Local governments yesterday questioned a policy proposal by the National Communications Commission (NCC) to readjust the service area for cable TV services, saying it would disrupt the arrangement of utility lines and would not necessarily increase competition among cable service providers.
At present, there are 51 cable TV service areas and 62 cable TV operators in Taiwan. Nearly all the cable operators enjoy a monopoly in their respective service areas.
In light of the deteriorating quality of cable TV services and their programming, the commission proposed to end the monopolies by allowing cable operators to branch out to different service areas. The range of the service areas would be expanded from a small district to an administrative area, such as a city or county.
However, the number of subscribers to a certain cable service must not exceed a third of the total number of cable service users.
Nevertheless, representatives of local governments have reservations about the policy.
Chiu Peng-hsin (邱蓬新), deputy commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Information and Tourism, said the policy would cause problems for the management of different utility lines. He also opposed the proposal that the commission have the administrative authority to review the cable service rates in each locality, which has always been the right of the local governments.
“Cable service operators must follow our instructions to install the cable lines because we have the right to review their rates every year,” Chiu said. “If the central government wants to take that right away from us, then please take on the responsibilities of handling disputes and consumer complaints, too.”
Chiu’s comments were echoed by representatives from the Hsinchu County and New Taipei City (新北市) governments.
Chiu added the policy might not increase the competition in different service areas as the commission had expected.
The Cable Broadband Institute in Taiwan, which represents a majority of the nation’s cable service providers, said the policy would only diminish, not increase, the scale of operations for cable operators.
Nevertheless, the policy still gained support from several cable operators as well as the Consumers’ Foundation and the Fair Trade Commission (FTC).
To intensify competition, the FTC said the NCC must lower the thresholds for operators to enter a new service area and provide incentives to offer new services.
Meanwhile, the foundation said customers must be given complete information to make an informed decision on the different services.