Senator Jay Rockefeller said West Virginians are paying higher costs and have few options for cable television programming and questioned whether consumers are fully protected as the industry undergoes rapid changes.
Rockefeller's comments came as the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing on "The Cable Act at 20." The hearing was a follow-up to the Commerce Committee hearing on April 24, 2012, which examined the emergence of video over the Internet and its potential benefits to consumers.
"Cable rates continue to go up faster than the rate of inflation year in, year out," Rockefeller said. "West Virginians are tired of it. I am tired of it. And rather than being able to pick smaller packages or choose the channels they want, consumers are still forced to purchase larger and larger packages of channels no matter how few they actually watch.
"This says to me that the market isn't working. Real competition should be bringing rates down. It should be driving deployment. It should be bringing consumers more choices. It should be spurring new innovative products."
Rockefeller also said recent programming disputes among broadcasters, satellite providers and cable companies hurt West Virginians "who needed access to news, weather and emergency information as they were recovering from a natural disaster earlier this month."
"Overheated rhetoric alleging greed and bad faith is of little comfort to someone paying for services they are not getting," Rockefeller said. "When West Virginians lose channels in these corporate disputes, they should get a refund. It is only fair."