From the What Did You Expect Department, Comcast announced on Thursday that the company would be raising the rates for basic (analog) cable service an average of 6 percent nationwide, starting as early as January 1, 2006. This brings the average rate for basic cable to more that $47 a month. Most other cable operators including Time Warner, Cox Communications, and Cablevision have either announced increases or indicated that increases are likely. Some cable customers have expressed interest in switching to satellite service, but while rate increases have not been announced by the major suppliers, DirecTV and Dish Network have both had annual rate increases for the past few years.
On the one hand, consumers do have a choice between local cable service — which has exclusive control over the market in many cases — and satellite, which does increase competition. The services are adding features and expanding offerings, however, which pushes prices in the other direction. The fact remains that it’s no longer uncommon to spend $600 to $1,000 a year just on cable service. Where I live, I can get stripped down analog service — mostly local broadcast stations — for a bargain $12 a month, but basic service costs nearly $50 a month, and digital service starts at nearly $60 a month.
All this makes a NetFlix subscription and a good digital terrestrial broadcast receiver and antenna seem like an attractive bargain by comparison.