Friday, December 15, 2017

From the Archives: 'Cable Competition' (1991)

With all the talk about net neutrality these days, I was reminded of this letter to the editor from me published in the Chicago Tribune on September 11, 1991, about cable television monopolies:

Cable Competition
September 11, 1991|By Richard E. Sincere Jr.

ARLINGTON, VA. — Should cable TV monopolies be ended and competition take their place?

TV Guide cover Cable televisionThis seemed to be the question professor Tas Papathanasis asked in an Op-Ed article on Aug. 26 ("Inject competition into cable TV"). Unfortunately, Mr. Papathanasis does not deliver what he promises.

There is no reason, technical or economic, why cable TV companies cannot compete head-to-head in the same local market. Yet Mr. Papathanasis proposes a timid solution to the current problem of cable monopolies-make companies compete periodically for exclusive contracts to serve localities. In reality, this is no different than the current situation in most markets.

In those places where companies are allowed to compete in every sense of the word-Allentown, Pa., is one notable example-the price of basic cable service is kept low and consumers have more choices regarding the channels they receive and the services companies make available.

A temporary monopoly such as that proposed is still a monopoly; we consumers remain the losers. Once local governments allow competition among currently available services and once the federal government allows telephone companies to enter the cable TV business, consumers will be the big winners.

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