Armed with a plan in-hand to tackle Spectrum Cable in the upcoming federal funding negotiations, Congressman Anthony Brindisi made an unconventional public push, this week, to combat continuously climbing cable and internet rates. Brindisi explained how he will try to use the upcoming federal funding deadline to force the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take new and decisive action against cable and internet providers who are largely inelastic in demand and undermining consumers. Brindisi said by publicly revealing his plan, he will force Spectrum to accept the commonsense terms or publicly fight, allowing regulators to see for themselves what is really going on.
“Today I am all but shouting-out my plan to hold Spectrum accountable in the upcoming federal funding negotiations, where I will work to insert language Spectrum will have to fight like a dog to remove,” Congressman Anthony Brindisi said.
Under Brindisi’s plan, no later than 180 days after passage of a federal funding bill (a must-pass bill) the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must submit to Congress a public report that does three things:
- Details actions to protect consumers from predatory actions by cable and internet companies, which includes debt collection methods.
- Requires the FCC to propose appropriate regulatory consequences for cable or internet companies fined by a state public service commission. Charter Communications was subject to a fine from the New York State Public Service Commission for failing to uphold the terms of its merger with Time Warner Cable.
- Establishes a working group to investigate the rising rates we all continue to see in this industry.
Brindisi says this broad language will be a direct concern for Spectrum, forcing them to accept or fight.
He also says he would like to see the Federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) be a part of this working group because consumers will need those agencies to cooperate on fully promoting and enforcing any new rules or actions, especially as it concerns predatory actions.
Brindisi said his plan is unconventional in that he is forewarning Spectrum about his plans.
“Usually, when up against a mega-company like Spectrum, the general thinking is to try and ‘sneak’ in language that holds an industry’s feet to the fire, but the way I see it, Spectrum should have to publicly fight me in full sight of regulators. None of what I am demanding is going to hurt them, but it will make things better for consumers. So, let’s see what they do,” Brindisi added.
Separately, Brindisi says he is also looking into reports on questionable Spectrum business practices across the country. He says showcasing how Spectrum’s business practices are of concern in other states further helps make the case for action. For example, investigative reporters in Portland, Maine just detailed how a quiet change in Spectrum policy means “in some cases, you’ll keep paying, even if you cancel.”
Brindisi has also introduced the Transparency for Cable Consumers Act (H.R. 1555) in the House, but the bill is currently sitting in committee, where Brindisi says some of Spectrum’s favorite members of Congress want it to be. Wall Street shares of Charter Communications climbed about 14% higher this past October thanks, in part, to a “boost from higher prices.”
According to industry reports, third-quarter earnings revealed an increase in customers by about 300,000, a rapid add of broadband subscribers and a loss of cable viewers, which Brindisi says local subscribers are being used to make up the difference.