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EDITORIAL: TV from AT&T: more of the same: New service fails to take advantage of its Internet technology to serve consumer.
[January 16, 2007]

EDITORIAL: TV from AT&T: more of the same: New service fails to take advantage of its Internet technology to serve consumer.

(New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 16--AT&T's new television service looks like more of the same for state television viewers. Just like cable, there is the choice of packages of channels from 50 to more than 300, with an array of options and price discounts for bundling the channels with telephone or Internet service.

The new service may provide competition to cable and satellite offerings that could eventually drive down costs for some consumers.

AT&T cites that expected competition in refusing to say which towns will get its television service next. So far, people in nine Connecticut towns -- including Milford, Cheshire and Trumbull -- can sign up with AT&T.

But the AT&T service isn't designed for those on a tight budget. The cheapest of its TV packages includes 50 "family-oriented" channels and costs $44 a month. Most people will likely pay more to get the channels they want.

And that is the disappointment. AT&T television's service is not regulated like cable television. That means it is not required to offer a basic package of channels that can be purchased, for example, from Comcast for less than $14 a month. AT&T has little interest in "low-value" customers, as one company official described them in congressional testimony.

AT&T is not regulated like a cable company because AT&T uses the Internet to deliver just the channel selected to a customer's television.

Despite the technical ability for AT&T to let its customers pick just the channels they want, its customers must pay for many channels in which they have no interest. AT&T, like the cable companies, shifts the blame for this practice to the content providers.

The Federal Communications Commission seems to be moving away from the industry view of large channel packages toward supporting the consumer friendly policy of a la carte choice and pricing.

There is no reason customers should be billed for dozens of channels they don't watch just to get the ones they actually want. AT&T's decision to stick with the cable industry's bad, old policy is a reminder that the FCC, if not the state which allowed this pricing structure, may have to step in for the consumer.

Copyright (c) 2007, New Haven Register, Conn.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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