The good news is, as of July 1 cable companies are required to ship new cable boxes that use new bi-directional CableCards, a move mandated by the FCC to support CableCard-based alternatives such as TiVos and Vista Media Center PCs. The bad news is: Everybody's gonna pay for it. By next January, set-top box rentals may go up $2 to $3 per month, and the rate hike may apply to every cable-box renter, and not just those who opt for the super-deluxe new models.
The question is, are we turning a corner? The AP story below addresses how badly the cable companies are taking this new mandate. One industry spokesman called it a "set-top box tax" with "no benefit to consumers." A cable-co watchdog countered that cable companies have no problem raising rates anyway, so having a reason shouldn't make them mad. But what about those third-party products? The sad truth is, a set-top box issued by the cable overlords will still have more functionality than any third-party product, at least until CableCard 2.0 gets here.