Reps Plan Cable Box-Buying Bill

Consumers should be able to buy TV cable converter boxes and other home communications equipment instead of having to rent them, House Commerce Committee chairman Thomas Bliley (R-Va.) said March 16.

Bliley said he and Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) would seek legislation to permit consumers to buy the equipment. In a joint statement, they likened the practice of renting cable boxes to telephones years ago when only telephone companies rented the equipment.

“Cable boxes today are like telephones a generation ago,” they said. “Consumers have no choice of features and no ability to shop around.”

They said rental of cable boxes had been necessary to protect against unauthorized use or theft of cable signals, but now local cable networks can control access without the need to monopolize the equipment.

Bliley said the legislation also would open up sales of other equipment such as pay-per-view connectors, satellite converters and fiber optic connector boxes.

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