FCC chairman keeps pressure on cable operators

His term as FCC chairman may soon be over, but Kevin Martin is not backing down from his continuing fight with cable operators.

Recently, Martin sent a letter to 13 major cable and telephone companies, asking them about recent changes they have made to their prices and service tiers. The issue specifically revolves around whether cable systems are moving some channels from their basic cable package into the more expensive digital tier.

Some consumer advocates, reported the “New York Times,” have said that cable companies, expecting a lot of new customers when analog broadcasting is shut out next February, are looking to push their higher price plans.

The cable industry is not cooperating with Martin this time. Kyle McSlarrow, the president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, wrote a letter to Martin calling his inquiry illegal and an “abuse of the commission’s processes.”

In an interview with “Bloomberg News,” McSlarrow charged that Martin has “a priority list of punishing the industry.” The cable companies have long objected to Martin’s advocacy of selling a single channel, rather than bundling cable’s channel lineup into tiers.

It appears highly unlikely that the latest battle will go anywhere because Martin’s chairmanship will probably soon end — even before the DTV transition in February.