Cable Foes Trade Barbs Before Rates Hearing

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As the Senate Judiciary Committee gears up for Wednesday’s hearing on rising cable rates, consumer advocates and industry officials are trading their usual shots at each other.

Cable systems "gouge" consumers by forcing them to buy all the channels in a particular service tier, Consumer Federation of America Research Director Mark Cooper said Monday. Cooper derided cable’s explanation of rate hikes greater than inflation.

Despite the hikes, cable says the explosion of channels has led to a decrease in consumer cost per network. But "most consumers don’t want the extra channels and services they are forced to pay for," CFA and Consumers Union said in a statement describing results of a Cooper study.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association said Cooper and his allies continue to show a "lack of understanding of the competitive video marketplace."

NCTA noted that the federal General Accounting Office found that allowing customers to choose their own channels would result in few channels offered at higher prices.