Entries in Cable (7)


McCain Proposes Bill Allowing for ‘A La Carte’ Buying of Cable Channels

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a bill in the Senate that would let you get HBO without paying for the DFH Network, defying a powerful telecom industry that is vociferously opposed to allowing pay per channel options.

The “Television Consumer Freedom Act of 2013″ would let consumers buy cable channels “a la carte,” something the Netflix and Hulu generation has been clamoring for to the trepidation of telecom giants.

“You want to watch one television program, you can watch it. If you don’t, you don’t have to. The situation today is obviously far different from that,” McCain said introducing the bill in the Senate Thursday.  “That’s unfair and wrong, especially when you consider how the regulatory deck is stacked in favor of industry against the consumer.”

For avid fans of Girls, or Game of Thrones, McCain is speaking to their deepest desires. The ability to subscribe to HBO Go, without paying Comcast, Verizon, or the Dish Network nearly $100 a month has for a long time seemed like a fantasy.

And it may yet be.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, which spent $200,000 on lobbying the federal government in 2013, is strongly opposed to the bill.

“In a thriving marketplace that is constantly providing consumers with new services and features, a government-mandated a la carte system is a lose–lose proposition,” they said in a statement. As countless studies have demonstrated, subscription bundles offer a wider array of viewing options, increased programming diversity and better value than per channel options. In today’s video marketplace, consumers enjoy more choice than ever before.”

And the NCTA’s lobbying pales in comparison to the $14.86 million that Comcast spent on lobbying in 2012.

McCain says that the cost of cable has spiraled out of control, which is only possible if large cable and satellite companies have a monopoly.

“People are on fixed incomes, people are hurting. Why on earth should they have a 100 percent price increase?” McCain said. “And the only way that could be done is through monopolies.”

McCain’s bill would tie the availability of copyright licenses that allow providers to protect their content to the voluntary offering of a la carte channels.

On the other side of the issue are smaller cable companies, represented by the American Cable Association, who support McCain’s efforts, which may help open some room in the telecom marketplace for smaller carriers.

Sen. McCain’s new bill highlights a point that many, including ACA, have been making for a long time, which is that programmers use their formidable market power to impose tying-and-bundling requirements on unwilling distributors. The result is that consumers must subscribe to large pay-TV packages that are populated with dozens of unwanted channels.

McCain’s bill also deals with another vexing issue for television watchers: sports blackouts.

His bill would also prevent sports blackout for games broadcast from publicly funded stadium -- which is to say a lot of stadiums.

According to Deadspin, which compiled data on stadium construction, tax dollars financed more than 60 percent of the cost of building or renovating the 186 sports stadiums constructed between 2009 and 2012.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


D.C. Man Sues Comcast Over Error That He Claims Cost Him $26,000

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In June 2010, Marc Himmelstein called Comcast of the District LLC to cancel his cable and high-speed Internet services in his Northwest Washington, D.C., home, Courthouse News reported.

Comcast told Himmelstein he was due a refund of $123.19.  The company’s equipment was removed from Himmelstein’s home, but a modem was accidentally left behind, and Himmelstein was charged $220, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sept. 6, 2012.

Himmelstein, the CEO of National Environmental Strategies, a D.C. lobbying firm, had no idea that he still had the modem, or that he owed Comcast a dime. He learned about his “debt” in August 2010 when he called Comcast to ask about the $123.19 refund.

He was told that as soon as he returned the missing modem, the charge would be removed. That is exactly what Himmelstein did, and he contacted Comcast “on at least three occasions,” according to the court filing, to make sure it had received the modem.  While Himmelstein didn’t receive a written notice, he was informed Comcast had fixed the error, and that his refund was en-route, the filing states.

Except it wasn’t. Not only did Himmelstein never receive the $123.19 refund, he had no idea that the $220 charge had been forwarded to Credit Protection Association, and that in December 2010, CPA had reported the late charge to three national credit-reporting agencies.

Himmelstein is not the only unhappy Comcast customer who has experienced difficulties with the cable service. There is an “I Hate Comcast” Facebook page, along with an anti-Comcast blog set up in 2009, targeting Comcast.

Himmelstein said he learned about the credit reporting filing in the spring of 2011, when he tried to refinance his mortgage with Citibank, and his credit report showed that his account was in arrears thanks to the Comcast charge. According to the claim, “because of this outstanding debt, Citibank required Himmelstein to pay an additional $26,000 (one percent of the value of the mortgage) for the same loan.” He paid it.

Himmelstein and his lawyer, Matt Finkelstein, of Bethesda, Md., filed a breach of contract claim and negligence against Comcast in D.C. federal court. They have also sued the Credit Protection Association for negligence and violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Himmelstein is seeking to recoup the $26,000 that Citibank required him to pay to refinance his mortgage, attorney fees and the $123.19 credit he was owed when he first closed his account, which he has still not received.

On Oct. 22, Comcast filed a motion to dismiss all charges.  Last week, District Judge James Boasberg partially dismissed claims for constructive fraud and a “bad faith” breach of contract.

“The accounting mistakes made by Comcast in handling Himmelstein’s account -- while unquestionably frustrating -- do not raise an inference of bad faith sufficient to state a claim for breach of covenant,” Boasberg wrote.

But Boasberg refused to dismiss the negligence claim against Comcast because, he wrote, unresolved questions remain about the company’s duty to Himmelstein.

Both Comcast and Himmelstein declined to comment to ABC News.  CPA did not return phone calls from ABC News.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Your TV Set-Top Box Never Sleeps, and It Costs You

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Not many of us watch television 24 hours a day — but we might as well.

Even when people’s TVs are turned off, the set-top boxes from our cable company, telephone company or satellite provider keep on running, gobbling energy and jacking up our electric bills. The worst offenders are digital video recorders (DVRs), which are essentially always on.

On Thursday the industry announced a voluntary program to try to rein in those power-hungry devices.

“It’s really an unprecedented agreement,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of Technology for the Consumer Electronics Association. “We estimate that consumers are going to save once this agreement is fully implemented over the next five years $1.5 billion dollars annually, so it’s a significant agreement in terms of its energy savings.”

The move comes as federal regulators debate whether to impose national energy standards on the box-top sets.

Also, last year, the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, released a report citing the boxes for energy waste, estimating they consume $2 billion dollars a year in electricity when they are not in use.

NRDC Senior Scientist Noah Horowitz Thursday told ABC News, “The industry is taking some initial, modest first steps which we support, but they are not going far enough.” He said most consumers have no idea that “new DVRs typically consume as much or more energy than the 42-inch TVs that they might have connected it to.”

The industry insists that Thursday’s announcement is a “significant” move. Big cable providers, including Comcast and Time Warner, will take the first steps. They’ll send software changes to the 10 million cable boxes already in homes, to put them in a “light sleep” mode when they’re not in use. That could cut power use by 20 to 30 percent.

Under the agreement, cable companies will also develop and test “deep sleep” devices to see if they are feasible. The industry also promised that starting next year, at least 90 percent of the new boxes it buys and gives to consumers will meet tougher EPA energy savings standards.

Fifteen companies that have signed onto the agreement: Comcast, DirecTV, DISH Network, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Verizon, Charter, AT&T, Cablevision, Bright House Networks and Century Link; and the manufacturers Cisco, Motorola, EchoStar Technologies and Arris.

According to the CEA, the consumer electronics in your home today account for about 13 percent of your energy bill. The top three offenders: the TV, computer, and those set-top boxes.

The NRDC’s Horowitz said pay-TV providers need to take a page from today’s smartphones, “which sip rather than gulp power when not in use.” He said he sees today’s move as an industry attempt to head off government regulation. He said mandatory energy standards would be “the best way to ensure that these new boxes will be more efficient.”

The CEA’s Johnson disagreed, arguing that “the voluntary agreement really represents the best way to meet the government’s goal of saving energy” by protecting “innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

The industry promises to release regular reports detailing the future energy savings generated by the new agreement, something the NRDC will be keeping a close watch on.

For consumers, there’s little they can do to stop the energy drain on their own. The only way to “reduce the stand-by powers in the middle of the night is to unplug (the boxes),” said Horowitz, “and that’s not an attractive option for most consumers.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CableWiFi: Cable Firms to Join on 50,000 Hotspots

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Being a Bright House, Optimum, Xfinity, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable subscriber is about to get a bit better.  Or at least it will if you’re the type that’s always searching for a public WiFi hotspot.

Five of the nation’s largest cable companies have teamed up to allow their customers to access over 50,000 hotspots that they will jointly be rolling out across the country.  When you see the “CableWiFi” network name, you’ll be able to login with your cable company account and start surfing the web or checking email.

Even if you are outside your cable territory, you will be able to log on.  That means if you pay for Time Warner Cable in New York, you’ll still be able to log on to the CableWiFi network in Los Angeles or Las Vegas.  Access will be free for any paying cable subscriber.

The first CableWiFi networks have already been implemented in parts of New York City and central Florida.  According to a statement put out by the companies, the network will be rolling out to each of the cable companies WiFi hotspots in the next couple of months.

All the 50,000 hotspots will eventually be listed at

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


TV Set-Top Boxes Costing Americans Billions Each Year

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could your cable or satellite TV box be costing you money each year?

More than four in five homes have the equipment installed and, according to a new report by the the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), they cost Americans over $3 billion a year in utility bills. Why? They never go to sleep.

The environmental group says the set-top boxes use two-thirds of their total power consumption when they are not being used.

Furthermore, the NRDC says boxes that include a high-definition digital video recorder, or HD-DVR, use more electricity than the average flat panel TV.

The group says more energy efficient boxes could reduce power consumption by 30 to 50 percent by 2020.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Viamedia Appoints New VP of Business Development

PR Newswire/Viamedia(LEXINGTON, Ky.) -- Independent cable provider Viamedia announced on Sunday that Jack Olson has been appointed as Vice President, Business Development of the company.

According to a Viamedia press release, Olson, who has over 25 years experience in sales, will oversee strategic development and growth of new business opportunities for the firm.

"We are pleased to welcome someone with Jack's experience and cable advertising industry influence to our management team," said Viamedia CEO Jeff Carter in a statement. "Jack is a true leader. His knowledge of the cable advertising industry will be an invaluable asset to Viamedia as we continue to expand our national footprint."

Viamedia specializes in providing media solutions for local, regional and national advertisers by inserting advertising onto cable networks such as ESPN, MTV, CNN, LIFETIME, A&E, and TNT, according to information on the company’s website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Cable Providers to Hike Prices as Early as February

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- TV viewers may have to pay a little more to watch their favorite shows, as cable providers across the U.S. begin to raise prices.

DirecTV customers will see a price hike of around four percent starting Feb. 10.  For customers that are a part of an introductory plan, monthly plans will remain the same, but old customers will be shelling out more money for the cable provider's various plans.  The lowest package will jump from $39.99 to $44.99.

Moreover, Time Warner customers are expected to see a seven percent increase and Cablevision will raise rates to around three percent, according to the

DISH Network prices will also hit a high with some customers paying 12 percent more beginning in February.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio