Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Passes Bill to Control Cable Rates

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Committee Passes Bill to Control Cable Rates

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate committee Thursday gave near-unanimous approval to a bill that would allow local governments to control some cable television prices.

The 18-1 vote by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee marked the first time lawmakers have moved to restore some of the regulation of the cable industry that Congress lifted in the 1984 Cable Act.

The 1984 law ended local rate regulation effective in 1987, and since then members of Congress have been deluged with complaints of soaring prices and poor service.

More than 20 re-regulation bills were introduced in Congress in the past two years, and the Senate communications subcommittee held nine hearings before Thursday's compromise bill emerged.

The bill, among other things, would:

- Allow local governments to regulate prices for a ``basic tier'' of channels including local over-the-air broadcast channels. But in a major victory for the cable industry, the companies persuaded the committee to allow them to keep prices for ad-supported pay cable channels such as ESPN, CNN and MTV out of the regulated group.

- Require cable operators not to discriminate against cable programmers like movie channels with which they have no affiliation. Some cable companies are owned by giant conglomerates that also own movie channels.

- Require that all cable programmers make their programming available to home dish owners.

``This is a major victory for the American public,'' said Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., who had introduced a bill last year that would have been even tougher on the cable industry.

``Cable television is an unregulated monopoly in virtually every community,'' Danforth said. ``You don't need a degree in economics to know that unregulated monopolies are bad for consumers, and millions of subscribers are fed up with high prices and `who cares' service. …

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