Monthly charge for receivers? Is that fair?

How much do you pay for a cable or satellite box? If you’re a DIRECTV customer, you pay about $6 per month for each receiver after the first one. For cable customers, that price is often higher, with some customers paying $10 per month just for cable TV.

With the recent decision that cable companies may encrypt basic channels, every television served by cable TV will need a set top box. What if you don’t want to pay that long term fee? What if you just want to watch TV? At least one cable company is coming under fire for not providing any way of watching TV without a monthly fee. Light Reading Cable reports that Cox cable is coming under fire for its inability to give customers a choice of cable box.

Cable companies are supposed to offer open technologies like CableCard or Tru2Way that give access to cable services to anyone who buys a compatible box. However, both of these technologies have failed in the marketplace, with TiVo being one of the few companies that sells a CableCard-compatible device. Unfortunately, TiVo’s fees are generally higher than those of the cable companies, so it’s not a good money-saving option.

In contrast, DIRECTV and DISH are not required to offer this sort of accommodation, because they are not considered utility companies. Cable companies use underground conduits and utility poles, and are granted exclusive contracts in the cities where they operate. Because satellite doesn’t have an of those special considerations, they aren’t bound by the same rules.

While it would be nice to have some choice in equipment, it would probably lead to more money spent out of pocket on equipment, since most cable and satellite boxes are heavily subsidized.