Over at Bloomberg, an inside source reports that the FCC has just voted to allow cable companies to override local caps on cable pricing, effectively allowing cable companies to charge whatever they like for all broadcast TV — including when it comes from local channels.
In some ways, this new regulation is just cementing a practice that has gone on for years. Many local regions like cities and counties have caps on how much cable companies are allowed to charge for their services. Historically, cable companies have petitioned the FCC to override these caps, and the FCC has granted those requests 220 out of 224 times in the past two years.
Still, local broadcasters worry that this new relaxing of the rules around cable costs will make it more expensive for people to watch local channels that carry information about their communities.
Writes Todd Shields in Bloomberg:
Broadcasters fear cable companies can now assign TV-station signals to pricier tiers, cutting the audience for local programming, said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters trade group.
The change cuts requirements for uniform rates across a locality, and lets cable companies offer any number of programming tiers before customers can order premium and pay-per-view offerings, said an FCC advisory panel.
Congress asked the FCC to simplify procedures for small cable companies, and Wheeler’s change provides “unnecessary regulatory benefits to large cable companies,” 13 U.S. senators, all Democrats along with one independent, said in a May 12 letter to Wheeler.
Consumers may see higher rates and fewer channels in the lowest-cost program packages, said the senators including Al Franken, of Minnesota.
In the end, this may just be another argument in favor of cutting the cord.
Image via Timbercon