Commisso Proposes Rate Freeze, Again


Anaheim, Calif. -- Mediacom Communications Corp. CEO Rocco Commisso once again livened up an uneventful Western Show here Thursday by proposing that he wouldn’t raise his cable rates for subscribers next year if 80% of the programmers the MSO carries agreed to not hike their license fees in 2004.

At last year’s Western Show, Commisso promised that he’d freeze rates if all the networks he carries did the same, but no one took him up on the offer.

"If we drop it down to 80%, I will not put out any rate increases, assuming you call me over the next two weeks, because [rate-hike] notices are going out," Commisso told attendees at Thursday’s opening session.

He also repeated his argument that programmers should charge all MSOs the same rates, regardless of their size.

Insight Communications Co. Inc. CEO Michael Willner said there’s "a lot of logic" to Commisso’s argument, but, "On the other hand, this is a world of reality." Advance/Newhouse Communications CEO Bob Miron and Rogers Communications Inc. chief Ted Rogers wouldn’t touch Commisso’s idea.

Telephony was also a hot topic on the panel. With MSOs looking to make a run at local telcos by rolling out Internet-protocol-telephony services, Rogers warned that cable must differentiate its telephony product and not just attempt to compete on price. "If we try to emulate the phone companies, they’ll come back and haunt us," he added.

Commisso said the regional Bell operating companies’ biggest advantage over cable is that "they’ve got plenty of more money to lose."

Willner also predicted Thursday that there will be further MSO consolidation, in addition to deconsolidation.