Two faces of cable

Cable is either an entrenched monopoly dominating TV markets or a beleaguered sector fighting erosion of its markets to ever-stronger competitors. Commenting on a recent FCC report on competition in video delivery, cable and its critics painted dramatically different pictures of the business.

To head off re-regulation, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association last week said commission statistics show "steady, unrelenting growth of competition." The most telling stat, according to NCTA: Cable's share of pay-TV subs has dropped from 95% in 1992 to 76% today. Satellite provider EchoStar countered that cable consolidation, regional clustering of local systems, bundling of broadband Internet service with traditional TV offerings and instances of cable conglomerates refusing to sell some programming to competitors are allowing cable to "systematically maintain their immense market power."

One way to balance increasing cable concentration, EchoStar suggested, was to let it merge with DBS rival DirecTV.

Sky vs. earth

The satellite TV industry asked federal judges to strike down an FCC decision creating a terrestrial-based pay-TV system sharing spectrum used by DBS providers to compete with them. The new service would create interference and harm DBS customers, the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association told the Washington federal appeals court. If the creation of terrestrial services is upheld, SBCA asked the FCC to tighten interference restrictions on terrestrial multichannel providers.