NEW YORK: Rising prices for cable and satellite television in the US have prompted media regulators to further consider the easing of rules to award video franchises to telcos and other companies.

The Federal Communications Commission is mulling a relaxation of regulations as it prepares an annual report on how much consumers should pay for the privilege of having cable or satellite TV in their homes.

In 2005 the average price of cable TV was $43.33 (€32.55; £24.92) a month. Where satellite TV also was available, the average was $43.34. But in markets with another 'wired' video provider, the price was significantly less at $35.94. Thus proving the point, as far as the FCC is concerned, that the operators need more competition.

Earlier this year the [then] Republican-controlled House of Representatives introduced a bill easing phone companies' access to the cable TV business [WARC News: 12-Jun-06].

The Communications, Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act would allow telcos such as Verizon and AT&T to gain national franchises offering TV services, rather than having to seek approval from each local authority as cable operators currently must.

But the bill has yet to be passed, despite intensive lobbying by the phone companies.

A proposal from the FCC would require the local bodies to rule within 90 days on TV applications by phone companies (and others) with existing access to public rights-of-way. In other circumstances it would be six months.

The order would also make it harder for localities to impose "unreasonable" requirements.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff