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INCOMPAS: Senate Report Should Spur Box Unlocking

The Senate report on Charter-Time Warner Cable overcharges for equipment, primarily set-top boxes, was bound to draw a response from groups pushing the FCC's "unlock the box" proposal to promote competition in third party navigation devices, and it did.

“Cable customers have been overbilled and held hostage by practices that can only exist in a marketplace devoid of real consumer choice and competition," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, whose members include set-top proposal backer Google.

“The admission today by a cable executive in the Senate Oversight and Investigation hearing, that many customer overcharges are the result of swapping customers set-top boxes they force them to rent, is just the latest indication that the FCC must act to unlock the box and set consumers free."

The same, actually former Time Warner Cable, representative also said that net/net, the company undercharges (for boxes customers have but aren't billed for) more than it overcharges (for set-tops customers don't have).

“The cable industry has said it will take them a decade to correct their customer service problems [a reference to a comment by National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michae Powell in this interview]." Pickering called that "an unacceptable amount of time that should prompt Congress and local agencies to act on a deployment agenda that will bring more competition," adding: "Including common sense policies like dig once, one touch/make ready to spur deployments, and fair, common sense programming pricing that doesn’t discriminate against smaller, new entrants to the broadband market who must offer video to compete against big cable."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.