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A la Carte Deadline Extended

The Federal Communications Commission has given consumer groups -- and everybody else -- an extra two weeks to file comments regarding a la carte cable service. That follows a one-week extension it already granted the National Cable & Telecommunications Association for comments and reply comments.

The comments were due last Friday, but the reply period has been extended from July 30 to Aug. 13. The consumer groups said they needed time to respond to the "numerous studies" filed in the proceeding, as well as any issues raised at the FCC’s planned July 29 symposium on the subject.

Led by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Congress has been pressuring the FCC to investigate requiring cable to offer unbundled services that subscribers can pick and choose among. In response, the FCC opened the inquiry it is now extending.

McCain argues a la carte could lower cable bills. Others, concerned about cable indecency, say it would help viewers control content by letting subscribers exclude channels they consider inappropriate.

The cable industry says a la carte mucks up the business model, would lead to higher prices, and could push some niche channels, including minority-targeted services, off their lineups.