Not cool: Comcast charging you an arbitrary fee to do so.
Comcast announced yesterday that it’s starting a beta program for people who want to try using their Roku in place of a cable box. But what it didn’t state very loudly is that, once the beta program ends, it’s going to start charging.
As spotted by Variety, a Comcast support page notes that charges will be put into place at the conclusion of the beta. At that point, people using the beta will have to decide whether they want to continue using the device and pay up.
This isn’t exactly a new practice for Comcast. While subscribers don’t have to pay for their first cable box, it charges $9.95 per month to rent additional units, and it even charges a $7.45 per month “additional outlet” fee when you supply a box of your own.
(Technically, Comcast charges $9.95 and then applies a $2.50 bill credit; the distinction is mostly meaningless, except that you can still get that $2.50 credit for using your own device in place of that “free” first cable box. In that instance, Comcast would actually be taking $2.50 off your bill every month. But you’d also only have one TV.)
It sounds like this same pricing structure will apply to Rokus.
This is a great example of why cable providers have been so opposed to the FCC’s attempts to overhaul the cable box market. The commission’s plans would have taken control over TV streams away from providers and let customers do what they want with them — the most recent version of the plan would have even required a free-to-use Roku app.
The cable box overhaul is almost certainly not going to happen now that Democrats have lost control of the FCC, which means Comcast is free to continue adding fees for using your own equipment.
Disclosure: Comcast is an investor in Vox Media, The Verge’s parent company.
Correction: This story did not initially note that Comcast doesn’t charge customers a rental fee for their first cable box. It’s been updated with this information, as well as more detail on how Comcast’s bill credits work.