The cell phone companies like providing subsidized handsets because the long-term contracts are worth more to them than the subsidy they provide on the hanset. Cable companies use their oligopoly position to provide hardware through an entirely different model. They "rent" consumers the hardware customers need for digital and enhanced services (movies on demand, information services, etc.). Customers can't buy the set-top box on the open market and still receive the full set of services from their cable provider. Those fees add up when a customer has multiple televisions on which enhanced services are desired.