One of the biggest scams going on today is not bundling your TV, phone, and Internet, but that hustle is a close second. No, it turns out that renting either your cable box, your home DVR, or even your satellite control box is an immense rip-off that fosters billions of dollars for the cable industry, forces you to use inferior equipment, and eliminates choosing from better options in the “free” consumer world. Whenever you can, you should opt to save money and get an aftermarket cable or satellite box, or an Internet modem from a third party. Here’s why:
Billions Wasted by Cable Subscribers
In July of 2015 it was discovered via a Senate inquiry that the average American household pays $231 per year to rent the cable box necessary for descrambling their television signal so that they can bingewatch NCIS reruns. These boxes are relics that were invented in 1948, and many of them aren’t using technology that is much newer than that. They just have prettier outsides.
The same senate study noted that 99% of cable customers rent their cable boxes rather than buying them, often because the company giving them, be it big names like Comcast or Time Warner Cable, don’t give them the option of doing anything else. This huge rental rate is projected to create a 19-and-a-half billion dollar industry all by itself. Much of that is pure profit because they’re using such archaic technology, and when your contract is up, they can recycle and reuse the box. If they so wished, they can usually recycle and reuse the interior equipment for parts to create more boxes that they rent out, putting old components in new boxes, because it’s unlikely you’re going to check.
Inferior Parts and Zero Competition Mean Consumers Lose
The cable box industry has gotten so bad that the FCC is considering stepping in. They released a report which stated that they wanted more competition in the cable box industry so that cable providers wouldn’t be permitted to gouge customers with whatever prices they wished and buyers would be allowed to get whatever cable box they wanted.
This is similar to the Carterphone decision that the FCC made in 1968, when people were forced to rent their phones from AT&T if they wanted a landline. After that, there was a massive influx of growth in the telephone industry and tons of innovation that created the industry as it stands today. Ideally, should the FCC force cable companies to allow for any box to be used so long as it does no harm – as they did during the Carterphone decision – we would see strides forward in the quality, cost, and utility of cable boxes, not to mention hot new innovations.
Currently, consumers are losing by being required to take whatever their cable provider decides to allow, which are usually items owned by the company. This enhances their profits and allows them to monopolize that particular area, meaning buyers must take what they are given like they’re standing in the breadline of a mid-century Communist state.
Even if you do want to use a third-part cable box, and your cable provider allows it – as rare as a unicorn itself – you typically have to do lots of research, track down a potentially usable option, do esoteric setup rituals, and fight with the company to give you full permission to do it. The sweat equity involved in immense, and the reason for that is cable companies don’t want you to do it. They want you to pay them for the privilege and ease, so they make other roads complicated.
You Should Stop Renting Your Internet Modem Now
While the cable boxes for your television are universally going to be a rip-off, you can instantly save yourself money if you ditch the cable or DSL modem you are renting from your internet provider and get one yourself. In addition to saving you money, it’s going to ensure you have a superior machine that has all the bells and whistles you want, as well as give you the option of precisely how your device works. Instead of having your bandwidth rented out by Comcast just because they feel like it