Cable boxes spark lawsuit

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A South Mississippi woman is fed up with how a cable provider is doing business and she's taking her fight to court.

She's sueing Cable One for allegedly monopolizing the South Mississippi cable market, and the charges stem from a simple cable box.

Cable companies across the nation use a box to provide digital cable services. With companies like Cable One, customers have no choice but to lease the box and that's what Attorney Stephen Mullins and his client don't like.

"You cannot call Cable One and say, 'I have a box that I got on eBay. Can you come make it work? And I don't want to pay you the $7 or $30 a month,'" said Mullins. "You cannot do that and that's the basis of our lawsuit."

Cable One charges its customers $11 a month for a regular Motorola cable box. It charges $23 for its HD-DVR box. The fees are added to the customer's monthly bill for as long as they have Cable One digital cable services.

"You obviously pay for them in a few months and the rest of it is pure profit," said Mullins.

Cable One services more than 720,000 customers a year. If half of those customers had the basic digital boxes, the cable company would make about $48 million. That's just for the boxes, not any other products or services.

Local municipalities are authorized by the FCC to govern cable TV and the pending suit against Cable One is not the first of its kind. In fact, Mullins and his client hope to join several other on-going suits in hopes of getting a judge to decide how cable companies charge their customers for cable boxes.

WLOX contacted a local Cable One office Monday, the company referred us to the main office in Phoenix, Arizona. Officials there declined to comment.

Digital cable is an optional service provided by Cable One.

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