A new FCC rule that takes effect today could eventually force you to rent cable boxes for every TV in your house, even TVs now directly hooked up to cable that only receive basic channels.
NBC reports that right now cable companies don’t scramble their ‘basic’ tier of service, which includes local channels and some non-premium programming. The FCC had blocked them from scrambling these since 1994, but a new rule passed in October allows them to start scrambling on Dec. 10th.
Before a cable company can encrypt basic service, it must give customers 30 days advance notice. The FCC rule requires them to give two free converter boxes to customers with only basic service for two years and one free box to everyone else for one year. After that, the cable companies could sell or rent the boxes.
The FCC’s decision does not require those free converter boxes to deliver high-definition signals. For basic service in HD, customers would have to rent an HD box which could cost as much as $10 a month.
Consumer advocates say these box rentals will become a new revenue stream for cable companies.