Friday, October 13, 2006

Cable Choice and Competition Act Withdrawn to Allow Comcast Free Ticket

There is a sobering reality present in Pennsylvania today, which incumbent Joe Preston and the people who blindly support him may have yet to fully comprehend – there is so much more to politics than what State Representative Joe Preston has offered District 24.

Possibly nothing more than just election year theatrics, at one point Mr. Preston's Consumer Affairs Committee had the majority of us believing landmark legislation (HB 2880) calling for cable choice and competition was poised to advance to the floor of the House for a vote. Two years ago he had surprised his constituents by quickly advancing from the committee, without a single public hearing, Act 201 (legislation that made it much easier for the seediest financial interest in the country to terminate the electric, gas, and water service of poor and low-income customers).

Nonetheless, on this occasion public hearings were held statewide to gather input and make things appear legitimate. And, together with Raymond Bunt, Jr. (R-147th District) and more than 80 additional cosponsors, the nearly flawless legislation (only lacked language to outlaw corporate redlining) was presented as an answer to the antiquated franchise system put in place decades ago. The redundant town-by-town franchises processes currently in place dramatically delays' consumer choice and, in fact, increase the cost of doing business, i.e., constituents not cable companies actually foot the franchises revenues.

Cable companies with long-standing franchises (Comcast) argued against the legislation, and opposition centered on a big lie: "municipalities won't get their franchise fees." Telecommunications firms (Verizon) and consumer agencies argued the proposed streamlined franchising process would better benefit customers by ushering in a myriad of TV choices and lower prices. And, although an apparent majority of the public, education, and government access channels, and pertinent union membership groups testified that they approved the proposed legislation, last week Joe Preston pulled the bill from consideration.

Since 1995 cable rates have increased more than 86 percent. Since 2001 cable prices have increased four times faster than the rate of the consumer price index.