FCC to crack down on cable cartel

The Republican chairman of a Federal Communications Commission that has made a fetish of kowtowing to corporate interests says the government has no choice but to crack down on cable companies that have grown too big and too often gouge their customers.

An FCC report expected to be released this month will provide evidence of cable industry power consolidation and abuse seen necessary to justify new regulations, says Chairman Kevin Martin, according to reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

According to The Times:

Officials say the finding could lead to more diverse programs; consumer groups say it could also lead to lower rates.

"The finding will provide the commission with additional authority to assure that there is opportunity for additional voices," Mr. Martin said Friday in an interview. "It is important that we continue to do all we can to make sure that consumers have more opportunities in terms of their programming and that people who have access to the platform assure there are diverse voices."

Comcast and Time Warner can be expected to see themselves singled out for special attention.

The commission's conclusion that the cable industry has grown too large will be used to justify a raft of new cable television rules and proposals. They include a cap that would prevent the nation's largest cable company, Comcast Corporation, from growing, and would prevent other large cable companies, like Time Warner, from making any new large cable acquisitions.

Yes, this comes as somewhat of a surprise - OK, a shock - happening as it does during the current anything-for-business administration. And, yes, the devil as always will be in the details. But, it only makes sense that as the cable industry demonstrates time and again that it cannot self-regulate - witness Comcast's hijacking of peer-to-peer traffic - that even the most ardent of deregulators would be able to see that the consumer is powerless without more help from the government.

Of course, I don't mean to imply that the cable companies are evil ... or at least all evil. After all, Comcast does deserve credit for standing at the ready to rescue me from the clutches of Verizon.

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