Copps Beefs About Cable Rates


Washington -- Federal Communications Commission member Michael Copps complained about cable rates Thursday and urged the agency to examine whether rising rates and cable-ownership consolidation are linked.

"Cable rates are soaring," Copps, a Democrat, said in a speech here to the Consumer Federation of America. "What can we do?"

He made a few suggestions.

"First, we need to understand how media consolidation raises rates when we review mergers. Second, we need to get serious about the reports Congress instructed us to conduct, and we need to take our findings and turn them into action at the commission, or, if more authority is needed, recommendations to Congress that would promote competition for the benefit of consumers," he said.

Basic-cable rates remain regulated at the local level, but the FCC lost authority to regulate higher tiers March 31, 1999. Since then, nominal tier rates have soared, although per-channel rates, adjusted for inflation, have remained flat and, in some years, have even declined.

"For an average cost of $40 per month for expanded-basic cable, which provides 70-80 channels, cable remains a great value when compared to other entertainment options, such as taking a family of four to a single movie or sporting event," National Cable & Telecommunications Association spokesman Brian Dietz said.