You'll recall that before AT&T entered the TV business they sent their lobbyists around the country to gut the traditional video franchise system, instead replacing it with a system of state-level laws that in many instances were little more that legislative wishlists directly written by AT&T
. The laws were sold to states as a way to lower TV prices
by speeding competition to the TV space, though in reality they wound up legalizing deployment cherry picking, killing off useful consumer protections, and eroding local community rights
(including eminent domain).
In 2006, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre proudly proclaimed U-Verse TV "will almost certainly result in lower prices by cable television." AT&T lobbyists, AT&T-funded astroturf groups like TV4US
, and AT&T funded think tanks
continually vilified the existing franchise system (responsible for delivering TV to most of the rural United States), and insisted that writing entirely new laws that solely benefited AT&T would lower TV prices. The sales pitch was helped by FCC Commissioners like Robert McDowell
and an unquestioning press, that dutifully repeated claims that these laws would mean lower TV prices.
Fast forward several years and while AT&T got everything they wanted from lawmakers, those lower TV prices are nowhere to be found for consumers. AT&T has already repeatedly raised the price of their U-Verse TV service, and this week announced another round of rate hikes
for early 2011:
AT&T -- which once argued that telco competition would keep a lid on cable rates -- will increase monthly pricing for U-verse TV packages by up to 10% in early 2011, its second consecutive year of hikes. Effective Feb. 1, 2011, the regular monthly price of U-verse TV packages will be: U-family, $54; U100, $59; U200, $69; U200 Latino, $79; U300, $84; and U450 $117. According to AT&T, customers on a current U-verse TV pricing promotion will continue to receive the promotional benefit until the applicable promotion ends. For customers who ordered or will order a TV package from Feb. 1, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2011, the new rates represent increases of 2.4% to 9.3%.
Obviously soaring programming rates are not within AT&T's control, though like cable operators -- AT&T enjoys blaming all hikes
on broadcasters when they too play a role in often bi-annual increases (see: soaring install fees, assorted fees, DVR rental costs). Still, AT&T shouldn't have promised something they clearly knew they couldn't or wouldn't deliver, and you'd think that regulators and the press would eventually learn to have a little healthy skepticism when it comes to AT&T promises.