Average Cable Rates on the Rise

ByABC News
February 15, 2001, 1:16 PM

Feb. 15 -- If your cable television bills seem to be getting more expensive it's because they are.

The Federal Communications Commission reported this week that average cable television bills nationwide jumped by 5.8 percent in the one-year period through July, considerably higher than the 3.7 percent increase in the price of all goods and services.

Consumer advocates pounced on the news, saying the report proves that telecommunications deregulation has failed to deliver the promised benefit of lower cable rates.

The cable industry said the single biggest factor behind the higher rates is the increased costs for programming, including sports and entertainment.

"This month marks the five-year anniversary of the Telecommunications Reform Act, which promised consumers lower rates for cable television," said David Butler of the Consumers Union. "This report shows what happens when you deregulate a monopoly before competition can take hold."

Consumer advocates believe the report bolsters their efforts to restore some form of regulation on the cable industry. "We believe the government needs to consider some semblance of a cap on cable prices," Butler said.

That kind of talk is music to the ears of consumers like Norma Wallen, who says her cable rates are rising too fast.

Wallen is a 46-year-old resident of Seattle, Wash., who cannot work because of a disability and who pays AT&T Broadband $80 a month for cable services.

"Price is an issue," Wallen said. "I don't do anything else, I don't have any other recreational pleasures. I got the top-of-the-line service because I don't want to hear that somebody else is watching something I can't. It's a financial strain but there are no other options" to AT&T.

Wasnt Supposed to Be This Way

Supporters of deregulation asserted that cable rates might rise in the short term but would begin to decline as competition, particularly from telephone companies, intensified, Butler said.

An analysis by the Consumers Union shows that cable rates have increased 30 percent in the past five years, nearly three times the rate of overall inflation.