Originally Posted by QZ1
Many people are not going to take to kindly to Expd. service requiring a Digital STB.
First, is the price. Are they going to make people pay $5 per STB?
Regarding the above question...from The Philadelphia Inquirer,
Posted on Mon, Jul. 25, 2005Consumer Watch | Why Comcast still requires converters
By Jeff Gelles
Weary of watching her Comcast bill rise each year, Joyce Edge thought she'd finally found a way to make it fall. She also thought she'd caught the nation's largest cable company being deceptive.
She was at least partly wrong on both counts, but she wasn't without evidence, either. And the questions her story raises reveal much about today's feckless cable-TV regulation.
The key question: Why are Comcast's Philadelphia customers, unlike any other Comcast customers in the region, required to rent a set-top converter box and remote control?
The converter is the main reason Comcast's Philadelphia customers pay about $5 a month more than most of their suburban counterparts for "expanded basic" service, the popular tier that includes CNN, SportsNet, MTV and dozens of other channels.
Moreover, Comcast raised the price tag for the converter and remote about 20 percent this year to $4.55 a month - a hefty jump even in an industry notorious for raising its prices at twice the rate of inflation.
So why do we need them?
I always assumed the answer was crime, but now I think it's more about punishment. Philadelphians embrace Comcast. We wink at its behavior as a virtually unregulated local monopoly because it's our star company. It draws attention. It builds skyscrapers.
But while it hugs us back, it's also squeezing people like Joyce Edge.
The converter technology was developed, of course, to guard against theft. It works by decoding channels that are "scrambled," or encrypted. Without it, Comcast says, you can't get its service in Philadelphia.
But a recent experience made Edge a skeptic. She hooked up a new "cable-ready" television directly to her cable, and got every single channel.
Convinced the converter was a waste of money, Edge took it back to Comcast - where she was warned that if she turned it in, her service would be terminated.
Edge says a Comcast staffer blamed the requirement on the Federal Communications Commission. She called the FCC, and says an agency employee blamed it on "a deal between Philadelphia and Comcast."
Edge's angry conclusions: "They're ripping off people in Philadelphia, and they're lying."
Well, I doubt anybody actually lied. More likely, they were confused, as I was when I began seeking answers.
It turns out Edge may indeed have gotten all the channels, but not because Comcast doesn't scramble, says spokesman Jeff Alexander. He says the process is sometimes shut off while engineers adjust the system.
Nor does Comcast, which is investing heavily in new and pricier digital technologies, currently have the ability to scramble all analog channels.
But why do honest Philadelphians have to pay an extra five bucks each month for security when there must be cable thieves in the suburbs, too? Why not share those costs more widely?
Comcast's answers to those questions are a little less persuasive.
Asked about theft trends, Alexander referred me to an industry group that says analog-signal theft dropped more than 50 percent from 2000 to 2004.
Are there more theft attempts in Philadelphia than in every suburb Comcast serves? Alexander won't say.
What he does say is this: Philadelphians have the privilege of paying for converters because the city system was built after scrambling technology, the best deterrent available, was developed.
Ironically, there's a grain of truth in the finger-pointing Edge ran into. Equipment fees are among the last items still covered under cable-price regulation, which Congress gutted in 1996 in the mistaken belief that competition would swiftly follow.
That 20 percent hike in converter fees? It was indeed OK'd by the city, but under FCC rules that city officials say leave them no real discretion.
What will alter this landscape? True competition from innovative technologies, coupled with smarter regulation that genuinely levels the playing field.
Until then, we're stuck.http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/b...s/12214295.htm
Philadelphia Inquirer | 07/25/2005 | Consumer Watch | Why Comcast still requires converters