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The Bigger They Are…
by Rick Hoar, Managing Producer
March 1, 2010

Are you ready for the latest death rattle from Big Cable?

I was shocked this weekend, when I went into my apartment’s office to renew my lease and discovered that management had decided to levy a $40/month mandatory charge for Comcast cable TV on all of its future residents. Forty bucks for cable each month certainly isn’t an outrageous price, but for someone like me who has no intention of paying for Comcast television, the significant delta in rent was enough to make me think twice.

What is truly outrageous about the situation in my corner of North Houston, is that it isn’t a case of a de facto monopoly offering a special rate to the community it serves. This complex actually has fiber optic connectivity to AT&T’s U-verse digital TV service available – an affordable and very competitive offering. At least, it was competitive until local renters became indentured to Comcast to the tune of $40/month.

What would be the advantage of choosing AT&T’s service if one now has to essentially pay an additional forty dollars to receive the same product every month? Or what, if like me, you’ve kicked the cable habit altogether, and simply want to use your telecommunications budget to purchase better Internet connectivity in lieu of subscription TV and basic ISP?

In October of 2007, the Federal Communications Commission banned exclusivity agreements between apartment community managers and telecommunications providers (read: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21529079/), and while this sort of policy may not violate the letter of the law, it certainly treads upon its intent. It just goes to show that for every government intervention, there’s a corporate loop hole – the only loser is the taxpayer.

Fortunately, the free-market is hanging on for dear life in some areas of this New America. So, rather than expending the time and effort to battle Mid-America Apartment Communities in court for the rights they had usurped, my wife and I simply drove down the road that afternoon and found a complex that wasn’t in bed with Comcast (to such a degree). We move at the end of the month, and couldn’t have been happier for the opportunity to shop MAAC’s competition!

Will we save much money? Not really. Will we enjoy the freedom won from the minimal effort of spending some time and a few dollar votes? Bet your ass!