A little-known Federal Communications Commission rule was lifted last week that could add costs to your cable television bill.
But it’s not clear what this will mean for Time Warner Cable customers, and the company issued no statement on the subject.
Consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky, founder of the www.consumerworld.com website, shared the news.
A new FCC order adopted in October took effect Dec. 10 allowing operators to scramble the signal of local TV stations on basic cable.
That would mean customers who have TVs without set-top boxes might have to rent one for each TV with a monthly charge to watch the local stations.
For years, Dworsky said, cable subscribers have been able to watch local stations and basic cable on high definition televisions by plugging the cable directly into their set without the need for a box. The FCC had previously prohibited the local signals from being scrambled.
The FCC said it will allow for remote activation/deactivation of service, saving house calls.
The new rule is expected to primarily affect secondary televisions in many homes, which are less likely to have a cable box or digital video recorder (DVR) attached to them. According to the Nielsen research company, 65.9 million households have three or more TVs.
“The FCC has once again found a way to pick the pockets of cable customers,” Dworsky said in a news release.
Dworsky is hoping a public outcry will prompt the FCC to suspend its rule and persuade cable operators not to scramble the basic channels.
Dworsky also said it was “ludicrous” that the FCC would contend the change affects only a small number of cable subscribers.
To temporarily offset the cost and inconvenience to affected customers, the FCC is requiring cable operators to provide two free converter boxes to customers with basic-only service for two years and one free box for one year to customers subscribed to higher tiers of service.
After the free period, subscribers would have to rent a box, which Dworsky estimates is about $10 a month for an HD box.
Other options for customers would be to buy a box or go back to using antennas.
Time Warner Cable in Akron had no comment on the FCC ruling.