Brindisi’s plan comes after Spectrum increased the rates of each of its three tiers of cable packages by $7.50 per month

Weeks after Spectrum announced it would raise prices for its customers, Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-NY) unveiled a new plan to counter the cable company’s price hikes and investigate rising costs.

Brindisi plans to add language to the upcoming federal funding bill that would force the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take action against cable and internet providers who continue to raise prices and undermine customers.

Brindisi blasted the company for its “high cable prices, poor customer service and a failure to expand service into underserved areas.”  

“Many of my constituents are working two or three jobs, or perhaps living on a fixed income, and they can’t afford all these rising costs,” Brindisi said. “This is one of the top issues that we get phone calls into our office about.”

Under Brindisi’s plan, the Chairman of the FCC would have to submit a public report to Congress within 180 days of passage of the federal funding bill. The report must detail ways for consumers to protect themselves from predatory actions by cable and internet companies and must also propose regulatory consequences for cable or internet companies who are fined at the state level, like Spectrum was last year.

Brindisi’s plan would also create a working group to investigate rising rates in the cable and internet industries. The congressman said he would like for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to be part of this working group, because consumers will need those agencies to work together on enforcing any new rules or actions, especially those relating to predatory actions.

Since passing the budget bill is a priority, Brindisi hopes that embedding his plan within it will make it more difficult for the cable and internet industry to fight back. If they reject his plan, they should have to do so publicly in full sight of regulators, Brindisi said.

“You’re seeing record profits and their strategy of increasing cable prices is working. You’re seeing the profits rise, but it’s the people that live in places like upstate New York who are struggling that are left holding the bag,” Brindisi said.

“I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant. Here’s a company that fights tooth and nail to be less transparent and ultimately it impacts the people that I represent,” Brindisi said. 

Brindisi was also not shy about calling out cable companies like Spectrum for what he saw as profiteering. 

“You’re seeing record profits and their strategy of increasing cable prices is working. You’re seeing the profits rise, but it’s the people that live in places like upstate New York who are struggling that are left holding the bag,” Brindisi said.

When Spectrum raised its rates in October, it did so substantially. The company increased the rates of its three tiers of cable packages by $7.50 a month each, while internet-only customers will now pay $69.99 per month, up from $65.99. 

Meanwhile, Charter Communications, which operates Spectrum, has seen its stock price rise by 67 percent in 2019.

Lara Pritchard, Spectrum’s Senior Director of Communications, Northeast Region, responded to Brindisi’s proposal by saying the company supports regulatory reforms to help drive down customers’ costs.

“We appreciate Congressman Brindisi’s interest in the rising cost of cable television. We have consistently called for reforms to the regulations governing the video marketplace to address the skyrocketing cost of programming, the single biggest contributor to customers’ cable bills,” Pritchard said in an e-mailed statement. “These increases outstrip inflation and cost-of-living adjustments, with fees paid to local broadcast channels in the form of retransmission consent representing the largest contributor to higher programming costs over the last few years.”

“With the important video legislation set to expire this year, Members of Congress, like Rep. Brindisi, have the opportunity to enact reforms that would protect consumers from runaway increases in the cost of broadcast programming and greater choice in the programming they pay for,” Pritchard added.

In addition to trying to hold Spectrum accountable for price hikes, Brindisi said he’s also looking into reports on questionable Spectrum business practices in other states, including Maine, where customers recently found themselves being charged even after canceling their accounts.

These plans mark Brindisi’s latest attempts to increase oversight of cable and internet companies. Earlier this year, Brindisi introduced the Transparency for Cable Consumers Act, which would require cable companies that have been fined to report information about their billing practices. 

That bill has languished in committee and Brindisi has a theory as to why. “It’s very difficult to get traction on legislation like this, because these cable companies have a lot of friends in Washington,” Brindisi said. 

Despite these roadblocks, Brindisi remains unbowed and plans to continue to fight Spectrum.

“I think Spectrum is an example of a larger problem we are having in this country which is the growth in these monopoly-like companies, which directly leads to the increase in income inequality across our nation,” Brindisi said. “I’m not giving up, I will fight like a dog to continue to provide more transparency over this industry and other monopoly-like industries.”