Upcoming changes in cable TV could provide more choices and flexibility for consumers

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

$45 a month is what you pay per month for Mediacom’s family pack bundle. That may soon change, though, because there are many changes ahead on the cable television front.

The Brookings City Council passed an ordinance last month to allow the Brookings Municipal Utilities (BMU) to enter the cable television business.

This ordinance grants “a franchise to Brookings Municipal Utilities, to construct, operate and maintain a cable television system in the city of Brookings, South Dakota.”

BMU will provide cable services through Swiftel Communications.

The BMU Board decided last November that Swiftel Communications should offer video service for Brookings in 2007.

“We added Internet and wireless services years ago,” Craig Osvog, BMU executive vice president and general manager, said in the Swiftel newsletter last November.

“And now we’re at the point where digital video is the next product we need to offer,” he said.

While the local government is making advances in implementing digital cable, the national government is debating the issue of a la carte cable TV, an idea that would allow TV watchers to specifically choose the channels they want to have and pay for.

A Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released last month argued that most cable TV subscribers would save money if allowed to pay just for the channels they want.

The FCC had previously been against the a la carte option.

“I am pleased that the commission has concluded that `a la carte’ offering could reduce consumers’ cable bills by as much as 13 percent,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told the Associated Press last month.

This idea strikes fear in cable companies, the AP reports. They fear that a la carte cable would diminish their wide distribution.

The very idea that is causing fear amongst cable networks is appealing to students, not because of the freedom of choice, but because of the high expense that is cable TV.

Sophomore Erin Olson shelled out close to $500 for the family pack that Mediacom offers.

The package offers close to 70 channels and other movie channels. It comes with a box and a remote.

“I wanted bigger than the smaller package and it was only $40 more a year and you get a lot of movie channels in addition, so I just figured $40 is worth it,” she said.

TV is her one indulgence.

“I work over the summer so I can have money to spend on things I don’t necessarily need, so TV is my one luxury,” Olson said. “Other than that, I’m cheap.”

Junior Lindsey Stewart, now living off-campus, recently ordered satellite service from Dish Network because of the high cost of cable.

“We got satellite the first part of January,” she said.

She and her roommate now receive, “well over 100 channels,” including local channels and pay-per-view channels.

They have Dish’s second most package and they still pay less than they did for cable through Mediacom.

“They have a promotion where you get your first three months for a $20 a month and then after that it’s $40 a month,” Stewart said.

“I think it’s – especially for college students – it’s cheaper and you get more for your money,” she said.