NTCA: Rural Consumers Require Greater Flexibility In Choosing Television Programming

November 30, 2004, Arlington, Va. - The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) is concerned that a study conducted by the FCC’s Media Bureau on the sale of video programming services discounts the possibility of customers being able to choose a la carte video programming. NTCA believes that certain consumers could benefit from having the option to subscribe to a la carte services.

NTCA’s members provide CATV and other video programming services to Contact Caitlin Colligan at 703-351-2086customers in rural areas. However, small providers lack negotiating leverage and are forced to buy packages that do not reflect their customers’ preferences. In addition, as smaller providers have limited capacity on their networks, having to purchase bundled packages that may include unwanted programming restricts their flexibility in other program offerings.

According to the Media Bureau’s "Report on the Packaging and Sale of Video Programming Services to the Public," consumers who subscribe to more than nine channels likely would face an increase in their monthly bills under an a la carte regime. As such, the price increase would be felt by the average consumer, who watches approximately 17 different channels, including broadcast stations, the study concludes.

But NTCA contends that these results, in fact, may indicate that those whose viewing preferences are more focused actually could see a decrease in expenditures, if allowed to subscribe to video programming on an a la carte basis.

NTCA strongly agrees with comments made by Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.], chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, who said of the study, "I am disappointed in what appears to be a paucity of discussion on the effect of cable and satellite companies offering an a la carte pricing option to consumers in addition to existing pricing options."

NTCA Chief Executive Officer Michael Brunner agreed, saying, "Having the option to select a la carte programming would allow rural consumers the ability to better control their expenditures, and to choose the programming package that makes the most sense for them. Rural customers should not be forced to take and pay for programming options in which they have little or no interest."

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NTCA is the premier association representing nearly 600 locally owned and controlled telecommunications cooperatives and commercial companies throughout rural and small-town America. NTCA provides its members with legislative, regulatory and industry representation; meetings; publications and educational programs; and an array of employee benefit programs. Visit us at www.ntca.org.