This past week there was a story over at NAB365 called FCC Chief Slams Cable Rates. If you are like me you have a very expensive monthly cable bill that has done nothing but go up and up over the last few years while only providing marginally better service. FCC Chief Kevin Martin said this;

“Today, consumers pay double what they paid less than a decade ago and they have fewer choices, not more, and they have to buy a bigger and bigger bundle of services if they want to get anything. If you want to buy the Discovery Channel for your children, you have to buy a package that includes a whole bunch of channels that you don’t want.”

This is yet more discussion on an issue that has been in the public forum for some time. I can only speak to my own experiences and opinions on the cable company I am stuck with (Comcast) but I think what I see is indicative of the issue as a whole. My household is currently paying over $140 a month for our cable and Internet service through Comcast and that is without any premium movie channels like HBO or Cinemax. This is more than my average water, gas and electric bill combined. Complaints about the cost are always met with the standard line that Comcast must raise prices to provider better features like Video On Demand and HD. Of the few times we’ve used VOD over the last 2 years it has been plagued with excruciatingly long wait times for the service to respond more often than not. Of the 6 movies we’ve rented 4 of them were with free rental coupons Comcast gave us after an attempt to watch Dan In Real Life ended 15 minutes in with an error message. HD is a nice option to have but the macro-blocking I’ve seen in the Olympic coverage pales in comparison to a Blu-ray disc while a large number of the HD cable networks show a majority of SD  uprezzed to HD material. This is what they’ve raised my rates for? Plus you’ve got the added insult of Comcast’s constant barrage of promotions that promise fantastically low rates for a limited amount of time … but only to new customers. They never offer any kind of price break or even the modest “free” gift to existing, long-time customers. I can only speak about Comcast as it’s the only service I’ve had for the last 10 years since there is no other cable competition but I’m sure that the experience is similar with other provider.

It has been suggested that competition is the only real way to bring down cable prices. While common sense should tell those that make these kinds of decisions that competition is great for consumer prices the cable industry lobby says otherwise. And when the lobbyist speaks, lawmakers listen. I’ve looked into digital satellite but besides the fact that I don’t want some yahoo-installer-off-the-street trying to run satellite cable all through my house, once you look at the costs closely they really aren’t much cheaper than cable. Though that new Dish Network TurboHD service does seem as tempting as any

Discussion always goes back to the a la carte pricing model. But there is is also an argument that says a la carte pricing would often cost the consumer more and be the end of smaller, more obscure cable networks if they could not get bundled. So there is no real answer anywhere in sight. We’ll continue to pay high cable prices with little competition for the stalwart cable companies and the FCC chief will band the a la cart drum from time to time. U-verse and FIOS can’t come along soon enough.