Consumer World explains why you may soon have to tack on an extra $10 or so (per extra TV) to your cable bill…
A little-noticed FCC order adopted in October will allow cable television operators to scramble the signal of local TV stations on basic cable and thus force customers who have TVs without set-top boxes to rent one for each set just to keep watching those channels.
For years, cable subscribers have been able to watch local stations and basic cable on high definition televisions merely by plugging the cable directly into their set without the need for a cable box. Most HDTVs have a built-in QAM tuner that is able to tune in those unencrypted stations in high definition on unconventional channel numbers such as 4.1 or 39.2 . The FCC had previously prohibited these local signals from being scrambled, but that rule is changing effective December 10, 2012. This will allow remote activation/deactivation of service, saving house calls, says the FCC.
Nielsen says almost 66 million homes have at least three TVs. At $20 each, that could be a theoretical extra $1.32 billion for the cable industry.