Q. I'm calling with a question about the local cable company, Mediacom. We just received a bill for my husband's business and for our home about their coming increases. Totaling the increases for businesses is going to be about 22.7 percent when they add up all the increases. In our home package, you create a package, you have a dollar amount that you are supposed to pay monthly and then a month later they add fees saying well this was an increase by the city or some other company or whatever and we can't help these charges. So, my question is to the City of Davenport. Are they looking to get some competition in this area to compete with Mediacom? – Shirley

A. Alternatives such as Dish, DirecTV, Sling TV, etc. are available. Here is a link to a recent article "12 Alternatives To Cable And Satellite TV": http://bit.ly/2svhYlD

We also contacted the City of Davenport and Mediacom regarding your questions and concerns.

Phyllis Peters, communications director, Mediacom, Field Operations Group, responded:

"Yes, there are an increasing number of ways that consumers can receive content (and today, content is more than what is made available from TV stations and cable networks). Consumers can choose Dish Network, DirecTV, or any of the growing number of Over-the-top (OTT) providers. You mentioned Sling TV, and that is one. Other sources can be a combination of Hulu, Netflix, streaming (from the internet to an IP Television), Amazon, CBS All Access, HBO Go and others. Devices like Roku enable people to use a variety of subscription services for the content.

"The issue is this – when it comes to the content (i.e. the sports events or program series or movies & entertainment) – giant entertainment companies own the rights to that content. Mediacom and other cable companies, as well as Dish and DirecTV (satellite TV services) – we are distributors. We must pay fees for ALL content that we distribute. Programming fees have skyrocketed, and we at Mediacom have been vocal in saying it is not in the consumer's interest, and it is clearly unsustainable. But the leverage is entirely with the program owners. The fees required by TV station owners and programmers seem like a punitive ransom – because when the distributor says 'no, this price is too high to pass along to our customers,' then the program owner simply withholds the content. Each year, there are more and more 'blackout' situations – where the consumers are not allowed to receive programs from a specific distributor like Mediacom or DirecTV UNLESS that distributor pays the higher price.

"I completely understand Shirley’s frustration. Customers see ever-rising bills each year. And most customers would think that the programming costs are connected to the cable operation, as if we could control those costs. That is not the situation at all. At Mediacom, we can control the price on broadband and our low-cost, all-inclusive phone service. As an example, on the broadband side of our business (high-speed internet), pricing has barely increased over the past 15 or 16 years. That nearly steady price on internet service is incredible when you think about the huge increase in consumer use of high-speed internet, and how many devices we use so frequently in our daily lives. Despite our huge increase in consumption of bandwidth (for streaming movies, et al) and use of broadband, the pricing has only changed modestly two (2) times in 16 years. The opposite situation exists on the video side because the owners of the video content (example: Disney owns ESPN, and ESPN pays billion-dollar-contracts to obtain rights to sports events) – those content owners are well aware that the consumers in Davenport and everywhere else send their monthly bills to the distributor, i.e. Mediacom – not to Disney/ESPN or to the owners of KWQC.

"As a consequence of the out-of-control costs for programming, some cable companies (CableOne, which is present in Sioux City) have chosen to put complete emphasis on the internet side of the business and gradually fade out the high-priced contracts for video, which means that the customers will find other sources for the programming.

"Two final points (brief) – 1. Other distributors like Dish and DirecTV have notified customers of price increases very similar to Mediacom's price adjustments; and 2. 21% of American video viewers today pay for multiple streaming services…. But a majority of those also pay for some level of subscription TV from a cable or satellite company, too. (two attachments about these items)

"Shirley and other customers can call a Mediacom customer service representative and ask about a way to lower their TV subscription – by choosing a set of channels that does not include the cable sports channels. This option is a 'skinnier' bundle – and without the high-cost sports channels, customers reduce their subscription video bill by an ave. of $10 per month. Or, use the variety of new devices and streaming services to choose the kind of watching that is a priority or provides the better value (which all depends on individual viewing preferences)."

Phyllis Peters also provided additional information. To view this information visit qctimes.com/askthetimes

Ask the Times appears on Thursdays and Saturdays. You can call 563-333-2632, email ask@qctimes.com or write Ask the Times, Quad-City Times, 500 E. 3rd St., Davenport, IA 52801.



Load comments