Cable cards are one way to skip the monthly box rental fee from cable companies. But hoiw long will they take to set up? Jefferson Graham relays his tale of a 7-hour setup for a cable card with Verizon FIOS.

LOS ANGELES – Most of us spend hundreds of dollars to rent our cable set-top boxes from the likes of Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon.

What if we could bypass the rental fee, buy our own box and save lots of money?

A little used option, the “cable card,” offers just that, and I leapt at the chance of trying it this weekend.

As you might expect, getting it to work sounds simple, but at least for me, there was a 7 hour installation process that took many phone calls, tweets, direct messages and two visits from a Verizon installer to finish up.

I got excited about the new TiVo Bolt DVR, because it can record TV shows, pick up streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube–and most importantly–replace your cable box. With the TiVo, you won’t have to pay those huge yearly rental hardware fees.

In my case, that’s $420 yearly to Verizon. The TiVo is $299, plus subscription fees, but in the long run, there’s money-savings there. Additionally, Verizon charges $5 monthly to rent a “Cable Card,” to bring their TV service to the Tivo. (Time Warner charges $2.50 monthly, and Comcast says the service is free for its subscribers.)

So I contacted TiVo for a review unit, and waited for the weekend for the setup, in case it was a bear, as these things sometimes are.

The actual installation of the cable card was drop-dead simple. You open the back of the Tivo unit, and insert the card. Period.

From there, you go to the TiVo menu, and find the info for the cable company–which is all clearly marked–serial numbers and the like.

When I called Verizon and asked for the cable card on the phone, I got it right away–on October 7.

But the first post installation and nothing is working call had the rep telling me that I couldn’t use the card wouldn’t be “processed” until October 20th. Even though I was physically holding the card.

After grousing about it on Twitter, Verizon sent repair reps to my home on Sunday, where I learned what the snag was.

My billing cycle starts on the 20th, and Verizon, the rep said, didn’t want me to have free service for 10 days.

However, it’s finally working now, and at last, I can dive intoreviewing the TiVo Bolt.

I’ll be back later this week with my report on cutting this one cord, and how I like the Bolt, but first, I’ve got to ask–how have you fared getting cable cards to operate? Did it go any smoother for you? If we can all save hundreds in box rental fees each year–who wouldn’t want that, right?

I’d love to hear from you. Look for me on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham.

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