Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The cable monopolies won't give up

The cable companies that every subscriber detests will not give up. They won't go away. Federal agencies designed to protect consumers can't stop them. They use their revenues from over-charged subscribers to appeal the Federal Communications Commission's decisions to federal courts. In the national view, they are the 800-pound gorillas in the room. States, cities and individual consumers are nothing more than annoying insects.

The big cable companies, which fought hard in the North Carolina General Assembly to outlaw competition from local governments and thereby protect their monopolistic practices, won a gift from a federal appeals court. The court ruled recently that the FCC cannot regulate cable services that provide internet access and cable television signals. The ruling leaves in place the state legislature's monopoly-endorsing law that makes it next to impossible for local governments to provide internet, phone and TV signals.

The city of Wilson, which had already put its Greenlight service into use before the law passed, was exempted from the barricade. But the ruling stamps out Wilson's intentions to expand its popular cable service.

Sen. Thom Tillis, who was leader of the Republican majority that passed the protectionist legislation, added insult to the injury with this statement: “Today’s ruling affirms the fact that unelected bureaucrats at the FCC completely overstepped their authority by attempting to deny states like North Carolina from setting their own laws to protect hardworking taxpayers and maintain the fairness of the free market.” How is forcing "hardworking taxpayers" to buy their cable services at higher costs protecting consumers? Tillis should get the Double-Talk of the Year award for that piece of self-serving and false rhetoric.

Local governments that want to provide internet services to their communities, in places where the big monopolies don't want to go, with services the monopolies don't want to provide and at prices the monopolies think are too low, will have to appeal this decision to a higher court. If they can afford it. The cable monopolies will use their over-priced services to finance appeal after appeal — anything to protect their monopoly and the state legislation they bought from cheap politicians.

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