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Double charged services for Cablecard

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by Justin Thyme, Dec 1, 2006.

  1. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

    Mar 29, 2005
    Does your cable company charge you twice for Hi definiiton packages, digital access or other content related charges because you have two cablecards in your Tivo?

    This is apparently the case for Cox customers in Virginia, and Time Warner customers in Hawaii.

    Because these vendors provide a DVR that does have two tuners but is not charged twice, it seems to me that the CableCo DVR is being subsidized with favorable rates for content. According to FCC regulation an the Telecom act, subsidization of operator provided boxes is prohibited.

    Does anyone know of such double charging by other companies?

    Has anyone complained to the FCC and heard back from them?
  2. btwyx

    btwyx Substantive Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    Comcast started out doing that, but quickly came to their senses. They now have a special "TiVo digital access" rate. The first card is included in the digital package, the second is charged at the TiVo rate of $1.50. This knocked the "Digital addl outlet" charges off my bill.

    Before they did that, I was all set to start complaining loudly.

    Comcast don't seem to have any specific HD rate, the digital tiers include specific HD channels.

    Edit: The FCC tell you that the local Franchising authority are the people who are responsible for FCC rules as they apply to your cable company. The address of the franchising authority is printed on your bill. The franchising authority were the people I was going to complain to until Comcast came to their senses. They're only responsible for basic cable, so you need to cast your complaint as a complaint about access to basic cable.
  3. Stanley Rohner

    Stanley Rohner New Member

    Jan 18, 2004
    Cable companies sure are great.
  4. pashasurf7873

    pashasurf7873 New Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    I can attest to this. live in Hawaii, am with OCEANIC Time Warner and this is our crazy pricing:

    The CableCards are $3.10 each with no premium programming on them. To
    receive the Digital Cable Service on the cards, the Duplicate Service
    Fee of $8.00 would apply instead of the $3.10 card charge.
    Here is a breakdown of the charges:
    >Duplicate Service Charge: $8.00*
    >HD Entertainment Package: $6.95
    >Total: $14.95 each.
    >The HDTV Entertainment package is not included in the duplicate service
    fee. It is charged per device. :mad:

    So in Hawaii it costs $29.90 per month to use my beloved TIVO S3.

    Anyone got any ideas?
  5. hookbill

    hookbill Feathered Member

    Dec 14, 2001
    Wife said we got our first bill today without the cable card install she said it was 30 bucks cheaper.

    No, we don't get double charged and if you are they are not suppose to. I would think TiVo would be willing to help in this matter.
  6. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

    Mar 29, 2005
    There are at least a half dozen people who have posted in the Time Warner cablecard thread on this. David got no response on his FCC complaint. Nothing. (Following pasted from another thread)
    I wonder if that is typical FCC behavior. It would seem to me that they might write back something. Like:
    Thank you for your message. Processing of FCC complaints are currently experiencing a 2 week backlog in processing. If you have not recieved email within the next 4 weeks, please resubmit your complaint with this number in the message title XXXXXXXX. For matters related to foo, click on link bar. etc etc. ​
    I am a little baffled by the procedure:
    If their scope is basic cable then it seems to me that the venue is wrong for cablecard issues. I am confused about how I could possibly frame it as a basic cable complaint. After all, Cablecard is not basic- it is digital. Further, I can see how a local authority would be interested if the local channels aren't being carried, or the cable company is not repairing lines, etc. but I am not sure how a local authority can have jurisdiction for enforcing federal law forbidding certain anti-competition tactics when competing with third party navigation devices.

    So if anyone can give us pointers to web pages/ concurs/ knows an alternate "Right" way to go about presenting a complaint on this sort of matter, well there are about a half dozen guys that would like to hear suggestions.
  7. btwyx

    btwyx Substantive Member

    Jan 16, 2003
    My basic channels are digital.
  8. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

    Mar 29, 2005
    Quite right. I habitually associate the term "basic" with analog local channels.

    Although the local franchise authority is an additional interesting place to file a complaint, my instincts tell me the feds ought to be focused on. Maybe I am off in the weeds on this, but to my mind, the pattern of attempts to lock out products employing cablecards that are trying to compete with cableco provided DVRs is not a local but Federal issue. Whether or not Cable Companies are playing fair with third party competitors is of interest to the Federal authorities. They and not the local authorities are considering complaints from the cablecos regarding whether cablecos should be required to keep to the deadline set for them in 1998 requiring cable companies use the same cablecards that third party products are forced to use.

    Revolutionary in North Virginia also stated in another thread that Cox was charging digital access fees for each cable card. I have no doubt that Cox's DVR is not double charged for digital access even though it has two tuners. So it is not just a local matter.

    EFF is advising the filing of complaints regarding Cablecard shenanegins at the FCC complaint site. If I am not mistaken, this is where David (Icarus) complained but recieved no response.

    It seems to me the CEA would be interested in advising where to apply the correct pressure at the correct locations at the FCC and possibly elsewhere. EG. Congressional representatives sympathetic on the subject.

  9. onecastdan

    onecastdan New Member

    Nov 24, 2006
    I talked to my provider service electric cable, Sunbury PA, and they said there cost is a little under 100.00 per card. 125.00 per card to me!!! Also there will be an additional monthly service fee of 2.00 for any service I have encrypted on the second card. ( in other words 2.00 extra for HBO, 2.00 extra for cinemax, 2.00 extra for upper digital tier channels. The additional charge on the second card is hard to swallow considering the cards will be going into only one dvr. If anybody has any thoughts or suggestions, I would like to buy an S3 and transfer my S2 lifetime. :(
    My thread about this is http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=328433
  10. HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    I have never heard of being charged twice for packages. The digital access charge you reference above (Cox) seems outragous.

    2 additional outlet fees are commonplace, but in my particular case - and I bet many others - TWC volunteered to drop the second ($2) fee when I called to ask what charges I'd be seeing. The 2nd A/O fee would disadvantage S3 vs. CableDVR.

    Paying for two CableCARDs is typical, and, well, you are renting two CableCARDs. I don't see a problem with that. In fact it gives you a choice to pay for two or just one.
  11. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

    Mar 29, 2005
    Yep. The double charging referred to is not for hardware fees, but content and access fees on top of those hardware charges.

    Certainly it is fair to charge a fair rental fee for hardware such as cablecards and STBs.

    As a side note, althought it is reasonable that the Cablecos charge two rental fees for two cablecards, it is unreasonable that Cable companies took a decade to design a solution that required such multiplicative hardware for identical functionality. What if they separated out other security functions into 5 different devices not all of which are required for all devices- then would they be entitled to tip the scales so that they could charge rental fees for 5 devices? Is this permitted? Who is watching the store here? This is why the integration ban- requiring the cable companies to use the same security devices required for use of third party competitors is so important. Structurally, forcing them to eat the dog food they serve their competitors will prevent such future assymetries in service and pricing. Its a much smarter approach because there is no multiyear latency between the time that the the anticompetitive tactic is used and regulations can be constructed to respond. It has been argued that the ban is only on integration, and doesn't require the cablecos to use the same security access technology that third parties are forced to use. If true, there is a severe weakening of the structural defence against such assymetries.

    But that is a different topic. Legally third party competitors are required two use two security devices, the cablecompanies are required to use them, and they are entitled to recover the hardware cost of those devices.

    The question concerns whether the cablecompanies are entitled to engineer the rates for fees other than hardware rental, so that the overall cost of ownership of service provider boxes is so low that the rental cost is free. Such subsidization is not permitted by section 629 of the Telecom act.
  12. Icarus

    Icarus New Member

    Jun 15, 2002
    Oceanic Time Warner made a change to the way they bill for services a couple of years ago. Rather than paying once for service and then paying an extra $8 or so per additional box, for the rental of the box, or other fees tied to having equipment, they switched to charging for $8 per month for something called "duplicate service". In addition, if you want the HD Programming Package, which includes things like Discovery HD, ESPN HD, TNT HD, INHD, and a few other HD channels, you have to pay $6.95 for the package in each place you receive the package. You can avoid the "duplicate service" charge by returning the box, but then all you get at that outlet is non-premium analog channels (basic/extended basic raw analog cable).

    For most people, the change didn't change their net billing. Same for me at the time, until several months ago when I realized they were charging me an extra $6.95 per month for the HD Programming Package on my HD (non-DVR) digital cable box. They decided to re-interpret their billing practices for certain packages back around (I think it was) January or February of this year.

    You can get rent the cablecard only for $3.10 each from OTW, but that doesn't include your "duplicate service", so if you have any premium channels, they won't get duplicated on the cablecard. You can either pay separately for them, or replace the cablecard rental fee with the $8 duplicate service fee, for each cablecard. Plus, if you want the HD Package, you have to pay $6.95 per cablecard.

    Most cable companies simply charge you $2 - $3 per cablecard and duplicate the services that you're already paying for once, and don't double charge for the HD programming package.

    If you have a cable company HD DVR (I have one in my living room, yeah it sucks) you don't pay for the extra duplicate service and you don't pay twice for the HD Package if you get it, even though it also has dual tuners.

    So, that's the main issue. With their pricing structure, we end up paying 2 x duplicate service and 2 x HD Programming Package (and any other special packages that are billed per outlet, rather than per account) rather than just paying 1 x duplicate service and 1 x per-outlet packages like we would if we took the cable company HD DVR, though I'm sure there would be another $10 charge for the DVR fee as well, but we wouldn't expect to pay that fee since we've purchased our own S3s.

    Their overall pricing model just makes us pay a lot more here anyway, since there is no model where we can just rent the cablecards for $2 - $3 per month including our so-called duplicate services.

    Here's a link to OTWs digital pricing page: http://www.twchawaii.com/OceanicWebApps/Television/DigitalServices/DPrices.html

    Look next to "Additional Outlets" for "duplicate service". It doesn't really explain what they are doing, but Nick S, has sent many of us the same email explaining their billing practices for those of us that want 2 cablecards with our S3s.

    I've adjusted to their billing practices by returning (so far) 2 digital cable boxes (including the HD non-DVR box after they started charging me an extra $6.95 for the duplicate HD package on it), and when they come to install my 2 cablecards on Dec 11, I will return 2 more digital cable boxes, leaving me with their HD DVR in the living room, and my S3 with the 2 cards in my bedroom and the other 3 TVs in the house will just get analog cable. Once that's all up and running, I'll look into swapping out their HD DVR in the living room for their normal HD box. I really don't need their DVR anymore. The only problem there is that the non-DVR box didn't have aspect control in the box, only the DVR does scaling in the box. (At least, that's the way it was last I looked into that issue.) I also replaced their cable modem with DSL, but that was for a different reason (bad service, and I was able to get DSL installed before they could come out and try to fix it), but I would also consider doing that since DSL is priced better than cable internet these days and DSL throughput has improved dramatically over the last couple of years.

    At least in my case, I'm doing everything I can to reduce my cable bill, yet retain the programming packages I want (HBO, SHO, etc), so OTW is just shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to this customer. I can't stand them, but there's really not much choice here where I live. I could consider DTV or Dish, but I think Haleakala is in the way of where I need to point the dishes, and I'd need a fairly complex setup here to feed all five sets even if I can get a signal here. (Not to mention having to purchase an HD DTivo, and then worrying about DTV making them obsolete, etc.) For many people here, cable is really the only game in town. Maybe at some point the phone company will get its act together, upgrade their lines to fiber and start offering FIOS, but I don't see that happening anytime soon here.

    There it is .. probably more than anybody wanted to know.

  13. HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Shouldn't the FCC be cracking down on TiVo for pricing at $19.95/mo, multi-year commits, plus an extra $800 for the S3? Isn't TiVo the ONLY realistic alternative and therefore forcing the masses back into the grotesque arms of cable?

    Just a Sunday morning reverie.
  14. HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

    Nov 27, 2002
    Icarus -

    I didn't read it all, but that is in part a lousy situation.

    If you are paying $6.95 and $8 for dup service plus a "normal" CableDVR rental, then that is fair in regards to TiVo. If you are saying that the CableDVR is unreasonablly low priced and/or the CC is unreasonably high priced, that is not fair. The way you wrote it, it sounds like they are charing $0 for the CableDVR. Also over $2 for a CC gets pretty high.

    If you are charged $6.95 per CC, then the (2 tuner) CableDVR should be $13.90 for that fee.
  15. Icarus

    Icarus New Member

    Jun 15, 2002
    You have to go back and read the entire thing to understand it, but here's the short story as it affects most of us with OTW:

    If I had a cable company 2-tuner DVR, they would charge $8 + $6.95 and some nominal monthly charge for the DVR. In order to get equivalent programming for my 2-tuner S3 using two cablecards, they will charge us 2 x ($8 + $6.95).

    That violates the spirit of the equal access provisions of the cable card rules, but OTW doesn't see it that way.

  16. Styx

    Styx Mac Genius

    Jul 6, 2004
    I have just converted my Comcast Motorola set top box to a dual cabl card solution in my TiVo Series 3.

    My bill for services now show:
    $59.44 Digital basic Pak
    - includes: Basic, CablePlus, V-pak, Digital Access
    $6.95 Digital Outlet
    $10.00 HDTV Converter

    $76.39 TOTAL (before ungodgly taxes)

    They explained the Digital Outlet and Digital Access fees are standard for providing a digital signal into the household. The HDTV Converter is actually $5 each for the CableCard rentals.

    Not to my liking, but would have cost me more for a dual tuner HDTV box from Motorola, direct from Comcast, with less horsepower if it were even available. Which it is not in our area.

    I will see if they have a TiVo discount, as mentioned in this thread. More to follow...
  17. dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

    Jul 31, 2003
    A few responses to these threads. There have been several ... for example:

    But this seems like a nice 'aggregate' thread so ...

    First off, in regards to regulations ... all FCC regulations can be found here:

    Part 76 deals with MVPDs and cable:

    Cable rate regulation is found in sections 76.901 - 76.990

    CableCard (ie, Competitive Availability of Navigation Devices) regulations are found in sections 76.1200 - 76.1210

    I will say I don't really see anything in there that the examples that have been given in these threads 1) violates or 2) is subject to the local franchise authority's ability to control rates.

    But ... I'm not a lawyer so ... have at it.

    However, I do think that changes when the integration ban comes in to play (perhaps July 1, 2007). Ie, when a cable company is renting you a DVR 'capable of accessing the basic tier' consisting of a DVR (box), CableCard(s), Service Tiers, etc ... things start to change as opposed to when they are just renting the CableCard(s). At that point regualtions start coming in to play that (IMO) would either (1) force cable company's to raise the rates of their DVRs or (2) start pricing things more equitably for S3 users. I think the later is more likely ... but ... we shall see.

    In the mean time, Section 76.921 (Buy-through of other tiers prohibited) does provide a little possible wiggle room to work with ...
    If you were (legally) inclined you may be able to make some hay with that. I wouldn't count on it ... but ... like I said I'm no lawyer.
  18. dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

    Jul 31, 2003
    As far as complaints go ... the FCC does have a bunch of handy dandy information ... for example:

    Now, as noted in both the above (and earlier in this thread) ... rate regulation is almost always the authority of your local franchise ... not the FCC. The FCC does respond to complaints about "Equipment compatibility" ... ie if your cable company won't give you a CableCard or can't get it working. But ... not rates. How responsive your local franchise authority will be is of course going to vary from locality to locality.

    One other thing ...

    If you cable system has been found 'subject to effective competition' they aren't subject to any rate regulations at all. Something you may want to check in to. Cable companies have been pretty aggressivelly submitting to the FCC to be found 'subject to effective competition'. But ... it can be a little tricky digging up this info. The FCC seems to (usually) issue notices when a cable company applies ... but ... this seems to move around and be a little difficult to track (if, for example, you wanted to submit a comment on the matter). They do issue notices when a finding is reached. For example ...

    Now ... as far as actual complaints to the FCC. You can file an 'informal complaint' pretty easily ...

    There's options above for electronic submission, e-mail, fax, snail-mail, telephone ... whatever tickles your fancy. When doing anything but phone ... I'd suggest using the following (at least for a basis ... expand if needed):
    FCC Form 475 - General Communications Related Issues (...) for complaints related to: (...) 2) non-programming related cable

    Phone can be pretty handy too ... again, the numbers are in the links above.
  19. dt_dc

    dt_dc Mostly Harmless

    Jul 31, 2003
    BTW, the EFF form does NOT submit a 'complaint' to the FCC. It submits a comment to the FCC in Docket 97-80 (Commercial Availability of Navigation Devices).

    You can go to the following link ... search for Proceeding 97-80 ... and see all the comments that have been submitted via the EFF link:

    You can also go to the following web page, and submit a comment yourself:

    Note again, however, this is not a 'complaint'. The FCC isn't going to respond to comments submitted via the above as complaints. The above is for commenting when the FCC is considering a rulemaking or some other issue. For example, the FCC was taking comments (they issued a 'request for comments') on the various waivers from the integration ban that were submitted. The above link (or EFF link) is where you'd submit a comment. Obviosly you can certainly submit whatever comment you feel like ... but ... it's probably going to be most meaningfull if it pertains to the Docket and something the FCC is actually taking comments on ...
  20. Ziggy86

    Ziggy86 New Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    How does Verizon handle this with FIOS?

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