Cable prices go up, up, up

Gas isn’t the only thing that’s costing more these days. The NYTimes reports that…

Cable prices have risen 77 percent since 1996, roughly double the rate of inflation, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month.

Cable customers, who typically pay at least $60 a month, watch only a fraction of what they pay for — on average, a mere 13 percent of the 118 channels available to them. And the number of subscribers keeps growing. […]

The industry says the digital era has brought its customers better image quality, more on-demand services and solid value through packages that combine cable, phone and Internet service. It also says consumers are actually getting more viewing value for their dollar, at least relative to inflation. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association says that from 1998 to 2006, the price consumers paid for each viewing hour was essentially flat.

The chief economist of the Federal Communications Commission, Gregory S. Crawford, disagrees, saying the industry is not factoring in the real cost of the programming that subscribers are watching. By his analysis, the increase has been around 50 percent from 1997 to 2005.

The story tells us that the Internet was supposed to help — now we can watch TV on our computers — but getting those shows from our computers to our television sets has turned out to be easier said than done.

Then there’s the advertising/cost question. The iTunes model makes us pay for programs. The web model forces us to watch the commercials. That future is coming, it’s just not here yet for most of us.