Television is a source of news and entertainment for millions of people. In recent years, many consumers have begun “cutting the cord.” They receive programming online via streaming services. Streaming can save people money, particularly those who already pay for high-speed internet service. This is because the cost of streaming services is generally cheaper than the cost of cable or satellite services, which continue to rise. Streaming also allows customers to avoid paying for bundled channels (many of which they may not watch). Instead, they just pay for the content they know they will watch.
VIDEO SERVICES: Policy
VIDEO SERVICES: Policy
Policymakers should ensure that cable, satellite, streaming services, and other pay-television operators include robust consumer protections.
Operators should charge reasonable rates. Subscribers should have control over content and cost (see also High-Speed Internet Services, and Net Neutrality). This includes through à la carte pricing, which allows consumers to watch and pay for only the individual channels they choose.
Regulators should require pay-television operators to incorporate the following consumer protection guidelines.
Price and quality comparisons: To facilitate and encourage comparison shopping, regulators should require that consumers have access to information that is low cost or free, comprehensive, and easy to read. Regulators should sponsor and disseminate price and quality comparisons of wireless goods and services.
Disclosure: Prices for wireless goods and services should be disclosed up front. Contract terms should be clear, concise, and in plain language so that consumers can understand the terms to which they are agreeing.
Choice: Consumers should have a choice of vendors, all of whom should have a fair chance to compete for customers.
Service area coverage information: Consumers should receive maps or other information from vendors that identify network holes or high-traffic areas that disrupt service.
Oversight and enforcement: State and federal regulators should conduct robust oversight and enforcement of consumer protections.
Public participation: Consumers should be adequately represented in public policy decision-making related to wireless communications.
Redress: Timely and effective means of redress should be available to consumers when they encounter problems. Vendors must clearly explain how and where consumers can lodge complaints. Mandatory binding arbitration should be prohibited.
Usability: Consumers should have easy access both to customer service agents—rather than just an automated call system—and to user-friendly instructions for wireless goods and services.
Policymakers should prohibit anticompetitive mergers and acquisitions involving pay-television operators.
Policymakers should protect consumers’ right to public-access programming on pay television.