Senators to FCC: Consumers need your help

Kudos to four more senators who recently weighed in with a call to federal regulators to take action to finally curb the abusive business practices of America’s pay TV industry.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) this month asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to act on behalf of millions of Americans who are tired of skyrocketing price hikes, unfair early termination fees, outrageous monthly DVR fees and lousy customer service that have long served as the standard operating procedure at cable and satellite TV companies. stands with these four lawmakers, who, along with Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), have shown real courage by taking on Washington’s entrenched big pay TV lobby.

In response, the FCC is seeking comment and data for its next video competition report that focuses on the competitive strategies used by pay-TV companies to add video-related fees on customers’ bills as opposed to raising monthly subscription prices.  The FCC is also seeking comment on whether video-related fees cause customers to pay higher prices than the company’s advertised rate and in what ways customers are notified of the new fees before they actually show up on the monthly pay-TV bill.

The senators initially raised these issues because they believe there is a sense of urgency to their request, especially given the likelihood of increased concentration in the industry (i.e. the AT&T/DirecTV merger and the proposed Charter/Time Warner Cable/Bright House Networks merger) and the clear lack of consumer choices for service in the telecommunications ecosystem.  With more than 60 percent of Americans having access to just one broadband provider, the senators strongly suggest that consumers are left with “de facto telecommunications monopolies” throughout the country.

They believe it’s time to begin “empowering Americans with more information about ever-increasing rates for cable and Internet services and how providers calculate consumers’ monthly bills” so they can make better informed decisions about what they want to pay for and the types of video services that fit their personal preferences.

And, who would argue with denying consumers this important information, unless you’re affiliated with the likes of Time Warner Cable, DISH or Mediacom.
For an industry notorious for poor customer service and low consumer satisfaction ratings, one would think that pay-TV and broadband service providers would be working to constructively address industrywide market failures and bad service…

*** To access the full op-ed on The Hill’s Congress Blog please click here.