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Consumers Have Scant Choices When It Comes to Set-Top Pay TV Boxes

The nation’s pay-TV services cable, satellite, and fiber have cornered the lucrative rental market for the set-top boxes needed to receive their programming, saddling consumers with an average of more than $231 a year in “hidden, hideously vexing fees,” according to a new report. Competition for this $19 billion-a-year rental market is virtually non-existent, according to the July 30 report by two Democratic members of Congress, Sens. Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Based on a survey of the major pay-TV services, the senators estimate that approximately 99 percent of pay-TV customers rent the set-top box from their service provider. A single box rents for $89 a year and the average American household has 2.6 boxes, resulting in the average cost of more than $231.

“Consumers deserve protection against hidden, hideously vexing fees for set-top boxes,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “As the world becomes increasingly connected and technology advances, new innovations must be able to break into the cable marketplace and provide the vigorous competition that drives down prices for consumers. Consumers deserve competitive options in accessing technology and television not exorbitant prices dictated by monopoly cable companies.”

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