Hollings: Cable better watch out


The cable industry should beware of a new regulatory push next year, Senate
Commerce Committee chairman Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) said Tuesday during a
hearing on instability in telecommunications markets.

Hollings said Congress might find next year to be the right time to embark on
new regulation because lawmakers only have held off thus far in order to allow
competition to grow in the broadband marketplace.

With the economy struggling and markets floundering, one area that might
become appealing to lawmakers is cable.

Last week, the Consumers Union gave Congress a long list of things to
regulate with regard to cable, including allowing competitors to use cable
networks to offer competitive broadband services and giving more authority over
cable operators to the states.

Senate Antitrust Subcommittee chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) and Sen. Mike DeWine
(R-Ohio) also asked the General Accounting Office to study competition in the
cable market. Besides asking the GAO to study how the presence of cable overbuilders
affects markets, the senators also are worried about price increases. "Cable-television rates continue to rise at about triple the rate of inflation since
1996. We are concerned about the competitive implications of this continued
consolidation in the . marketplace," they said.