FCC Gives Boston Go-Ahead To Regulate Cable Prices Again

It’s been 11 months since the mayor of Boston asked the Federal Communications Commission if he could pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top be allowed to regulate what cable companies charge in his fair city. Well, it appears the FCC Entmoot has finally wrapped up and Boston can once again rein in soaring cable rates.

Up until 2002, the Boston city government had been able to set limits on cable prices within city limits. But after RCN entered the market, the FCC allowed cable providers to set their own rates, figuring that a competitive cable market would keep prices reasonable.

But RCN never managed to make a noticeable dent in Comcast’s Boston customer base, and currently serves fewer than 10% of the city’s cable subscribers. As a result, Comcast rates skyrocketed in recent years, with the Boston Globe reporting an 80% increase over the last three years.

And yet, many of the towns immediately surrounding Boston were able to maintain control over cable rates. Thus, while Comcast customers in Boston were paying $15.80/month (slated to increase by 5% this year) for the most basic cable service, their pals across the river in Cambridge only paid $7.30/month for identical service.

In May 2011, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino filed a petition with the FCC, asking to give the city back its authority to regulate cable rates for the city’s 165,000 cable subscribers.

“We’re pleased that the FCC recognizes what we’ve been saying all along – cable isn’t competitive in Boston,” said Mayor Menino following today’s announcement by the FCC. “Comcast’s disproportionate rate increases on basic cable service put an undue burden on Boston’s working families, who rely on this service for essential local news and programming. They are upset and frustrated with increasing rates and a lack of choice in cable providers.”