Cable companies are supposed to be using new set-top boxes that use a special security cards which can plug into boxes provided by competing manufacturers, freeing consumers from renting the boxes from cable services without option. Although competition is supposed to either drive down prices or increase quality, it looks like the first think this new rule is going to do is swell consumers' monthly bill.
According to the Associated Press, cable customers may see as much as 2-3 dollars added to their bills per month to cover the new, more-expensive boxes, which translates to 24-36 dollars per year. Although subscribers with newer boxes may not need to make a switch, some cable operators may spread the cost of the new boxes across their entire subscriber base rather than inflict the entire bill only on those needing to make a switch.
SmartMedia observation: Phones certainly have changed since consumers were freed from renting them from the phone company. The question is how fast viable alternatives to the cable company's box hit the market? Will they be cheaper? Will they offer outstanding new features worth paying for? Looks like all of us cable subscribers are going to have to pay well before there are any benefits materialize.