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New FCC a La Carte Push: Fluff and Nonsense
Nothing being done about yearly price hikes
by Karl Bode 01:06PM Thursday Dec 15 2005
We've been discussing "a la carte" cable programming for years, with the understanding it meant being able to pick only the channels you wanted to watch - in order to save money on your cable bill. In recent weeks the cable industry and the FCC have engaged in a song & dance to redefine "a la carte" to simply mean the provision of family friendly cable tiers.

Every year at this time customers grapple with cable rate increases, and every year a la carte pricing emerges as a possible solution by consumer advocates. Championed and forgotten by John McCain, the push recently died when the FCC proclaimed that a la carte would result in higher prices for consumers, much to the glee of the cable industry.

Then out of the blue, the FCC performed a complete 180 on the subject. A la carte is a good idea that could save customers money, the FCC suddenly declared. There's a number of reasons for the shift, and none of them have anything to do with a la carte's original premise: actually saving you money.

This new carefully choreographed song & dance is being dressed up as an appeasement of indecency groups who want to limit the volume of sex & violence on television. In reality however, it's a collaborative effort between the FCC, the cable industry and IPTV-planning-telcos, aimed at increasing revenue, and keeping Congress away from requiring real a la Carte.

Both Time Warner and Comcast will release family friendly service tiers in a week or two. In exchange, the two companies will get acquisition approval of Adelphia and Susquehanna Communications, without pesky competitive restrictions. These tiers will require customers to upgrade to more expensive digital television, netting additional profit, and solving another FCC and cable industry problem: sluggish digital migration.

Ironically, even one of the more extreme indecency groups, the The Parents Television Council, isn't buying it. "Family tiers are not the same as providing consumers with cable choice, the ability to take and pay for only what they want. The cable industry is throwing up family tiers as a ‘red herring’ rather than having to face the real marketplace of fed-up consumers," says the PTC president.

The new FCC push doesn't help consumers, it doesn't appease critics of cable price-gouging, and it doesn't appease indecency groups. As the media hypes the coming moves by Comcast and Time Warner, keep in mind it's simply a Christmas pageant being put on by the FCC and industry.

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Schenectady, NY

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reply to FFH5

Re: a la carte never coming from the FCC

As usual, your script has no bearing on reality. You should call your pimps over at adelphia and ask them to send you an updated script so you can astroturf better, all these lame old arguments get no mileage anymore. You've got to earn the kickback money somehow.

Show me where it's 'unconstitutional' for the government to interfere with the rights of a private corporation to set prices? They do it ALL the time. The do it right now to my electric bill! They do it to my gas bill! They do it to my telephone bill! ANY time there is a monopoly/duopoly situation, the government has a right, nay, an OBLIGATION to step in and ensure the customer benefits. The FCC was created to SERVE THE PUBLIC GOOD. The FCC as it exists today is a bastardized mouthpiece for the corporate shills.
Sure the internet has lots of porn and piracy, but I'm sure there's a downside to it.

The Basics
Moorpark, CA

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This FCC administration has to be one of the most corrupt government entities i have ever seen. Every ruling and decision they make seems to be as anti-competitive, anti-consumer as they can make it. The worst part is that, since companies like Time-Warner own the content as well as the infrastructure, Joe average will never hear about any of this.
I subscribe to the theory of intellectual osmosis. Unfortunately, I must now cease our conversation and move away from you before my intelligence begins to drop. Good day.