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Consumers Union has traditionally viewed the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) as an important, but small piece in the overall goal of promoting more competition to cable monopolies. We had hoped that by putting satellite on equal footing with cable — paying the same prices for the same programming — satellite would start creating downward pressure on cable rates and promote improved quality programming, including digital and High Definition Television.
In 1999 we testified before this and other committees describing the importance of treating Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) providers fairly and equitably with cable and other Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPD), including allowing DBS to carry and distribute local channels in order to better compete with the local cable monopolies. Now that SHVIA nears expiration, it is time to assess how the Satellite Home Viewer Extension Act can work to benefit consumers.
Unfortunately, inadequate competitive forces, industry consolidation, relaxed ownership rules, and lax regulatory oversight plague a market in which satellite has yet to become — and may never become — a full alternative to cable.