FCC to decide on US cable competition measure

The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on whether to make it easier for competitors to obtain cable franchises, an Associated Press report said.

US cable television rates keep going up while prices for other communications services are going down, says the US chief communications regulator, and he blames local governments for blocking competition, the Associated Press report said.

FCC chairman Kevin Martin, in speeches over the past few weeks, has said local franchise authorities at times 'obstruct and in some cases completely derail' new attempts to bring video competition to an area.

His proposal is backed by Verizon Communications and AT&T, which have poured billions of dollars into rewiring their old telecommunications networks so they can deliver television programming and other services, the report said.

The measure has alarmed local franchising authorities that have heard Martin's remarks. They contend his 'barrier to entry' argument is bogus and action by the agency may wind up hurting consumers.

At stake is the battle for America's television watchers.
The FCC reports that the average US household tuned in for eight hours and 11 minutes each day in the 2004 and 2005 fall television seasons.

The latest statistics indicate there are 109.6 million television households and 94.2 million of them subscribe to a pay television service such as cable or satellite.

Martin is using public resentment over rising cable prices to sell his proposal, the report further said.