The Real Bill Shock


The real bill shock for some in the communications industry this week may have been that for once, cable operators were not on the business end of the stun gun.Did anyone take note of the fact that an FCC Chairman was talking about the size of communications bills and the object of disaffection was not the cable industry but wireless carriers.

Cable operators got so used to being pilloried over their bills by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin that a reflexive flinch in anticipation of this week’s “bill shock” announcements by current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski would have been understandable. There were the same kind of “shocking” examples–300 page bills, $30,000 charges–OK, I don’t think Martin ever found either of those on the cable side.

Genachowski is not Martin, however. It is hard to turn around without finding the chairman praising the promise of  wireless broadband. And he was not complaining about the size of the bills as much as he was the fact that consumers were being surprised by some of the charges.

Actually, Martin is still pounding the a la carte cable beat as witness his comments last week on C-SPAN’s Communicators. Frankly, I found it interesting that when all three former chairmen on the program–Michael Powell and ReedHundt were also in attendance–were asked to weigh in on the Comcast/NBCU deal, Martin did not point out that he has been part of a legal team opposing the deal for clients including Bloomberg. He did say at the end ofthe show that he represented communications clients as a partner in Patton Boggs, but that seemed less than full disclosure.

Of course he was hammering cable on prices and choice long before he was being paid to do so, so there is no inconsistency in his position.