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Free-Market Socialists
Consumerist had a post about how FCC chair Kevin Martin thinks cable prices are too high. Well, duh. Glad you finally came out of your long slumber, Kev. From a Leslie Cauley story in USA Today:

If you're tired of paying for dozens of cable TV channels that you don't want and don't watch, relief may be on the way.

The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday plans to begin considering banning programmers from "tying" — making cable systems take less-popular or new channels to get must-haves, such as ESPN (DIS) or CBS (CBS).

Programmers have used the practice to launch scores of channels. That's why you see all those spinoffs of Walt Disney's ESPN on basic and digital cable. Operators didn't necessarily want them — they just couldn't see a cheaper way to get the flagship channel.

Each extra channel adds a fee to customers' bills. "The problem for consumers is that they have to pay higher rates for a bunch of channels they may not want or watch," says FCC chief Kevin Martin.

...Cable operators are required to carry all local TV stations, but federal rules let broadcasters pick how they want to be paid: Cash or carriage of their company's cable channels.

Polka says programmers typically set the cash price so high that operators have little choice but to agree to take their channels. Recently, they've even started to demand support for their websites, he says.

Martin says that under the bar on bundling that the FCC plans to examine, programmers would have to sell channels individually. "You can't tie the channel in any way. … If you only want one channel, you shouldn't have to take 10 or 20."

Cable consumers pay a lot less in Paris, where the commies gather at night to rue the new Sarko-nomics:

Parisiancommies.jpg

Yet, in the supposedly free-market, capitalist US, I pay over $100 for home phone service -- a phone line and a fax line -- alone. Disgusting.

Cable is another $60-some (of course, unlike in France, I only have one "choice," Comcast-turned-Time-Warner). And I pay $70 for DISH TV.

So, that's more than $200/month over the price I'd pay in commie France for all three combined: 19.90 eu. See?

CableParis.jpg

Do you think it's possible to be a capitalist -- except when the utility bills come?

photo of Amy by Gregg Sutter


Posted by aalkon at September 18, 2007 10:59 AM

Comments

"Yet, in the supposedly free-market, capitalist US, I pay over $100 for phone service -- a phone line and a fax line -- alone. Disgusting."

Well, that's exactly why it costs what it does. How many useful conversations are going on via cell phone in the the US? Why, again, are there at least five cell-phone companies?

I suggest to you that Americans love to babble at each other in proportion to how powerless/insignificant they feel. Look at the obvious link between car phones and dying in wrecks. America babbles on.

Posted by: Radwaste at September 18, 2007 2:41 AM

Raddy, it's not that you're wrong, but what difference does it make? Shouldn't people be able to do whatever they want with their private communications channels? Even the powerless and insignifcant people.

Cable TV prices aren't worth worrying about. Swollen copyright protections and net neutrality are worth worrying about!

Posted by: Crid at September 18, 2007 3:53 AM

Also, does it look like those socialist flowers are riding ontop of deadly, hammering fists? Is this a metaphor or something?

No?

Very well, carry on. Sorry.

Posted by: Crid at September 18, 2007 3:55 AM

I suppose one could make a better world by picking the best features of each country, and combining them into a pleasant whole.

Reminds me of the joke where heaven is a place where the cooks are Spanish, the mechanics German, the lovers Italian, the police are British, and it is all organized by the Swiss...Hell is where the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are Spanish, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organized by the Italians.

Posted by: doombuggy at September 18, 2007 4:12 AM

Well, that's exactly why it costs what it does. How many useful conversations are going on via cell phone in the the US? Why, again, are there at least five cell-phone companies?

On the contrary, the French (and probably other European countries, but I just go to France!) are much more competitive in both cell phones and mobile phones. And have been. That's the rate for my home phone via Verizon. I have only two choices in that arena. I switched after ATT went up to around $120.

It's in France, by the way, that I was first able, long ago, to get pay-as-I-go cellphone service. It makes it possible for me to have cellphone service in France and for about 55 cents a minute. See blog item directly below this one -- I just got my cellphone company to unlock my phone. In Europe, I believe the phones aren't locked.

P.S. Speaking of competition in the commie market, last year the same combo deal from another company was advertised for 27 eu.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 4:48 AM

Amy - you can buy unlocked cell phones in the US, but you're going to pay the full price for them. At least AT&T doesn't cripple their phones like Verizon does.

And I don't know how you're paying $120 a month for telephone service. I have AT&T and I pay under $80 a month for telephone with (pretty much) unlimited long distance and 6 Mbit DSL. The cell is another $55. If I combined the accounts, I could save another $5 a month.

And unfortunately for the consumer, a-la-carte cable is going to double or triple the cost. It isn't the cable companies that are setting the cost of content, it's the content providers. And their ultimate goal is to get paid every time you think about their content.

Oh, and the reason that the cell phone market (such as it is) in Europe is cheaper? Subsidies. Your cell phone service is cheap there because the people of France were taxed to make it so. And I don't know why you needed pay-as-you-go service there. I used my AT&T phone in Sweden with no issues, although I'll grant it was 99 cents a minute. But if you're over there often enough they have a package for a few bucks a month that gets you a vastly reduced international rate.

Posted by: brian at September 18, 2007 4:56 AM

I need cable for my work. I have a package with caller ID and unlimited nationwide calls on one phone.

As for cable, I'd be happy with far fewer channels than I actually have.

I spent less than 10 eu last week for text messaging and 55 cents a minute calls out, but I generally call out from the apartment phone. Calls in are free! I didn't even use up my 10 eu charge, and I sent about 10 text messages. Also, if you're in Europe, people aren't going to call you on your American cell if they have to dial internationally. Perhaps some companies provide you with a local number. My friend can call me on a regular 06 Paris cell exchange. So can restaurants and taxicabs (like if Monsieur Taxi Bleu Aeroport is running late or can't find you). Luckily, Taxi Bleu is more reliable than that usually!

And I wouldn't want a package rate, because, thanks to the euro and Mon Hombre/Mon Amour Gregg living in LA, I'm in Los Angeles most of the time, and in France a bit every year. Had Cathy not died this year, I would have been there in February and for a month in July, per usual. (The last thing I want is a month of paying 99 cents a minute for phone calls. Instead, I usually get a 35 eu card, which comes with some free minutes, and still have minutes left when I leave.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 5:15 AM

PS If the phone market is subsidized in France, please provide a link. Also, our phone market in the USA is subsidized -- by us. We pay fees to pay for people in rural areas to have phones. Until recently, we were still being taxed for the Spanish American war on our phone bills. Free market we ain't.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 5:17 AM

And I don't know how you're paying $120 a month for telephone service. I have AT&T and I pay under $80 a month for telephone with (pretty much) unlimited long distance and 6 Mbit DSL. The cell is another $55. If I combined the accounts, I could save another $5 a month.

I pay less than $80/monthly for my land line and HS DSL as well. But I got a TracFone cell phone, and I only pay for the mintes I use, no contract, no monthly fees. I get airtime every time I add minutes to the cell phone, and when I travel, I use 2 units for every minute. Text messages are free. I haven't had the chance to go overseas with it, so I don't know if it would work there (probably not), but I like that I've had this phone for well over a year and haven't yet dropped a call, even when traveling. I have Cablesvision for the TV, and that works out to about $75/month, with a premium package that gives me all the Encore, Starz, and Cinemax channels, but no HBO or Showtime. I get a whole bunch of music channels as well. I can't complain. o_O

Posted by: Flynne at September 18, 2007 6:25 AM

I have two phone lines. The second one is bare bones, no call waiting, etc. If I had one, it would probably come to $80ish. Also, I need the speed of cable for work, see above.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 6:52 AM

We use the cable for everything...phone, TV, and internet. Total cost for all of that is about seventy-five bucks per month. I keep hearing about all these problems people have with VoIP, but we've never had any static, echoes, or bad reception, and we've used VoIP for nearly four years now.

The cable we have is just basic cable, though. To be honest we watch TV so rarely (Netflix rules!) that we're thinking of dropping the TV part of our cable deal to save a few bucks a month.

Posted by: Karen at September 18, 2007 7:58 AM

I'm operating under the assumption that telecoms in most of Europe are either state owned, or state/private partnerships. Is this an incorrect assumption to make?

And as far as "speed of cable" goes, there's so small a difference between DSL and Cable internet (where DSL is available) that it doesn't matter. However, at least around here, the price difference is similarly small.

I don't know how much Pac Bell rapes people for a basic phone line, but even with the bogus E-rate tax and Subscriber Line Charge, a basic phone line (no long distance) is something like $18 a month.

Let's see - Cable TV - expanded basic (I need my Yankees and my Mythbusters) - $51.33/mo
AT&T Mobility (cell phone) 49.98/mo for 450 minutes and 1 MB internet (I don't use it enough to justify the extra $10). There's over $6 in "other charges" and taxes, bringing the total to $56.05.
AT&T land line - all the features including 6 Mbps DSL internet, call X-ing, unlimited nationwide long distance - just over $80/mo. If I didn't have the internet, it would be about $60.

Total comms bill: about $190/mo. Now, compare that with the total in France and see if it lines up or not.

Posted by: brian at September 18, 2007 8:02 AM

Cable consumers pay a lot less in Paris, where the commies gather at night to rue the new Sarko-nomics


Sorry but in the larger cities there's only one choice, Noos. It's a monopoly and is so bad that Web sites have appeared to list complaints and outages.


All the companies are going for the magical "Triple Play", ISP service, telephone and TV cable. The prices look attractive until you have a problem and a person can't even use their cell phone to call their kids. The parent ends up in a phone booth crying, using a phone card from the Tabac. Or you end talking to a call center in Africa where they read a script (like they all do).


Cable is less in Paris is just an illusion. And where the "commies" comment comes from, I have no idea.

Posted by: Don at September 18, 2007 8:43 AM

What's the tax rate in France?

Posted by: Todd Fletcher at September 18, 2007 9:40 AM

In Paris TVA is 19.6 % but your milage may vary

Posted by: Don at September 18, 2007 10:17 AM

Swollen copyright protections and net neutrality are worth worrying about!

Don't get me started, Crid!

Posted by: justin case at September 18, 2007 11:10 AM

(Karen, where do you live?)

Of all the things in life that go wrong so that people can petition the government for redress, the price of teevee just seems so trivial....

Posted by: Crid at September 18, 2007 11:17 AM

I know this is completely off the subject but...

Amy, you're in Paris. What is the extent of Islamification there? Is it something you can sense walking down the street? What are the locals (and local media) saying? Does it really seem to be a problem?

Posted by: winston at September 18, 2007 2:22 PM

T-Mobile is the only nationwide US provider that allows unlocked GSM phones, the kind that the entire rest of the world uses.

I bought one on the web and got a prepaid minutes from T-Mobile in the US and prepaid minutes from Vodafone UK here in the UK. When I get to Italy, I will buy prepaid minutes from Vodafone Italy. Unfortunately it means switching SIMs (the ID chip in the phone) when I switch countries and buying three different plans, but it allows me to use the same phone/mp3 player and make reasonably priced national calls. For international calls I use one of those 5,000 digit PIN cards. They're really cheap.

"Free market we ain't"

Yes, yes, YES! I get so tired of people saying the US is a free market. It's not even close. Basically, I've come to think of different countries as different bundles of screw job. The US has its own set of of pros and cons. It may be the best bundle for many people, but it's certainly still a screw job.

"the price of teevee just seems so trivial...."

Maybe, but the at least some of the principles causing it are applicable to other industries such as transportation. Also, you're talking about the monetary price. The opportunity cost of not having better quality communication is arguably huge.

Posted by: Shawn at September 18, 2007 2:26 PM

> Amy, you're in Paris. What is the extent of Islamification there?


You're asking this of someone who hangs out at Café de Flore? Insights are going to be limited, I fear....

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at September 18, 2007 5:08 PM

Small minds, however, seem ubiquitous today.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 6:05 PM

Amy, you're in Paris. What is the extent of Islamification there? Is it something you can sense walking down the street? What are the locals (and local media) saying? Does it really seem to be a problem?

To answer your question, Winston, which has nothing to do with which cafe I like to write my column in (I suppose Stu would be more approving if I went to some cheap and dirty joint in the 20th, but then I'd miss my favorite couple with the twin yorkies, and I do like the occasional stare at Catherine DeNeuve, who's recently had really awful plastic surgery)...anyway, I haven't been to France much in the past year because I couldn't leave while Cathy was doing so poorly, and I've been working feverishly on a book. But, more and more, I see ladies in the tent outfits (with just the prisoner-dinner-slot by the eyes) and wearing hijabs, and I find it very upsetting. I passed a lady in the tent getup in galleries Lafayette the other day.

Muslim immigrants in France have large families and they're often on the dole, and not assimilated. I think, probably in my lifetime, France as it's been (secular, with Enlightenment values) will disappear and the Muslims will institute Sharia law and paint over the face of the Mona Lisa. I say that based not on where I ate rillettes last week but based on the reading I have been doing since September 11.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 6:13 PM

As far as local media goes, my French isn't good enough to read serious writing in the language. And if I didn't make it clear, I see an increasing number of women in those getups, and in "classical" places like le Jardin du Luxembourg, and I find it very upsetting and chilling.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at September 18, 2007 6:16 PM

Hell is where the cooks are British

The cooks and the dentists.

As for cable, I'd be happy with far fewer channels than I actually have.

Twenty years ago, there were far fewer channels, but more quality programming per channel. Now it's the exact opposite.

Posted by: Doobie at September 18, 2007 9:02 PM

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