Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cable Executive Urges Companies to Keep Prices Down

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Cable Executive Urges Companies to Keep Prices Down

Article excerpt

ATLANTA (AP) -- With cable TV rates rising sharply, the industry's top executive is urging companies to hold prices down to keep the government from changing its mind about deregulation.

"There is not a speech I give or a meeting I have in which I don't say to the industry: `Look, you need to be really, really careful about price increases,'" said Decker Anstrom, president of the National Cable Television Association, in an interview. "We know there is a sensitivity there both with our customers as well as policy-makers."

One of those policy-makers, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard, reminded the companies Tuesday at their annual convention that his agency has an obligation to protect consumers. He urged the companies to "show restraint" in rate increases. According to the government's most recent figures, cable TV prices rose 7.9 percent for the 12 months ending March 31. Overall inflation was just 1.4 percent during the same time period. The average monthly rate, including a remote and converter, was $28.83 as of last July 1, according to FCC figures. As it now stands, the FCC's authority to regulate cable rates expires March 31, 1999, unless Congress changes that as consumer groups have requested. A House bill would extend the agency's ratemaking authority until customers could buy service from competing local companies. Congress set the expiration date in a 1996 telecommunications bill that freed cable, local and long-distance telephone companies to get into each other's businesses. The rationale: Regulation no longer would be needed because competition to cable would restrain prices. But some lawmakers and Kennard don't believe that widespread competition to cable will materialize by next March. If that's the case, cable customers won't have any protections from excessive price increases, they argue. …

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