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Uh-oh

Good morning, all.  The sun is finally shining in central Kentucky, after what feels like weeks of darkness.  I'm exaggerating, of course, but it certainly FELT that way.  It's mid-May, so time for it to start getting warm, you know.

I write this morning upon seeing the news that Time Warner Cable, our local cable TV and internet provider (and phone, too, if you're into that sort of thing), has now been acquired by Charter Communications and will later begin operating under the brand name of Spectrum.  Comcast apparently was going to buy TWC a while back but regulators let the principals know that they would not approve it, so, naturally, the next largest cable company was given the green light to acquire TWC.

My title today is indicative of the "be careful what you wish for" mindset that so often plagues our utilities (and cable TV is a utility, of course).  Here in Lexington we've had a flurry of changes in who owns our cable operator over the past fifteen years, going from Telecable to TCI (I think) to Insight Communications to Time Warner Cable.  I may have missed one or two brand names that didn't last long, of course.

But the consistent thread is that here in Kentucky, the Public Service Commission grants approval for ONE cable operator per market, and markets vary depending on geographic size and population.  That means NO competition, but this commission also is supposed to approve rate increases.  That has helped our pricing to not explode over the years, I suppose, but each rate increase requested has been granted, as far as I know.

In our state capital of Frankfort, they have something called the Plant Board that oversees the water, electric and cable TV operations.  I have always assumed that things work better there, but could be mistaken (I invite comment from anyone with first-hand knowledge either way).  Time Warner has systematically purchased most of the smaller cable operators that served smaller communities in Kentucky, so they have something close to a cable TV monopoly in our state.

I've written here previously that cutting the cord, so to speak, interests me considerably, but I have a feeling that it will be very difficult to get reliable and fast internet service, which would be a must for cord-cutters, without a cable package.  And the word online is already indicating that Charter Communications raises rates annually, caps data usage for their internet subscribers, and may actually make all of this worse.

I suppose satellite is an option, though not a very good one, and Windstream, which provides local phone service, is now offering gigabit (pronounced "very fast") internet service in some areas of Kentucky.  Perhaps an alternative will present itself.

For now, though, I suppose we'll have to wait and see.


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