Could lower cable TV bills be on the way?

Alisa Roth Jun 9, 2006

CHERYL GLASER: It’s called the Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006. The legislation passed the House last night. It could make your cable bill a whole lot cheaper. How, you ask? By helping communications companies like Verizon and AT&T get in on the cable TV action. But not everyone’s thrilled with the idea. Marketplace’s Alisa Roth explains:

ALISA ROTH: Under the new bill, one national regulatory system would replace 30,000 local cable franchising authorities. That would break up the local cable monopolies. And make it easier for other companies like telecoms to get in on the act.

Ann Veigle is an editor at Communications Daily. She says the new services would include lightning speed Internet connections. Plus the same fare you get from cable:

ANN VEIGLE: Disney, sports programming, movies on demand, Showtime, HBO, things like that. They have Spanish-language programming.

Verizon and AT&T are expected to be the big players in this new post-monopoly world. In a few cities, telecoms have already managed to get permission to offer these services. Veigle says cable prices there have dropped as a result.

SCOTT CLELAND: It’s outstanding news for the consumer.

Scott Cleland is a telecom industry consultant. Not everyone is as thrilled about the impending changes as he is. The cable companies, for one, are nervous.

CLELAND: There are phone companies and cable companies, direct broadcast, wireless companies. There is a big competitive free-for all for the consumer dollar.

There are other concerns, too. Cable companies won’t pay cities premiums anymore for their monopoly status. And the new bill doesn’t require companies to offer universal service. So some customers could get lost in the shuffle.

There’s no need to get too excited, yet, though. The bill still faces a tough fight in the Senate.

In New York, I’m Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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