You, FCC. Do something about these overpriced cable boxes, yells Bernie Sanders and pals

Taking a pop at Comcast – election-winning move, that

Six US Senators are taking aim at the excessive fees cable and internet providers charge for modem and set-top hardware.

In an open letter [PDF] to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (D-VT and presidential hopeful), Edward Markey (D-MA), and Jeffrey Merkley (D-OR) all ask the regulator to publish a report on how it deals with complaints about excessive rental fees and what sort of gripes it has gathered from citizens on hardware rental costs.

At issue, Wyden says, is whether more can be done to prevent cable companies and ISPs from charging users excessive monthly fees to rent their cable modems, set-top boxes and DVRs.

"Given the power big corporations have over America, the need to stop unfair billing practices and ensure affordable cable and internet services for all Americans is all the more important," Wyden writes.

Wheeler broached the issue last month when he proposed rules that would allow cable customers to purchase their own set-top boxes.

The Senators want to take matters a step further, not only looking into the rented box lock-in, but how much customers pay each month for their hardware, and whether telcos might be running afoul of the law with their billing practices.

"We are troubled upon hearing complaints of consumers being charged the modem rental fee after they have returned the equipment to Comcast, or being charged the rental fee having never rented a modem in the first place," the letter reads.

"Not only are the majority of customers using automatic payment systems and may not personally authorize every erroneous charge, many consumers report having to call and remedy the problem throughout several billing cycles." ®

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