Washington -- The Democrats' surprising surge in last
week's congressional elections failed to change one essential element for cable:
Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
And that's the only news that really mattered to a
cable industry that is just five months away from deregulation.
Had the Democrats taken back the House, the story today
would be much different. For example, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a major sponsor of the
1992 Cable Act, would have returned as chairman of the House Telecommunications
"It was not a significant election with regard to how
Congress is going to vote for the next two years," said Steven Effros, president of
the Cable Telecommunications Association (CATA).
Cable-industry sources said last week that unless cable
operators were really aggressive with rate hikes, the March 31 sunset on upper-tier rates
should come and go without a political upheaval.
"We have been put on notice, obviously by the
leadership in both houses, that we need to be very careful about price increases,"
said Decker Anstrom, president of the National Cable Television Association. "That
issue certainly hasn't gone away or changed in any way by what happened
"If the cable industry makes big mistakes with regard
to rate decisions over the next couple of months, we're still going to have a
problem," Effros added.
The Nov. 3 election -- while leaving Republicans with 223
seats, five fewer than they had going in -- failed to upset the lineup of key players on
telecommunications policy. The Senate elections, which left unchanged the
Republicans' 55-45 majority, also produced a status quo in terms of key