Kerry Seeks FCC Cable Rate Analysis

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) has asked the FCC to look into cable rates in Boston and other cities in the wake of Mayor Thomas Menino's petition to reregulate basic rates there, saying in a letter to the FCC last week: "I share Mayor Menino's concerns about the consequences of price increases on families that can least afford it."

In a letter to the FCC Tuesday Kerry asked for an analysis of "the price effects the Effective Competition determination has had on basic cable rates using a sampling of markets where this determination has been made over the last ten years, including Boston and other cities in Massachusetts."

Kerry says he wants to determine "whether rate hikes are specific to Boston or systemic, if the hikes are justified, and what the factors are that can effectively check those rate hikes," Kerry wrote in his letter.

The filing consists of a petition to the FCC to recertify Boston for basic rate regulation -- the FCC ruled the city rates should be deregulated in 2002 in response to a petition from Cablevision; a review of Boston's rate status, and a report the city commissioned on rates between 2002 and the present. The FCC ruled AT&T's broadband system in Boston was subjective to effective competition in March 2002. Comcast bought the system it in December of that year.

According to the City, Comcast's rates were increased by 18% in the most recent increase, from $13.50 to $15.80. It argues that the new services and technologies and investments that Comcast has pointed to have "no impact" on basic, "antenna-level" service.

Comcast counters the market is competitive and that its basic price is still only about half that of any other competing provider.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.