Friday, June 30, 2006

A La Carte Mandates Defeated

With all of the attention focused on the momentous battle over net neutrality at this week's Senate Commerce Committee markup on the communications bill, not enough attention has been paid to the welcome defeat of amendments offered by Sen. McCain that, in effect, would have required cable operators to offer channels on an a la carte basis. The amendments were defeated handily.

In today's increasingly competitive multichannel video environment, it is not necessary or wise for the government to dictate the manner in which broadband operators are required to offer their services. Competitive pressures will ensure that the providers offer services in a way that meets consumer demands.

Apart from constituting unwise policy, government mandates such as a la carte requirements, multicasting "must carry" obligations, and net neutrality non-discrimination obligations all raise serious First Amendment free speech and Fifth Amendment property rights issues.