CABLE AND CELLULAR COMPANIES FIGHT TO KEEP THEIR STRANGLEHOLD ON THE ELDERLY

Few people are happy with cable and cellular phone companies and lament over the fact that the prices are so outrageously high. The major beef with people is that these companies enjoy a near monopoly over the fees they charge. Take the cable companies who rent “set-top” boxes to customers for over $200 per year. The customer has no choice but to pay the money for the box that is more expensive each year, even though similar gadgets and devices used in other industries have come down in price. The price of computers and televisions have steadily dropped, but the cable companies artificially increase their prices because the customer either pays or doesn’t get to watch her programs. It is the cable and cellular phone companies way or the highway.

The New York Times reports that “President Obama on Friday announced his support for opening the market for cable set-top boxes, singling out the devices in millions of homes as a clunky and outdated symbol of corporate power over consumers as he introduced a broad federal effort to increase competition.”

Obama made the valid point that the unfettered power vested in the cable and cellular phone companies resulted in “less effective” innovation in the industry.

The FCC needs to reclassify internet providers as common carriers, and cellular providers need to be regulated in the same manner as phone companies. The fight to get legislation passed to help consumers (many who are elderly and on fixed incomes) will be hard to win: The billionaires who own the cable and cellular companies hire numerous unsavory lobbyists to work towards the companies interests and against the consumer. Many consumers can fight back and obtain programming from alternative (and much cheaper) sources. However, many of the often lonely elderly, who are frequently not technologically savvy, are forced to pay the steep fees. 

 

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