For rent: Apt. w/ choice of TV service

Lisa Napoli Oct 29, 2007

For rent: Apt. w/ choice of TV service

Lisa Napoli Oct 29, 2007


KAI RYSSDAL: Not everyone’s suffering on Wall Street — shares of Goldman Sachs hit a record high today for the eight years it’s been a public company. Merrill Lynch got a boost, too, up almost 2 percent at the closing bell.

The entertainment industry’s not under quite as much pressure as the big investment banks are these days, but it’s close. A writer’s strike is looming here in Los Angeles — compensation over digital content is a big sticking point. Program producers and networks are trying to figure out how to beat YouTube and other online video sites.

But what really caught our ear today was the telephone industry, which has been working its way into the business of delivering you your television. Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli explains.

Lisa Napoli: If you live in an apartment, you know you usually don’t get to choose your cable company. For years, consumer advocates have been petitioning the Federal Communications Commission to strike down a rule that lets cable providers sign exclusive contracts with apartment buildings.

A report in today’s New York Times suggests that this week, they’re about to get what they wanted. For that, you can thank the muscle of the telecom lobby.

Joel Kelsey: It’s kind of this clash of two titans.

That’s Joel Kelsey of the Consumers Union. He says the telephone companies joined the fight against exclusivity contracts because now they’re competing with cable. Kelsey says the telecoms see TV as:

Kelsey: One of the big services that’s going to allow them to kind of catapult into the next decade of telecommunication service.

Because the phone company isn’t just about phone service any more. Andy Schwartzman of the Media Access Project says that desire to diversify is sure to translate, in this case, into good news for the public.

Andy Schwartzman: The data is very unequivocal — when you have a choice of two providers, the prices go down.

Some reports say as much as 30 percent. Not surprisingly, Dan Brenner of the National Cable Television Association isn’t happy about the impending FCC rule change. He says don’t expect your bills to go down just yet.

Dan Brenner: There’s no guarantee that every time these exclusives are eliminated, phone companies are going offer a competitive product in that building.

And even if they do, the prices will have to drop a whole lot to make up for the 93 percent they’ve increased over the last 10 years. In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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