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NYT: Restructuring Cable Regulation

Posted on Sep 6, 2009
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The New York Times editorializes that the FCC’s just-discarded subscriber cap for cable companies didn’t go far enough.

As fewer and fewer media companies serve more and more people, it’s odd that a court would strike down limits on media ownership. But that’s what happened last week when a cap on coverage for individual cable companies was overturned. Check out a New York Times editorial on the issue that argues for a fundamentally new approach to media regulation.  —J.C.

The New York Times:

To foster media competition, the Federal Communications Commission has limited individual cable companies to serving no more than 30 percent of the nation’s subscribers. A federal appeals court struck down that cap last week. It is an unfortunate decision, but in reality, the 30 percent cap was not getting the job done. The ruling should prod the F.C.C. to find a fresh approach.

In 1992, Congress directed the F.C.C. to promote price competition and diversity of programming in cable television by imposing reasonable regulations on the industry. The F.C.C. responded with the 30 percent cap. The courts struck it down, and the commission adopted it again, with a new rationale.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has now thrown it out again. The court, which found the cap “arbitrary and capricious,” objected that the F.C.C. did not take into account the competition from satellite television providers and the growth in the number of channels now available.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, September 7, 2009 at 8:23 am Link to this comment

We need serious antitrust action in the media.

Newspapers can’t own radio, TV or cable and vice versa. The board of directors cannot be anyone owning stock in another media venture.

The end result would be a free press as the framers intended it to be.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, September 6, 2009 at 11:22 am Link to this comment

Verizon Wireless is a sister company of Verizon, and was not managed directly by Verizon. Only recently has Verizon begun to step in.

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Fat Freddy's avatar

By Fat Freddy, September 6, 2009 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

From the article:

It needs to ensure that customers have an array of choices among cable providers, and that there is real competition on price and program offerings.

Exactly how will they do that? Most cable providers are considered Public Utilities (state regulated monopolies). They operate over state owned cable wires. One set of cable wires, means one transmission, which means one company.  Southern NJ is “Comcast Country”. Yeah. Comcast sucks. I could state several reasons why, ranging from the way they treat their employees (no, I never worked for them), to quality of services, to cost of services, the deceptive and misleading ads,  and the way they manipulated the NJ Board of Public Utilities. But there is hope, sort of. Verizon, formerly Bell Atlantic, has decided to run all of their own, new optical fiber cables directly to the home. You see, Verizon already has certain rights to the telephone poles and underground conduit because they have been supplying telephone service forever.

Verizon got very upset when Comcast started offering internet based phone service to its customers. Verizon has been wanting to run optical fiber directly to the home for many years. They were not allowed to do so in the past due to law enforcement concerns. You see, optical fiber is nearly impossible to tap into. Copper wires are so easy to tap, a child could do it. But now, it’s possible for law enforcement to monitor phone calls from a centralized location. No need to physically tap the phone lines. So, Verizon started running their fiber, and about two or three years ago launched “FiOS”. An extremely high bandwith connection that provides cable TV, high speed internet, and landline phone service. Comcast is still operating on a lot of the 40 year old cables Jerry Lenfest of Suburban Cable ran.

More interesting stuff: Comcast, which offers its own internet phone service, has been receiving a lot of competition from other internet phone services like Vonage. Comcast is operating on limited bandwith. They prefer to be able to use their bandwith for Pay-per-View movies and events.

So what did Comcast do?

The Service is for personal and non-commercial residential use only. Therefore, Comcast reserves the right to suspend or terminate Service accounts where data consumption is not characteristic of a typical residential user of the Service as determined by the company in its sole discretion. Comcast has established a monthly data consumption threshold per Comcast High-Speed Internet account of 250 Gigabytes (“GB”). Use of the Service in excess of 250GB per month is excessive use and is a violation of the Policy

Limit the bandwith people can use, especially for other internet phone services.

People are flocking to FiOS in droves. What does all this mean? The jury’s still out. FiOS is only available in limited areas, so far.

The FCC is a toothless lion. Media corporations have seen to that.

They were pretty effective at getting Howard Stern booted off the public airways and onto satellite.

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By Rodger Lemonde, September 6, 2009 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

The FCC is a toothless lion. Media corporations have
seen to that.

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