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Cable Rate Hikes a Chilling Sign of the Future
Customers Starting to Pay for AT&T's Monopoly Expansion
May 18, 1999
NEW YORK -- Less than 60 days after the expiration of government
controls on certain cable television packages, AT&T and its newly
acquired cable company, TCI, have broken their promise to approach
deregulation responsibly and have instead begun raising rates as much as
"AT&T has said that western Pennsylvania will be a test bed for
broadband services as the long distance giant enlarges the cable
monopoly," said James G. Cullen, president and chief operating
officer, Bell Atlantic. "To fund these ambitious plans, however,
AT&T is handing the bill to hundreds of thousands of current cable
ratepayers by increasing the cost of everything from the most popular
cable packages to set top boxes and remote controls."
Cullen said the cable rate hikes run counter to assurances provided as
recently as March by AT&T's senior leadership. In a speech to the
Washington Metropolitan Cable Club, AT&T Broadband and Internet
Services President Leo Hindery urged members to "be judicious in
how we move forward...to conduct our business in ways that are
respectful both of policymakers' concerns and of our customers. We fully
recognize the many consequences if we do not."
Cullen said, "I find an immediate price increase of almost $6.50 a
month for some customers neither judicious nor respectful, when there are
no immediate consumer benefits. That money will bankroll AT&T's
current acquisition binge to control more than 60% of the cable industry
and operate a network that's closed to all other competitors and closed to
true customer choice."
Cullen also noted that full, open competition in the telecommunications
marketplace will protect consumers from price gouging and monopolistic
"Give customers a complete choice for long distance, local, data,
Internet and cable services," he said. "If customers don't wish
to pay for AT&T's expansion into cable, let them vote with their dollars.
Customers should be free to go to Bell Atlantic or any other company to
buy a full suite of services."
Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and
information industry. With 43 million telephone access lines and nine
million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are
premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market
leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory
information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest
investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations
and investments in 23 countries.