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Costly Coax

Phil Harvey

9:45 AM -- Has anyone ever quit their cable service, then got a bill for the dozens of feet of coaxial cable that was used to deliver service throughout the home?

I haven't heard of this happening, but according to this somewhat dated fact sheet from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , the cable companies are allowed to bill for the wire once the customer bails. Or they can show up and remove the home wiring altogether if the customer doesn't pay up.

This just struck me as interesting, considering that most new home networking installations from satellite companies and phone companies -- cable's worst enemies -- assume that homes will be wrapped in coax. (See RBOCs Want Inside Your House.) It seems that, if they wanted to, cable companies could really stick it to canceling customers and competitors if they started charging for wire.

Here's the juicy bit of the FCC cable wiring fact sheet:

After a subscriber voluntarily terminates cable service, the cable operator may (1) leave the home wiring in place, or (2) notify the consumer that it will remove the wiring unless the consumer purchases it from the cable operator on a per-foot, replacement cost basis...

If the subscriber does not already own the wiring and declines to purchase it from the cable operator, the cable operator may remove the home wiring within 30 days of the subscriber's refusal, but it must do so at no charge to the subscriber, and it must pay the cost of any damage caused by removing the wire.

Cable companies lead the world in drumming up ridiculous charges for canceling service. But has anyone ever actually had to foot a bill for old wire? If so, do tell.

— Phil Harvey, Coax Facts Editor, Light Reading

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Scott Raynovich
Scott Raynovich,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:48:26 AM
re: Costly Coax
This seems like an empty threat to me, because wouldn't the cost of the truck roll and the labor for removing the cable outweigh the cost of the cable itself?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:48:26 AM
re: Costly Coax
re: "wouldn't the cost of the truck roll and the labor for removing the cable outweigh the cost of the cable itself?"

It does. But the cost of sending a bill is relatively low. I'm curious to see if anyone's ever been billed. Or if it's like one of those outdated things like getting arrested for spitting on the sidewalk.

Michael Harris
Michael Harris,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:48:25 AM
re: Costly Coax
If memory serves me correctly, this FCC rule is at least a decade old. So, if consumers were being billed, you would have heard plenty of griping by now.

Another footnote I recall with this rule: The cable operator must take out the wire or bill for it within 30 days of the customer disconnection. After a month, it becomes the consumer's property by default.

Besides the cost of the truck roll for ripping out the wire, if the MSO ever won the customer back, they'd need to do another truck roll to reinstall the wire. Double indemnity. Not worth it.
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 3:48:25 AM
re: Costly Coax

Beyond empty, although I understand your question.

Most, if not all, new homes in the US today are pre-built with Coax whether they get cable service or not. Those older homes pay an installation charge for cable. I would argue that the customer now owns the coax.

Companies can say many things, but at the end of the day not all of them are legal.

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