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Commentary: Take a stand against cable networks

By Joel Smith, Video Operations Manager, arvig.net

Arvig television customers have seen an increase to their monthly bill, starting with the March 2018 statement. The increase varies between $3 and $8 per month, depending on the customer's service area and plan. I know this is frustrating, and we wish we had more control. Unfortunately, the rising costs of programming directly impact customers' bills.

All television providers — including cable and satellite — sign multi-year agreements that set terms on pricing, bundling and viewing options with every programmer. Arvig has contracts for all the channels in our lineup, and nearly all come with an annual increase. Programmers not only force us to pay for their channels, but they also tell us how we have to bundle them for our customers. We have never believed this was a fair way to do business, but in order to continue carriage of our customers' favorite channels we have no choice but to agree to these terms and fees.

We do our best to negotiate the best deal possible. With the hundreds of channels we offer, imagine the impact to our customers' monthly bills if we just agreed to pay stations whatever they asked? That's why you'll sometimes hear about our negotiations. When we finally come to the best agreement possible, we absorb as much of the increases as possible, but in order to continue providing the service, we have to pass along some of the costs.

The truth is the television industry is not sustainable as it currently stands. It is complicated and expensive, and programmers make it difficult to keep costs low and remain competitive. Something needs to change. However, we don't have much leverage on our own — we're a small provider in the eyes of the big media companies. That's why we need the help and support of our customers.

Under a federal law passed in 1992, television providers must obtain permission from local broadcasters to "retransmit" their signals on our cable system — the channels you can receive free over-the-air with an antenna. For many years, these networks gave us retransmission consent at no additional cost. Within the last decade, though, some stations began requiring a fee to carry these channels, which rises year-after-year. This law needs to be updated.

Arvig and other television service providers continue to actively seek reasonable reforms to broadcast retransmission consent. The FCC and federal legislators have yet to take action. If you would like to voice your concerns about these fees and charges, we encourage you to please contact the FCC and your U.S. Congressional representatives. If you'd like to use a pre-written letter, you can download it at arvig.net/TVnegotiations. You'll also find the names and addresses of leaders who need to know how you feel about rising cable costs.

In any contract negotiation, there is a "give and take" between the parties, but when working with media companies that own cable networks, we find there are far more gives — we have to give more money, give more distribution, and give more space for channels that customers don't need or watch. When the networks demand unprecedented terms and fee increases, we believe it's our responsibility to take a stand. We hope our customers will stand up with us.

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