The cost of cable television for apartments may soon get a lot cheaper. Millions of Americans who watch cable TV in their apartments don’t have any choice in who their cable provider is. This means no choice of rates, providers, or packages.
It’s called exclusive rights, and apartment buildings across the country have experienced them when it comes to their cable services provider. But this is about to change with the recent FCC announcement that it will no longer allow cable TV service providers to force apartment communities into exclusive contracts. Companies such as Time Warner and other large cable service providers have in the past been able to sign exclusive rights agreements with individual apartment buildings. In return for these agreements, the cable TV provider would agree to upgrade the apartment cable systems as well as other capital investment. But with these upgrades comes a downside for renters. If a renter does not like the rates that he or she is charged, they have to either switch to satellite television or go back to using good ‘ol rabbit ears. The ruling, which is expected within the next few weeks, would strike these agreements down, thereby allowing other cable service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, to provide cable television for apartments that previously had exclusive agreements. The result of allowing even just a second competitor, experts argue, is a drop in price of roughly 30%. With cable TV prices having risen significantly in the past ten years–one study estimated a rise of 93%–this will come as a relief for many families.
Proponents of limiting exclusive rights include a broad range of groups. There are other large corporations, such as Verizon and AT&T who, with recent technological advances, are now able to provide cable TV service. Then there are also satellite providers who would like to see more fair positioning in providing cable television for apartments. Finally, there are the small regional cable providers who are especially disadvantaged by exclusive rights in cable TV contracts for apartments.
So, what does this mean if you’re renting an apartment? First, there you can expect to see cheaper prices on your existing cable provider’s bills as the threat of the competition’s lower price causes price cuts. Second, with more options available, expect a more diverse set of cable television programming packages for apartments as competitors try to fit different niches in the market. Third, watch for bundling services with their cable television for apartments, especially from new cable providers like AT&T and Verizon. Both companies offer several services across the technological spectrum, such as phone, cable television, high-speed internet and wireless.