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Cable service is available in most Massachusetts communities through one or more providers, and may be offered as a stand-alone service or as part of a bundled package. The term “bundled package” refers to a specially-priced combination of services that may include telephone service (wireless or landline), television (cable or satellite television), internet or a home security system. Bundled packages often include a contract agreement that will require you to maintain your services for a fixed period of time, usually 12-24 months.

The cost of cable service alone can be broken down into three main categories: (1) programming, promotions and pricing; (2) equipment and installation; and (3) taxes, fees and surcharges.

Equipment and Installation:

Cable-TV-small Currently, in order to receive a cable provider’s programming, a converter box and a remote control are typically required.  There are different types of converter boxes including digital, high-definition (HD), and digital video recorder (DVR) boxes.  Even if you subscribe to the basic service package, a converter box is required. There is often a monthly rental charge for each piece of equipment. When signing up for service, be sure to discuss with your sales representative whether the channels you are getting require the level of features provided with the converter box.

  • Ask what equipment is required to receive the programming in which you are interested. For example, international programming may require additional equipment.
  • If additional equipment is required, know what the monthly charges are, or whether you can purchase the equipment separately rather than leasing it. Often purchasing the equipment will be less expensive than leasing it in the long-run.  You will need to make sure that any equipment you purchase is compatible with your provider’s system.
  • In order to receive HD video or HDTV, you must have a television capable of receiving high definition programming and an HD converter box.

In order to receive cable programming, the cable provider may need to install wiring and equipment at your location. Ask whether installation fees apply, what is the cost of installation, and what is included in the installation. You should also know who will be performing the installation work and what happens if there are problems or damage to your property occurs during the installation.

The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) regulates the telecommunications and cable industries in Massachusetts. As part of its responsibilities, the DTC’s Consumer Division works to resolve disputes that arise between consumers and their telephone or cable service provider. The Division offers a series of outreach programs to help educate consumers about these industries, and empower them to make smart decisions when evaluating their needs for purchasing these services. For more information or for help with a complaint about your cable provider, contact the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

Next up: How Do You Connect? Part 3.

Previous: How Do You Connect? Part 1.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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