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NEW CONSUMER CABLE GROUP WINS FIRST ROUND: CABLE BILL WITHDRAWN

 LOS ANGELES, May 4 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is being issued today by the National Consumer Cable Association (NCCA):
 The cable bill scheduled to be reheard today before the California Senate Judiciary Committee has been pulled by operators reluctant to relinquish their control over consumers' cable equipment.
 In its initial legislative effort, a new consumer group called the NCCA proposed changes in Senate Bill 454 (sponsored by Sen. Bill Lockyer). The committee responded by calling for an amendment that both protected cable operators from signal theft and allowed free competition in cable equipment manufacture and sales.
 NCCA members offered amendments that would solve both problems. These proposed changes would have:
 -- Allowed the manufacture, sale and distribution of only "closed" devices by independent third-party equipment manufacturers. (Closed devices are set only to receive programming that is authorized or provided by the system operator.)
 -- Obligated system operators to notify consumers that they have the option to purchase their own cable equipment and required them to program and interact with independently manufactured devices as needed.
 -- And, removed provisions contrary to free enterprise, as allowed under the Consumer Cable Television and Competition Act of 1992.
 Instead, the bill was withdrawn.
 "In our system of free enterprise and under the federal standards established by the 1992 Consumer Cable Act, competition for in-home cable devices should not only be allowed but encouraged," said Trey Prevost, founding director of NCCA, a national association formed to promote the legitimate business interests of cable equipment manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
 "Rather than forging legislation which would prevent signal theft and protect consumers by providing a choice for in-home cable equipment, the cable operators have chosen to guard their own self- interests by withdrawing the bill," explained Prevost.
 Senate Bill 454 would have strengthened the hold of cable system operators on California's 5 million cable subscribers by making it virtually impossible for consumers to exercise the option to own, rather than keep renting from their cable companies, remotes, converters and descramblers by imposing stiff penalties for infractions of the statutes.
 If the California bill had passed, consumers could have been liable for $5,000 in damages to the company providing their cable service -- just for owning a cable converter device manufactured by another company. Third-party manufacturers would have been required to receive prior "authorization" from local cable companies before manufacturing, selling, distributing or even possessing any cable equipment.
 Well-known consumer advocate Sylvia Siegel, founder of Consumer Cable Cop and former director of TURN (Toward Utility Rate Normalization) joined the NCCA in its opposition to the measure.
 Prevost is concerned that the system operators' move to drop the bill shows a clear indication of their likelihood to continue their attempts to maintain a monopolistic control over the industry.
 "The repercussions of the California effort are significant," he explains. "System operators across the country are in the extremely powerful position of controlling the cable signal as well as equipment. They will not relinquish control of cable equipment easily -- even if they get a specific statute to protect their signals."
 Currently, 32 states have restrictive cable bills on the books. These restrictions range from specific penalties for signal theft to tightly controlled policies for the distribution of cable equipment.
 Prevost contends that open competition would promote technological innovation which would benefit the consumer -- much as it did with the telephone industry in the 1970s. Telephone technology increased significantly as free-market competition introduced such consumer-friendly features as call waiting, voice mail, E-mail, message service, fax and cellular phones.
 As part of the 1992 Act, restrictions were placed on the rampant price increases recently implemented by the industry. Last month, the FCC ordered a billion-dollar rate rollback, the most sweeping price restraints in nearly a decade. Accompanying the 10-15 percent cuts, the FCC required "unbundling" rental charges for remotes, converters and other equipment.
 The NCCA was formed in 1992 to make consumers aware of their rights to own cable hardware. The group promotes open, free-market competition and encourages technological innovation and the development of better products and/or services for the consumer.
 -0- 5/4/93
 /CONTACT: Patricia Johnson of The Bohle Co., 310-785-0515, for NCCA/


CO: National Consumer Cable Association ST: California IN: ENT SU:

JL-BP -- LA020 -- 4132 05/04/93 08:03 EDT
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Date:May 4, 1993
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