Watkins Bill Would Force 'A La Carte' Cable Rates
By Bill Hughes/Tim Brockwell
PADUCAH, KY - State Rep. Gerald Watkins has pre-filed a bill for next year's General Assembly that would require cable companies to provide A la carte pricing.
Watkins said under his legislation, companies could continue to market packaged channels at certain prices prices, but as they negotiate new agreements with local governments, they would have to individually price channels, so a consumer could build their own package. He said this would help two specific types of customers.
"Just the second-from-the-bottom packaging of cable television with no premium channels cost $1,000 a year, and I think that's just very unconscionable for people on fixed incomes and for the elderly," Watkins said.
He said more choices would probably mean lower prices for the consumer.
Watkins said, "I think market forces will force these individually-priced channels down to a very competitive price that a person could just pick out the channels they want to watch, and then that would be their package of consumption for cable television."
The cable industry is obviously opposed to this idea, but Watkins said networks and cable companies have enjoyed much higher than normal profit margins.
Watkins said, "When Comcast Cable can buy NBC News for $6.1 billion, there are some excess profits in the industry, but they are the only ones in opposition. I have had widespread support from Democrats, Republicans, including lawmakers, and certainly the consuming public."
The bottom package that Comcast Cable offers is 12 channels for $12.99/month, but Watkins said anything above that can become a large part of a household budget.
Watkins said getting the bill passed won't be easy, and part of it will depend on getting the committee chairman to put it on the calendar for debate. He said if that happens, he'd like to think it would pass.
The next legislative session convenes January 7 and lasts until April 15. Big tasks include passing the budget, revising the tax code, and revising the criminal code.