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Thinking outside the cable box

Thinking outside the cable box

Cable TV customers are fond of complaining about their ever-rising monthly bills, which now average almost $100. Although the main factor has been the growing sums of cash the cable operators have to fork over to NBC, ESPN and other networks for their programming, the operators themselves are demanding higher fees from consumers for the converter boxes that unscramble, record and display shows. According to the Federal Communications Commission, Americans pay an average of $231 a year renting pay-TV set-top boxes, with cable box fees almost tripling since the mid-1990s.

Worse, consumers have little choice when it comes to cable converter boxes. As...

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