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Give Us Choice. Cable Choice.

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When we go to the multi-theater cineplex to watch one of the movies being screened there, are we forced to pay for the other movies being screened as well?

 

No.

 

If we subscribed to such magazines as Sports Illustrated and Better Homes and Gardens, are we forced to also subscribe to Playboy, MAD, and Wet?

 

Of course not.

 

If we went to the newsstand to buy the day's issue of The Washington Times, are we forced to also buy issues of The New York Times and The Washington Post?

 

No (and if we were, we'd go to a different newsstand).

 

So, why is it that us normal everyday cable customers cannot choose our cable channel lineup and pay for -- and only for -- those channels we choose?

 

Before a representative of Comcast answers, let me note a few things...

  • The cable industry claims that "Cable Choice will increase the cost of a cable subscription while giving fewer channels" [sic]... yet for the past decade or so, the cost of a subscription has grown at several times the inflation rate.  Price increases were never a concern when networks kept the money and nobody questioned them about it.  The fact of the matter is, contrary to what the cable industry claims, with Cable Choice, the cost of a cable subscription will go down, not up.
  • The cable industry claims that "with Cable Choice, program diversity will be lost" [sic].  Not so.  Unless a network is owned by a major media conglomerate, their chances of getting carriage are slim to none.  Programmers use this little thing called retransmission consent to force all of their networks onto a cable system, not leaving much room for small and niche-targeted networks.  For example, in Los Angeles, California, approximately 60 channels comprise the basic and expanded basic cable tiers; of those 60 channels, 13 are entirely or partly owned by NBC/General Electric, nine by CBS/Viacom, seven by Fox/News Corp., 11 by The Walt Disney Company, and Time-Warner and Liberty combined own another 16 channels.

    Unbundling channels allows more niche networks to reach the market; those with quality programming at a fair price will succeed.  Case in point: HBO, a network sold outside the basic or expanded basic tiers.

  • I think we can all agree that government regulation is a last resort; sadly, we are dangerously close to having the government regulate cable.  The cable industry has shown deceit and utter disregard for the public on this issue, and there seems to be no real private-sector solution.  Some say the government has no right to intervene in such a market, but granted the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, Congress has intervened in anti-competitive markets for more than a hundred years.  In addition, Cable Choice proponents never said that the industry should be forbidden from selling bundled tiers; their position is that the cable industry should grant customers to unbundle networks if they prefer.  Some may choose to keep their bundles, but to prohibit the unbundling would perpetuate price gouging and trust behavior and ultimately prevent market forces from entering into the business equation.  If there were no need for government involvement at this point, then why are cable industry executives speaking to Congress about a problem out of their own control?

 

There is the high chance that you, Comcast, could... what, kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

 

And you could.  That could happen.

 

And I wouldn't be surprised that you are in your offices, genuinely concerned about this issue, because you are engaging in business practices that border on trust behavior, but we will do everything we can, and I think that we can do considerable.

 

We don't want to, you know, but I would highly suggest--I want you to take care of this problem yourself, but... I hope you go to bed with one important thought: that if you don't do something about it, Congress sure will.

 

From where I'm sitting, if you go to bed with that thought, then I am convinced that this post has had some very positive possibilities to it.

 

Thank you for your time.