Friday, January 8, 2010

Cablevision, The FCC, and Taking the Consumer for a Ride

The FCC today issued an order allowing Cablevision to demand that all of its basic service customers pay what may be seen as an extortionary fee for cable boxes. The FCC allows Cablevision to digitize all basic signals thus demanding that a box per set be paid for on a monthly basis.

I am one of the customers. The converter is made by Cisco and is one of the worst designs ever made. It takes 30 sec on average to change channels! The synch circuits act as if they were some mechanical design.

The FCC report states:

Finally, we believe that this waiver will provide an experimental benefit that could be valuable in the Commission’s further assessment of the utility of the encryption rule, and in this regard, we require Cablevision, as a condition of the waiver, to provide the Commission with a 3-month, 6- month, and 12-month report describing the number of customer complaints related to this waiver, the number of set-top boxes and CableCARDs described above that were provided at no charge, the number of installations provided at no charge, the impact of the waiver on the reduction in truck rolls, and any further steps that it took in order to effectively manage the encryption process and the impact on its customers. The reports shall be filed in the docket and provided to the Bureau at the 3, 6 and 12-month intervals from the date on which Cablevision encrypts its basic signals, or if the encryption is implemented over a period of time, then from the date on which the encryption was completed, or from 30 days after the first date of encryption, whichever comes sooner. We will continue to monitor the situation in New York City and reserve the right to revoke the waiver granted herein at any time if the public interest warrants such action.41 In addition, should the Commission address the encryption rule in a rulemaking, as requested by PK and MAP, Cablevision must come into compliance with any rules
subsequently adopted.

Finally the FCC states:

For the reasons stated herein, we conclude that Cablevision has demonstrated a strong need to encrypt the basic service tier, has committed to take steps necessary to mitigate harm to its subscribers, and through the reporting requirement will provide valuable data to the Commission relative to the impact of this waiver in its New York City franchise areas.

The converter costs at wholesale no more than $50 and they charge almost $8 per month. It is a poorly functioning piece of technology, it after all is Cisco, and the customer pays for all time just to access to channels. Thus a basic service is now $55 per month plus $16 for two converters. Six months ago it was $48 per month. Thus there is a $23 per month increase! That is 50%! This is the FCC under the current Administration. One wonders who may have taken care of whom for what! Just wondering!