Chicago -- Top aides to Capitol Hill lawmakers were divided on whether cable
has to worry about harmful legislation passing Congress anytime soon.
At a National Show panel here Monday, Kevin Kayes, a top aide to Sen. Fritz
Hollings (D-S.C.), praised cable's investment and innovation since gaining
deregulation under the Telecommunications Act of 1996 but warned that pricing
issues were hitting Capitol Hill.
"I do think cable is so far ahead in so many ways, and I'm not sure how the
[Baby] Bells can catch up," Kayes said. "On the other hand, your Achilles' heel
is your prices, and that's what consumers focus on and that's the message being
conveyed to Congress."
Hollings, the most senior Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, has not
introduced cable-rate legislation.
Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who held a cable-rate hearing last
month, is expected to await delivery of a cable-pricing report from the General
Accounting Office in the fall before unveiling a bill.
"I'm afraid if the industry doesn't begin to solve that problem in the
business community, Congress is going to step in. But we are not there yet. I
think we have another Congress to go before we get there," Kayes said.
Will Nordwind, a telecommunications adviser to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.),
chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet,
indicated little interest in regulating cable on the House side.
"Constituents find that they are getting value for the dollar," Nordwind
said. "Upton is not interested in regulating cable any further than it is
Upton supported House draft legislation last year that included a provision
that cable operators would not be required to carry both analog and digital
signals during the transition to all-digital broadcasting.
"He came out against dual carriage," Nordwind said.