Guidelines for buying a used Cable set top box in Canada
When an analog cable subscriber in Canada decides to move to digital cable, one of the first questions they ask us at Digital Home is “What equipment do they need to rent or buy to watch digital or high definition television.”
In addition to an high definition (HD) television, every digital cable subscriber in Canada needs at least one digital cable set top box in the home.
Although there are some cable set top boxes which can send a signal to multiple televisions, generally speaking digital cable subscribers need to buy one cable set top box for every television they want to watch digital cable channels on.
Consumers can choose to either rent or buy the necessary digital cable set top box (STB) or boxes from their local Canadian cable providers. Most cable providers will provide one free or deeply discounted standard definition (SD) set top box if you commit to a long term contract. Digital Home owners wanting more than one digital cable set top box, or a high definition (HD) set top box will have to rent or buy the set top boxes.
Cost of Buying New
Prices vary by cable provider but you can expect to pay about $100 for a standard definition set top box, $200 to $300 for a high definition cable box and between $400 and $700 for an HD PVR.
If you have multiple high definition televisions in your home, the cost to outfit them with cable set top boxes can become a very expensive proposition! For this reason, many visitors to the Digital Home website inquire about whether they can buy a used cable set top box from eBay or Craigslist and use it with their existing cable provider.
The answer to that question is not simple. In some instances it may be possible but in most cases it is not.
Buy / Sell Example
For example, suppose you are a Rogers Cable customers who wishes to buy a used HD PVR. Rogers uses Scientific Atlanta equipment and currently sells two models of HD PVR, the SA 8300 HD and the Cisco 8642 HD PVR. Cisco purchased Scientific Atlanta a few years ago so for the purpose of this article we will refer to both set top boxes as Cisco boxes.
If you were to buy a Cisco 8300 or 8642 HD PVR on eBay or Craigslist, it is unlikely that you will be able to activate it with Rogers.
Rogers would likely only activate the receiver if the device has been previously used on the Rogers cable system and the seller of the device was not in arrears with Rogers. If the used set top box was previously used on another cable system such as Videotron or a U.S. cable systems then Rogers would not activate the device. In addition, if the seller of the device has not paid his last Rogers bill then Rogers would not allow the device to be activated until the previous owner has paid all of his or her bills.
Cable providers policy regarding used receivers
The policy of not activating set top boxes from another cable company is not unique to Rogers. Most major Canadian cable companies such as Cogeco, Eastlink, Shaw Cable, and Videotron will not authorize used receivers unless they have been previously registered on their system.
The primary reason is that many cable boxes sold in the classifieds are stolen. In the United States, many U.S. cable systems only rent digital cable boxes therefore many of the boxes being sold on classified websites have been stolen from home owners. By refusing to activate unknown receivers, cable companies have dramatically reduced the criminal proceeds from stolen receivers.
The second reason cable companies don’t want to activate unknown receivers is they don’t want to inherit problematic receivers. Faulty receivers are a costly problem for cable and satellite companies. Often people sell a used receiver because it’s not working properly. For this reason, most cable providers want you to buy a new receiver or at the very least, a used receiver for which they have history.
Guidelines for Buying a Used Cable Set top box
Buying a used cable set top box can save you a lot of money. If you are buying a used set top box there are two things you should do before handing over your money.
First, confirm with the seller that the set top box works on the same cable system that you will be using it on. Ideally, ask to see the unit in operation. If it’s a PVR, ask to see a program recorded and played back.
Second, get the Serial number and the name of the seller. Contact your cable company and inform them that you will be buying a used set top box. Provide the cable company with the serial number and the name of the seller. They will then let you know whether they will activate the set top box or not. If the seller refuses to provide you with the serial number and their name, then the set top box is probably rented or stolen.
For more information about buying a used cable set top box, check out Digital Home’s Canadian cable forums in the Digital Forum.