updated 04:45 pm EDT, Mon October 29, 2007
FCC ends cable exclusives
The Federal Communications Commission has announced that it may soon put an end to exclusive deals for cable companies servicing apartments. In a measure backed by AT&T and Verizon, expected to be approved on Wednesday, thousands of contracts guaranteeing exclusive building rights will be ended, paving the way for increased competition. The move should -- in theory -- drop prices, which have in some cases risen by as much as three times the rate of inflation with the last 10 years. Exclusivity is also far more likely to impact minority apartment dwellers, since while a quarter of all Americans live in buildings with 50 or more people, 40 percent of Hispanic- and African-Americans do.
For companies like AT&T, the contracts were a barrier to selling rival services, including the likes of Internet access and satellite TV. The FCC has been at the center of a struggle between phone and cable companies for some time; in December, the FCC voted to act on complaints that municipalities were deliberately slowing entry of phone companies into new territory. Last month cable companies were forced to provide programs from affiliates to all rivals, and more recently, FCC chairman Kevin Martin has tried to pressure cablecos into selling individual TV channels or groups of them at lower costs.
The decision on building exclusives marks a substantial change in FCC policy, as in 2003, it was decided that exclusives could actually foster competition by letting landlords hold out for better terms. [via The New York Times]