FCC Opens a la Carte Inquiry Sought by House


Under orders from key House members, the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday launched an inquiry into the plausibility of cable and satellite companies offering channels on an a la carte basis.

The FCC acted one week after receiving a bipartisan letter from leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who punted a la carte issues to the agency partly to assuage the concerns of a la carte proponent Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.).

The House letter gave the FCC until Nov. 18 to respond with a detailed report answering nearly three-dozen questions about the offering of cable networks a la carte under various legal, technical and practical scenarios.

The report will serve as the FCC’s most detailed look at a la carte in more than one decade.

Last fall, the General Accounting Office concluded in a study for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that a la carte might expand consumer choice and lower rates for some customers, but other customers would have to pay higher programming and set-top-box fees.

The report also noted that a la carte would cause cable networks to lose advertising revenue and would impose other operating costs on cable operators.

In contrast, Deal argued that a la carte would actually help consumers to keep a lid on rising cable rates and allow them to pay for only those channels they actually view.