[opendtv] Comcast sued for not selling set-top boxes, CableCARDs

  • From: Monty Solomon <monty@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: undisclosed-recipient:;
  • Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2008 17:34:20 -0500


Comcast sued for not selling set-top boxes, CableCARDs

By Nate Anderson | Published: December 26, 2008 - 08:05AM CT

Cheryl Corralejo is mad as hell at Comcast, and she isn't going to 
take it anymore. The object of her righteous crusade? Cable box 
rentals. Corralejo wants to own her box outright, and she has filed a 
class action complaint on behalf of all other Californians who 
desperately want to stop paying monthly fees just for a bit of 
decryption equipment.

The case, filed in federal court in California, began in late 
November and was recently unearthed by Multichannel News. Comcast has 
yet to respond.

The gist of the case, according to a copy of the complaint seen by 
Ars Technica, is rental fees. Corralejo argues that Comcast has a 
monopoly over video service in her area and that it uses that 
monopoly power to force her to use decryption equipment, which 
Corralejo cannot purchase outright. After only a few months, alleges 
the complaint, end users have already paid Comcast more than the box 
is worth.

Reading the complaint through is an odd experience, because the first 
pages sound like something written when the whole CableCARD debate 
was pending before the Federal Communications Commission. In the end, 
the FCC forced the industry to separate out its decryption equipment 
into a physical CableCARD that could be acquired separately from a 
cable company box and could be inserted into any third-party video 
gear that supported it. In other words, renting a cable box has not 
actually been a requirement of cable operators for years.

On page six, the complaint finally gets around to the point, 
acknowledging it but arguing that CableCARDs aren't the equivalent of 
set-top boxes. The complaint quotes from Comcast's own website, which 
points out that "the full range of interactive services" may not be 
available with a CableCARD, as current host devices generally support 
only one-way operation.

In addition, Corralejo complains that the CableCARD still has to be 
rented from the company; it cannot be purchased outright. There's 
simply no way to avoid some form of rental fee. (Comcast's website 
indicates that the first CableCARD a customer needs is included in 
the monthly bill, however; only additional CableCARDs cost money, 
currently "up to $2.05" a month.)

These practices are called "unlawful tying" under the Sherman 
Antitrust Act, as well as a violation of California's business and 
professions code.

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