James is wondering: Can he avoid Time Warner Cable's monthly fee to lease a set-top box by purchasing his own hardware?
In a word, no. There are no generic equivalents for the company's digital boxes.
But there's a pretty nifty work-around.
If you want to ditch your Time Warner Cable box, buy yourself a Roku player, starting at about $50. It allows you to stream content from the Internet onto your TV, including hundreds of channels and entertainment services such as Netflix.
Roku has an app for Time Warner Cable content. It allows you to access most of the company's programming and services without the need for a separate set-top box.
The catch is that to access that content you have to be a Time Warner pay-TV subscriber as well as a broadband Internet customer. Roku will make you verify that you've paid for TV programming before turning the digital spigot on.
That'll save you about $12 a month in Time Warner box-rental fees.
Unfortunately, the cable giant is on to this ploy and is taking steps to make sure it can still ding you every 30 days.
A proprietary digital adapter is now required for Time Warner programming, even if you don't have a full-featured set-top box. That adapter is currently available for free. But beginning next year, a service rep told me, it'll come with a $2.75 monthly fee.
Better than $12, I suppose.