If you subscribe to a digital cable service, you probably rent a set-top box from your cable operator. Did you know that you could buy a
CableCARD-ready (sometimes called “plug and play” or “digital cable-ready”) device instead? If you purchase a television or set-top box
that is CableCARD-ready, you can watch cable television without renting a set-top box from your cable operator. All you need to do is
purchase a CableCARD-ready device (such as a television or set-top box) from your nearest retailer and insert a CableCARD into the
device. You can rent a CableCARD from your cable television company. CableCARDs typically cost between $1 and $4 per month. New
CableCARD rules went into effect on August 8, 2011, to make it easier for cable subscribers to obtain and use CableCARDs.
A retail CableCARD-ready device is a television, set-top box, or device that connects to a personal computer that you can plug directly into
your cable system to receive cable channels without having to lease a set-top box from your cable operator. As most cable operators provide
some or all of their channels in digital format, old (analog) cable-ready television sets no longer work for all channels.
After you purchase a CableCARD-ready device, you will need to obtain a CableCARD from your cable operator. By November 1, 2011, all
cable operators will be required to allow you to install the CableCARD in your CableCARD-ready device yourself as long as that device
comes with instructions on how to install the CableCARD.
New rules went into effect on August 8, 2011 that clarified and expanded rights for owners of CableCARD-ready devices. You have the right
to: receive accurate information from your cable operator about CableCARDs; install your CableCARD yourself; have a technician show up
with the correct number and type of CableCARDs if you opt for professional installation; and receive a discount from a package price if you
choose to use your own CableCARD-ready device rather than lease the operator’s set-top box. For more information on these rights and the
FCC rules/laws scroll down.
- Pay only for equipment you have. Your operator must give you a discount on any packages that include the price of a set-top box
if you choose to use your own CableCARD-enabled device. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5).
- Accurate information on the rental cost of a CableCARD from your provider. Your operator must list the cost of a CableCARD rental
on its website or billing inserts and on its annual rate notice, and must provide you with this information when you call. FCC Rule
76.1205(b)(5), 76.1602(b). Typically operators charge $0-4 per month to rent a CableCARD.
- Use your own set-top box without extra charge. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(5)(C). Your cable operator may charge you to lease a
CableCARD or tuning adapter, but may not charge you an additional service fee for using your own digital-cable-ready television or
- Self-install your CableCARD. Effective August 8, 2011, cable operators must allow self-installation of CableCARDs if they allow self-
installation of other equipment, such as digital boxes or cable modems. By November 1, 2011, all cable operators must allow self-
installation of CableCARDs. Your operator may decline your request for self-installation if your equipment manufacturer or vendor
does not provide you with instructions on how to install a CableCARD and offer a toll-free telephone number for product support. FCC
- Receive the number of CableCARDs you request. If you opt for a professional installation by your cable operator, the technician must
arrive with at least the number of CableCARDs you request. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(3). If you opt for self installation your operator
must provide them to you through their normal self-installation procedures (for example by mailing them to you or letting you pick
them up at the operator’s local retail location). Some CableCARD devices may require two CableCARDs to access all features. Refer to
your user manual for more information.
- Receive a multi-stream CableCARD unless you request otherwise. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(2). If you have a retail device with more
than one tuner and that device supports multi-stream CableCARDs, one multi-stream CableCARD can allow you to access multiple
- Receive all “linear” channels (channels other than “on-demand”) in your subscription package. This includes premium channels and
specialty channels. For some channels delivered using a technique called “switched digital video,” you may need a second device called
a “tuning adapter.” This device is typically provided at no additional charge to CableCARD customers. FCC Rule 76.1205(b)(4).
CableCARD-ready devices currently cannot receive your cable operator’s Video on Demand services.
- Get accurate information about services available to CableCARD subscribers. FCC Rule 76.1205(c).
If your cable operator does not resolve your concern, you may file a complaint with the FCC and/or your local franchise authority. To file
your complaint with the Commission, click on www.fcc.gov/complaints.
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