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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    Default Cable bills.... Too High?

    http://www.dailyherald.com/story.asp?id=140940

    Unhappy with cable TV bill? Too bad
    Limited competition gives consumers virtually no recourse except to pay increasing cost

    By Joseph Ryan
    Daily Herald Staff Writer
    Posted Monday, January 09, 2006

    ADVERTISEMENT


    Hey, have I got a deal for you: You pay more money, and get less cable television.

    No takers?

    Too bad. Most likely you can’t do much about it anyway.

    At least that is how many suburban subscribers may feel this month as they watch their Comcast cable bills climb 4.5 percent, bringing the expense up to just a penny shy of $50 a month for basic and expanded cable, a yearly total of $599.98.

    Comcast, the dominant cable provider in the Chicago area, has raised basic rates about 22.7 percent since 2003.

    At the same time, Comcast this year has removed the Sci Fi Channel, which features Star Trek and other fantasy shows, from many basic cable packages while also requiring standard users to rent a cable box at more than $3 a month to get premium movie channels such as HBO that already cost extra.

    The sole cable challenger in a smattering of suburbs, WideOpenWest, or WOW, is also raising rates by about 5 percent to about $43.50 a month.

    The latest price hikes again underscore the reality that many suburbanites have few, if any, alternatives for cable service. And that is not likely to change in the near future, though many political leaders, local and national, say they want to change the system.

    Comcast says this year’s higher bills will pay for more customer service representatives, add listings to the On Demand feature and cover the increasing costs of everything from gas to carrying channels like ESPN.

    Sci Fi was not originally available in all areas on basic cable, so “migrating” it to costlier digital cable packages was part of a long-term company plan, says Comcast spokeswoman Pat Keenan. Also, she said movie channels must now require a cable box with basic service to stop others from stealing The Sopranos and other popular shows.

    Keenan also says basic cable users are benefiting from a re-formatted channel guide.

    But consumer advocates say the situation merely highlights the lack of competition among television providers.

    WOW currently offers service in just a few suburbs, including Elgin, Naperville, Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect and Schaumburg.

    Of course, many cable subscribers can jump to dish, but a variety of factors have kept satellites from becoming a serious threat to cable — including yearlong required commitments, the cost of equipment and the difficulty some customers have finding the “southern sky” to point the dish toward.

    After several years of heavy marketing and price breaks for new subscribers, the two satellite providers — DirecTV and Dish Network — account for about a quarter of all pay-TV.

    Comcast dominates the Chicago market with 1.8 million local subscribers. Nationally, it is the largest cable provider, reaching more than 21 million households. WOW and a service that operates primarily in northern portions of Chicago, RCN, have a relative pittance of subscribers, with a combined total of less than 1 million spread nationally.

    “(Comcast) can use their monopoly power to increase rates without increasing services, and they do,” said Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for the non-profit Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports.

    Congressional lawmakers voted in the early 1990s to give up control over cable pricing in the name of opening the market to competition. But since then, consolidations of cable companies have led to a few dominating most markets.

    More than 90 percent of markets have only one cable provider, according to recent statistics from the Federal Communications Commission.

    In the suburbs, residents watched in the late 1990s as a hodge-podge of providers like Jones Intercable and Continental Cablevision were gobbled up and consolidated. A few years ago, area subscribers mostly dealt with TCI or Americast. Then there was AT&T Broadband, which in 2002 became Comcast.

    WOW and RCN bought up a few competing cable systems in the Chicago region, but they have made no moves to branch out into areas that didn’t already have cable lines in place.

    The cost of such an expansion can be prohibitive, especially since Comcast has had time to land most of the residents who want pay TV, said Mark Chinn, a vice president for RCN.

    Meanwhile, some suburbs have been begging — literally — for other providers to lay cable in their towns to increase competition

    In 2001, Hoffman Estates, Buffalo Grove and Palatine got together and bought a full-page ad in a trade magazine asking for another cable provider to set up shop in their suburbs.

    The towns didn’t receive a single relevant reply.

    “The quiet was deafening,” recalled Bruce Anderson, Hoffman Estates’ cable coordinator and former state chair of a cable operators professional group.

    Without a company willing to pay for new cable infrastructure, suburbs are left with two options: build their own or wait and hope.

    A citizens group in Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles tried for several years to persuade local voters to support a $60 million plan to start a government-run cable, phone and internet system. Voters balked twice, the last time being in 2004.

    Waiting may be the only option for those wanting cable competition.

    In a few years industry leaders and techies are hoping giant telephone companies, such as AT&T, will find a money-making way to lay fiber optic cable across the nation and deliver television service as well as phone and internet. Some of the giant companies are already testing the idea and the FCC is reviewing regulations that would guide such projects.

    Still, direct mailings pitching the new service across the suburbs won’t likely be seen for several years, Anderson and Kenney say. And Kenney warns the new system will target those willing to shell out top dollar for hundreds of channels and special features. The closest relief for those watchers may come in the form of pay-per-channel pricing.

    Some political and industry heavyweights, such as U.S. Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, say such pricing will lower the overall cost for basic users, and shift the cost of high-end channels and products to those who use them.

    Yet, the response from cable moguls so far has been a resounding “No.”

    The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which represents the largest cable providers, says the pay-per-channel idea is horrible and will backfire, raising rates and squeezing unpopular channels out of the market.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

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  2. #2
    Eruption blacknblue's Avatar
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    I've got digital cable, DVR, broadband internet, and virtually ALL channels. Don't ask how much I pay a month!
    Honey, I ain't through with you!

    GO ILLINI!!!!!!!

  3. #3
    Atomic Punk ZeoBandit's Avatar
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    I've got just internet and I am paying $55 a month. That is a complete ripoff, but it is the only broadband option available for me right now. DSL isn't available at my house yet.
    "What we are dealing with here, is a complete lack of respect for the law" - Jackie Gleason, Smokey and the Bandit

    www.geocaching.com - The site where you are the search engine.

  4. #4
    Casting Shade
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    I know kids down here that are paying between $150-$200 for cable internet and digital cable. Fortunately my roomate and I are cheapskates, so we just get basic cable and are therefore paying $70 for cable and high-speed internet.
    "Rehab is for Quitters"

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  5. #5
    Hot For Teacher VHHarry5150's Avatar
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    Used to have Comcast, now I'm on Direct TV. Have been for about a year and a half now. Wouldn't take anything for it neither. Hell everytime you turn around the cable bill goes up. It sucks for sure, but for some thats all they can get. It's a fuckin shame too. To hell with cable!!!!!


    "It's 5150 Time"

  6. #6
    Baluchitherium
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    12.08.17 @ 04:17 AM
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    Quote Originally Posted by blacknblue
    I've got digital cable, DVR, broadband internet, and virtually ALL channels. Don't ask how much I pay a month!
    How much are you paying a month??

    I've got DIRECTV because Comcast stops at the end of the main road in front of our house. Ass-wipes!!! We've got Verizon for phone service, but they don't offer DSL or anything else for internet. If we want it at our house our choices are either dial-up or my parent's/in-law's house
    Rock the Red!!!

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  7. #7
    Sinner's Swing! jimmy's Avatar
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    04.29.16 @ 07:05 AM
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    Cable is not a necessity...it's a luxury.

    You don't need cable TV. People choose to have Cable TV.

    Cable doesn't heat your house. It doesn't cook your food. It doesn't warm your water.

    If you can't afford cable, don't get it.
    Actually I think most of us are Dave, Sam, and Mike fans. There's just a small group of people who have strange allegiances and like to get into petty pissing contests that I can't believe everyone on this site isn't bored of. - Brett

 

 

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