Cable Companies Monopolies An Issue That's Never Addressed
Patch reader says Alpharetta City Councilman now knows what his constituents have known all along.
Awhhhh, Poor Baby! Welcome to our world! Your constituents have been putting up with this kind of no service for years. It does not matter if it is Comcast, Charter or whoever; they have been granted monopolies and take full advantage of it. They know the only way to get truly fast internet service or TV without unsightly dishes or weather outages; crucial to today’s modern lifestyle, communications, and business needs, your only resource is cable. (And how do you install satellite when you are on the wrong side of the building in an apartment or heavily wooded subdivision and your municipality won’t let you cut down the trees?) Satellite and U-verse just cannot compete at this point! They quote a price, add hidden fees (not taxes), and slap the consumer up-side the head and say thank you very much, and the damn politicians just turn a blind eye to it until they get caught in the trap. This is what happens when you have government sanctioned monopolies. I have used both Comcast and Charter over the past 5 years and they both still stink! But they get away with it because what choice do you have? Every area in the country that has competing cable providers see rates fall as much as 30%, and the customer service actually is service. Clark Howard has been pointing this out for years. Treat me like squeeze and I will simply go to your competitor.
If our elected officials had a back bone they would ignore the contributions, and stand up for those who they pledge to serve. Originally, when cable had to be laid, monopolies made sense, the cable companies needed to be assured they would have the customer base to offset the cost of building the infrastructure. But the cables have been laid, they have been more than paid for, and in any new development the developer has had to carry the burden of cost for putting in the infrastructure in order to sell homes, office space, or retail space; and the cable companies get to ride on their backs! Enough already!
Here is a simple plan to solve the problem:
1, The cables have been laid, any cable company wishing access to these cables to access customers has to pay the county, or city/town a fee to access these cables. This is the so called Franchise Fee and should be based on a Per Customer basis. Included in these fees is a small amount to compensate the company that owns the cables. If the county or city/town owns the cables it compensates them. A SMALL AMOUNT, because the actual cost of laying the original cables has been more than paid for! Included in this agreement is the commitment to aid and assist, or help pay for any cable upgrades or repairs. It is simply a cost of doing business. If technology requires that a second or third cable must be laid, the right-of-way has already been assessed and the cost should be borne by the new provider. NO MORE DAMN MONOPOLIES! That provider agrees to sell access to its cables if needed!
2, No more hidden fees! When you quote a price for service, it includes all fees excluding actual sales taxes which vary from place to place. Fees are a cost of doing business, just like leasing a copier, buying a computer, or office space. If the municipality is charging you a franchise fee or access fee, it is no difference than a business license fee etc. Include it in you rate… period. This should be true for all utilities! Telephone, cable, internet have become as much a part of our necessary lifestyle today as gas, electricity, water etc. Break the fees/cost down in your billing statements if you wish, [recommended so the consumers can see if they are being gouged by our politicians by paying higher prices because the pols are trying to hide high fees (a hidden tax) in their charges to the providers], but the rates are flat and all inclusive. No excuses, the Airlines seem to be doing this just fine, McDonalds doesn’t add 5 cents to my $1 hamburger for the business license, and the consumers have had enough! It’s time for the cable operators to play by the same rules the rest of us have to play by!
3, All NECESSARY EQUIPMENT is INCLUDED IN THE PRICE! Upgrades or additional equipment not necessary for the stated service, such as DVR, etc. can be priced separately. If Hi-Def service is being marketed with additional channels being provided, then the minimum necessary equipment to access these features the consumer is paying for should be included in the price. If service is being advertised for 1 room, or 4 rooms, then the minimum equipment required to access the features in all the rooms being advertised should be included in the price.
Right now, there is no way for the consumer, aka voter, to reasonably compare prices because of all the hidden fees and hidden equipment rentals required to actually use the services they are paying for! Hell, the customer no service reps on the phone can’t even give you an exact price. How can a family make a budget, when the charges are a mystery? If the companies are ashamed of what they actually have to charge for their services, and the politicians are helping them get away with hiding it, perhaps neither should be allowed to proceed in their chosen professions. We have laws against false or misleading advertising, and we use to have politicians and law enforcement with the backbone to enforce these laws. With election on the horizon, Perhaps now is the time for some serious discussions on this topic! Where does your local or state official stand?
Perhaps the Patch could start asking some questions! We sure would appreciate it.
Jim R. Miller
PS, Regarding fees, this should be true for All Business. If a car dealer advertises a car for $9,995, then the price should be $9,995 plus sales tax & license fees; not $9,995 + a hidden, mandatory $799 processing fee, plus sales tax, (which is charged on the processing fee also). Hidden, mandatory fees are a scam and should be prosecuted as such! Same with furniture stores, insurance, etc. The advertised price should be the price… period.