). Anyway he sold me that modem, which later went on the fritz. When I called CC support they told me that they don't sell cable modems, which needless to say really confused me. Anyway, the upshot was that I owned the box along with any inherent issues so I decided to rent their modem instead, which has since been upgraded once at no extra charge...
Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 15 of 21
2,258 Views
You can usually find pretty good deals on modem discounts and rebates, which makes ownership pretty inexpensive.  Just make sure you get a good one -- check the High-speed Internet/Hardware forum if you have questions.



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Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 16 of 21
2,246 Views

Well I would most likely continue to rent as well for the ability to just 'swap it out' if needed.  But I'm pulling for this option because perhaps it would open up the marketplace a bit.  It would be nice if you could choose the DVR with the hard drive space you want, and the processing power you want.  Maybe I want one that does yahoo widgets on screen, or one with Pandora online radio included.  Perhaps I want to download a twitter, facebook or flikr client to utilize those services on the TV.

 

I just think an open marketplace would help move these innovations along.  Service providers like AT&T, and Verizon are trying to work these innovations in, but Comcast, along with most traditional cable TV operators is not.  So if they don't, let the box manufacturer take over.  I'm not talking about just a Tivo or Moxi either.  We need more choices along with the ability to do VOD. 

 

So yeah, I would rent for now, but would love to see much better products come out of the chance to buy, along with see people who would rather own have that ability. 

Message Edited by cypherx on 06-30-2009 09:54 PM
Posted by
Frequent Visitor

Message 17 of 21
2,242 Views
The problem with widgets that do everything (ie Iphone, blackberry, etc) is that it doesn't do anything WELL, everything is just okay. My TV was designed to provide me with television programming, not allow me to check my facebook, etc. I prefer to keep my TV a TV and not a computer+TV.
Posted by
Valued Contributor

Message 18 of 21
2,237 Views
I also agree with keeping my tv a tv & doing that well, but unfortunately I think it's too late for that. Every piece of technology is bleeding over into other areas. You've got a/v receivers streaming internet content (like a PC), PC media center models that do a/v processing & feed your tv, cell phones that are cameras & music players, and so on. Comcast is rolling out Interactive TV as we speak where Triple Play customers can see Caller ID info on their tv's. Personally I'm not interested, I want my phone to act like a phone & my tv to be a tv, and for both to do their thing well. Oh well...
Posted by
Email Expert

Message 19 of 21
2,226 Views

Note that you don't have to rent the cable box from Comcast. If you have receiving equipment with a CableCARD slot, it can be used without a cable box. Cypherx mentioned wanting the ability to choose your DVR. TiVo supports CableCARD, so you can do that right now, and I'd expect other DVR manufacturers to follow suit.

 

There are some things you can't do with CableCARD, though, such as On Demand and PPV. Try2Way is the new standard that will allow an open market for these features. 




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Posted by
Regular Contributor

Message 20 of 21
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@WarEagle

 

No they wouldn't.  THere are 2 reasons comcast rents equipment.

 

1. The government says they can.

2. Comcast wants to bleed you dry of cash.

 

Same reason we pay $7 for a cable modem rental.  

 

IMHO, if a customer needs a piece of equipment to use a service, the equipment should be provided at no cost to the customer.  When you cancel service, you are responsible for returning said equipment.  When I was a cablevision customer you we're given a cable modem to use for internet, but had to rent an STB.

 

 

Posted by
Cable Expert

Message 21 of 21
1,519 Views

Since responses to ancient threads seldom make any sense I'm locking this one.




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