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Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:02 PM

Comcast sues Maine to stop law requiring sale of individual TV channels

Source: ARS Technica

Comcast and several TV network owners have sued the state of Maine to stop a law that requires cable companies to offer à la carte access to TV channels. The complaint in US District Court in Maine was filed Friday by Comcast, Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal, A&E Television Networks, C-Span, CBS Corp., Discovery, Disney, Fox Cable Network Services, New England Sports Network, and Viacom.

The companies claim the Maine law—titled "An Act To Expand Options for Consumers of Cable Television in Purchasing Individual Channels and Programs"—is preempted by the First Amendment and federal law. The Maine law is scheduled to take effect on September 19 and says that "a cable system operator shall offer subscribers the option of purchasing access to cable channels, or programs on cable channels, individually." The lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the law from being enforced.

Many cable TV customers want the ability to pay for channels individually instead of in large bundles, in hopes of getting only the channels they want and saving money in the process. But cable TV operators and the programmers that license their content to cable TV operators have resisted changes to the bundle system.

Read more: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2019/09/comcast-tv-networks-sue-maine-to-stop-law-requiring-a-la-carte-channels/



I have always wanted "ala carte" options. Let people get FOX and other nonsense off their TV.

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Reply Comcast sues Maine to stop law requiring sale of individual TV channels (Original post)
Apollo Zeus Wednesday OP
rurallib Wednesday #1
FakeNoose Wednesday #33
spinbaby Wednesday #2
rurallib Wednesday #35
onenote Wednesday #3
Skinner Wednesday #7
ToxMarz Wednesday #25
Apollo Zeus Wednesday #10
onenote Wednesday #16
Politicub Wednesday #26
onenote Wednesday #27
Politicub Wednesday #29
onenote Wednesday #28
Politicub Wednesday #31
onenote Wednesday #38
Dennis Donovan Wednesday #4
onenote Wednesday #5
Dennis Donovan Wednesday #12
onenote Wednesday #30
LanternWaste Wednesday #21
christx30 Wednesday #9
Politicub Wednesday #32
orleans Thursday #45
NickB79 Wednesday #41
OneBlueDotBama Wednesday #6
lostnfound Thursday #46
Archae Wednesday #8
apnu Wednesday #11
Archae Wednesday #13
onenote Wednesday #18
onenote Wednesday #19
DaDeacon Wednesday #14
rurallib Wednesday #36
Dave Starsky Wednesday #40
aggiesal Wednesday #15
LanternWaste Wednesday #17
bucolic_frolic Wednesday #20
NCjack Wednesday #22
aggiesal Wednesday #23
NCjack Wednesday #24
aggiesal Thursday #48
NCjack Thursday #49
brooklynite Wednesday #34
Massacure Wednesday #43
jpak Wednesday #37
Bengus81 Wednesday #39
roamer65 Wednesday #42
demigoddess Wednesday #44
hunter Thursday #47

Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:08 PM

1. We would sure love that

sounds like something that the people would want.

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Response to rurallib (Reply #1)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:35 PM

33. I don't get it

Why does my cable company (Verizon Fios) make me take channels I don't want and never watch, like Fox News for instance. I have no interest in most of the sports channels, none in the shopping channels, and nothing in Spanish or other languages. However I would be interested in Deutsche Welle, which is the German language channel, but I'd have to pay extra for that. I used to get the BBC channels in my low-cost package, but no more. Now I have to pay extra for the excellent BBC channels. The whole thing is so STUPID!

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:16 PM

2. I'd love to get the shopping channels off my TV

I swear there are dozens of them.

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Response to spinbaby (Reply #2)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:16 PM

35. The shopping channels and all the Jesus channels

when one of the satellite companies claim you get 500 channels, 400 of them are shopping channels and Jesus channels.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:21 PM

3. Not a chance the law survives

Imagine a law that said the Washington Post had to sell its sports section separately from the rest of the paper.

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Response to onenote (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:34 PM

7. Imagine if newsstands all colluded and would not let you purchase the Washington Post...

...unless you also purchased the National Enquirer and Sports Illustrated in a mandatory "bundle" along with it.

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Response to Skinner (Reply #7)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:51 PM

25. Imagine if Maine required the Washington Post to offer all of it's content individually

So people could save money and not have to buy the whole paper.

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Response to onenote (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:41 PM

10. but this law refers to items which are separate, eg separate TV channels

Under anti-trust laws, a bundler can be found in violation if:

1. The tied and tying items—that is, the first and second item—must actually be separate items (or services). In the abstract, this seems like an easy element, but in real life it is often complicated because sometimes two items are marketed together and seem like one. The issue usually turns on whether there is separate consumer demand for the two products, such that it would make sense for firms to offer them as separate products. This was a big issue back in the Microsoft antitrust wars of the 1990’s, with the browser and operating system.

2. There must be an element of coercion; the seller must actually condition the purchase of the first item (or service) on the purchase of the second item (or service).

3. The seller must have sufficient market power in the market for the tying item (the first item) to “appreciably restrain free competition” in the tied market (the second item).

https://www.theantitrustattorney.com/antitrust-laws-prohibit-tying-products-services-together-sale/

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Reply #10)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:15 PM

16. The law goes beyond separate channels and require every program on a channel to be sold separately.

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Response to onenote (Reply #3)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:53 PM

26. Your example is not the same because cable companies are regulated like utilities

The state grants them right of way and other benefits. The cable companies agree to other stipulations for access to a city or state's population.

Requiring cable companies to offer programming a la carte could be the cost of doing business in the state. If Comcast won't serve the customers, perhaps it's time for Comcast to go in favor of another cable provider.

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Response to Politicub (Reply #26)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:55 PM

27. Federal law preempts state and local regulation of programming decisions. See the complaint.

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Response to onenote (Reply #27)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:06 PM

29. Then the cable companies will probably win. Consumer choice be damned.

I don't need to read the complaint. I believe you. Cable companies can screw people over with scammy introductory offers and horrible customer service, so it's not surprising that they can refuse to offer consumer choice, too.

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Response to Politicub (Reply #26)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:59 PM

28. And cable companies are not regulated "like" utilities

While state/local governments grant franchises to cable operators and cable operators pay (in cash or in-kind) up to five percent of their gross revenues, federal law greatly limits the regulatory authority of state or local governments. For example, rate regulation is largely preempted as is regulation of the types of services and equipment a system can offer. Even the state/local government's powers with respect to the renewal of a franchise is constrained by federal requirements and standards.

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Response to onenote (Reply #28)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:09 PM

31. That's too bad. It would be great to see the governing federal law reformed in favor of consumers.

I don't know enough about the law to know if it can be changed via regulatory changes.

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Response to Politicub (Reply #31)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:49 PM

38. It can't. It would take legislation repealing a variety of preemptive provisions.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:23 PM

4. Fuck comcast - cut the cord...

Why is it we have to pay ANYTHING for local channels when they're free OTA (over-the-air)?

If we truly had ala carte, you should be able to pay per channel. For example, I only watch CNN, MSNBC, HBO and the 4 network-affiliate locals. @ $5 per channel, I'd pay $35. I'm close to that with my streaming service ($55 for AT&T Now).

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:27 PM

5. If you think the price would be $5 per channel, you're dreaming.

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Response to onenote (Reply #5)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:47 PM

12. That's what Hallmark and other channels charge ($4.99/mo)

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #12)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:06 PM

30. HBO Now (streaming) is $14.99/month

and its line up often excludes content available on the cable/satellite version of HBO

Hallmark Movies Now (streaming) is $5.99 month (or $4.99/month if you commit for a year) for a line up of almost entirely re-run programs.

And when you're getting a streaming service, you're still paying additional money for your internet connection.

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Response to onenote (Reply #5)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:30 PM

21. I used to like a few Scotches in the late morning too.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:39 PM

9. The place I work at has a good racket going on.

You start off with Select, for 44.99, which is about 70% garbage. Then you can add Digi tier 1, which is 53 additional channels, 8 of which have programming worth watching. Then for an additional $8, you get hbo and showtime.

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 02:12 PM

32. I cut the cord, and Comcast now charges me more for unbundled Internet

So I guess I didn't really sever the relationship with the company. Even still, I'm much happier now and I pay less overall.

In Atlanta, we get so many channels over the air. A lot of older cable shows that I never saw -- like from the History Channel, Discovery, etc. -- are available for free over the air. An antenna plus a DVR made me a happy camper.

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Response to Politicub (Reply #32)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 02:49 AM

45. i have to ask

about the antenna...

is it one of those flat things i see on people's windows? or is it the old bunny ears?

and how is reception?

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Response to Dennis Donovan (Reply #4)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 04:03 PM

41. We did. It's pretty sweet

Internet is $50/mo. Our provider gave us a free Roku.

Roku has Vudu and Pluto, which are awesome and free.

Netflix is $15

Hulu is $10

Sling TV is $35

So for what we used to pay for a basic cable package, we get a lot more now. I've got so much content, I may drop Sling, even though it's a great service.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:31 PM

6. Canada has Pick & Pay...

CRTC continuing to monitor implementation of new basic television package and pick-and-pay
News Release

Calls television service providers to a public hearing in September 2016

May 24, 2016 – Gatineau – Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today announced that it is calling certain television service providers to a public hearing to discuss how the new basic television package and flexible packaging options are being implemented across Canada. The hearing will begin on September 7, 2016, in the National Capital Region.

As part of the process to renew the licences of certain television service providers, the CRTC wants to ensure that they are offering the new options to Canadians in a manner that is consistent with its regulations and the spirit of its policy. In April, the CRTC asked companies to provide information on their basic packages and flexible packaging options, including on any additional products or services that Canadians have to purchase to receive the package.

The CRTC today published the updated responses it has received, as well as the applications for the companies whose licences were set to expire on August 31, 2016.

Canadians have until June 23, 2016, to submit their comments in one of the following ways:

filling out the online form,
writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario K1A ON2, or
sending a fax to (819) 994-0218.

At this time, the CRTC intends to only call the following television service providers to the hearing: Bell, Rogers, Shaw and Vidéotron.
Quick Facts

Since March 1, 2016, all licensed television service providers must offer a basic package priced no higher than $25 a month (not including equipment).
Since March 1, 2016, Canadians also have more options to add to that service as TV service providers must offer channels either individually or in packages of up to 10 channels.
Starting on December 1, television service providers will have to offer pick-and-pay and small packages.
Nearly 100,000 Canadians signed up for the new basic package since March 1st, 2016.
A majority of these Canadians have also taken advantage of the new flexible packaging options by subscribing to individual channels, small packages or both.
Canadians have multiple options to obtain television services, which can include a combination of the new basic package, individual channels, small packages, free over-the-air stations and Internet streaming services.
Canadians also can continue to subscribe to large packages that include their favourite channels.
In order to have sufficient time to hold this hearing, the CRTC has administratively renewed until November 30, 2016, the licences of television service providers whose licences were expiring September 1, 2016.
Through this process, the CRTC will also impose conditions of licence relating to the Wholesale Code, which will ensure that viewers continue to discover and enjoy access to a diversity of programming, and the Television Service Provider Code, which will help Canadians make informed choices about their television service providers. Both codes will come into force in 2017.

Quote

“The new basic package and new flexible packaging options were introduced to give Canadians the ability to tailor their television services to their needs. Concerns have been raised, however, about how some television service providers have been implementing these new options. As we prepare for the full implementation of pick-and-pay, we will have an opportunity at the public hearing to verify whether their actions are in keeping with our objective.”

- Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman and CEO, CRTC

https://www.canada.ca/en/radio-television-telecommunications/news/2016/05/crtc-continuing-to-monitor-implementation-of-new-basic-television-package-and-pick-and-pay.html

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Response to OneBlueDotBama (Reply #6)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 09:13 AM

46. We can't have what Canadians have, because you know, we're just inferior. Nt

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:35 PM

8. If we had a la carte here...

First to go? Faux "news."

Then the shopping channels.

Then the religious channels.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:45 PM

11. How is Maine's law a 1A violation?

From the excerpt:
The companies claim the Maine law—titled "An Act To Expand Options for Consumers of Cable Television in Purchasing Individual Channels and Programs"—is preempted by the First Amendment and federal law.

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Response to apnu (Reply #11)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:47 PM

13. With Comcast, it's simple.

If they can't screw everyone, it's a "1rst Amendment issue."

A guy I know in Baltimore had 9 appointments set up for Comcast to install cable.
All 9 times they never showed up.

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Response to apnu (Reply #11)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:18 PM

18. For one thing, forcing every program to be sold individually

unconstitutionally interferes with the editorial discretion of the entity that produces the channel as to how it will present its programming.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 12:55 PM

14. i hope Comcast wins this..

Creating packages on an individual basis would be time-consuming and expensive in man hours a cost they would pass right on to the consumer. What could come out of this is a new tier system where al-a-cart is offered BUT at a substantial price. Also, it's pool payments that keeps many local network affiliates afloat. This is one of those sounds good but bad in prctice.

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Response to DaDeacon (Reply #14)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:23 PM

36. I would think they could set up a system where you make your choices

on an app or screen and it is passed directly to the system and you are ready to go, no human intervention.

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Response to DaDeacon (Reply #14)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:57 PM

40. Cable is a dying beast. And good fucking riddance.

People are cutting their cables right and left. You can now select from endless streaming options a la carte. You can watch live news, movies, entire runs of TV shows, funny cat videos that other people upload, whatever. There are absolutely zero reasons to pay upwards of $100 per month for a package of 300 channels consisting almost entirely of "reality" shows, infomercials, and pharmaceutical ads.

Cable television has morphed considerably over the last five decades. It used to be a refuge for people who had only one or two television stations in their home town. Cable providers could provide programming from other cities and other local content. But then you could also watch recently run movies and music videos from companies like HBO and MTV without commercial interruption. Those days are long passed.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:03 PM

15. This is completely do-able

These a$$holes just don't want to implement the capability.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:17 PM

17. I'd probably get cable if I could choose the handful of which channels I wanted.

As it stands, the aggregate monthly cable bills are simply a lot more than I think the three or four stations I'd watch are worth.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:27 PM

20. How can the 1st Amendment force consumers to buy what they don't want?

I cancelled cable 8 years ago because I had dozens of channels I didn't want. Part of my bill was going to Fox News.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:31 PM

22. The ice cream shop sells single cones in the flavor you want. Been like that for over

a hundred years. People like it that way.

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Response to NCjack (Reply #22)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:35 PM

23. No way ...

if you want vanilla, you have to buy the Neapolitan flavor and
throw away the chocolate and strawberry.
What kind of capitalist are you?

Do I need the sarcasm thingee?

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Response to aggiesal (Reply #23)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 01:40 PM

24. When Comcast takes over the ice cream shops, that's how they will sell ice cream cones. nt

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Response to NCjack (Reply #24)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:02 AM

48. Yup, and when customers figure out that ...

3 people can buy the Neapolitan, one
person for each flavor, Comcast will take them
to court because they're sharing, which violates
their agreement.

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Response to aggiesal (Reply #48)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 11:24 AM

49. Yeah. And a customer can always buy the Neapolitan, carefully eat one of the flavors,

and toss the other two flavors into the trash. Profits soar, thanks to judicial sponsored capitalism. I find myself buying more of my ice cream cones through ROKU.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:10 PM

34. Be careful what you ask for...

Many cable channels are sold to your cable company as part of a package from the channel provider. For example, Discovery produces:

Discovery Channel
The Learning Channel
Animal Planet
Discovery Kids
Discovery Travel & Living
Discovery Civilization
Travel Channel
Discovery en Español
Discovery Wings
Discovery Health Channel

Let's say that Discovery is paid $1 per channel per subscriber by your cable company, which passes the cost onto you.

Now, let's say you go to your cable company and say you only want Animal Planet. You may find that the price for a single channel is $8 rather than $1, because Discovery is losing exposure to all of its advertising slots. In the grand scheme of things, may end up spending as much or more for fewer channels.

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Response to brooklynite (Reply #34)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 09:09 PM

43. Yup

A cable company could easily turn around and say the first five channels are $4.99 each, the next 10 channels are $2.99 each and every channel after that is $0.99. Buy 15 channels and you are already at $55.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:32 PM

37. Womp Womp Muthafukkas

The Customer is always right.

Yup

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 03:57 PM

39. Just installed a cheap indoor antenna.........

I get 48 DIGITAL channels over the air. With a more expensive outdoor antenna that number might reach into the 60+ range. The reception is crystal clear--some better than others depending on what signal they send but I can get the KC Chiefs for FREE on my local CBS channel. ESPN has a couple of games I'll miss but so be it. I also do FREE streaming watching a lot of stuff on TUBI,Film Rise and Pluto TV.

Go here to see what channels you could get with an antenna.

https://antennaweb.org/

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 04:36 PM

42. The bargain bin DVD and BluRays aren't helping them either.

When you have $4 to $6 DVDs and BluRays
at stores, Amazon and eBay, people don’t need TV channels that fry their brains out with stupid, non-stop ads and trivial garbage programs.

Over the air free TV and a stack of DVDs and BRs and streaming, equals kill your cable TV service.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Wed Sep 11, 2019, 10:45 PM

44. i want a la carte cable too. I have been dreaming for years that I could

have some more PBS channels.

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Response to Apollo Zeus (Original post)

Thu Sep 12, 2019, 10:31 AM

47. We quit Comcast over ten years ago and never regretted it.

My wife and I don't watch any broadcast television either.

I think once you quit traditional television you never go back. Television commercials and television news especially become intolerable.

One of our adult kids who is a fan of medium and low budget movie making worldwide set us up with Netflix. For $8.99 a month, and occasional rented DVDs from the Redbox or DVDs I find in thrift stores, that's plenty of television for us.

We get Netflix over a moderately priced DSL connection which we'd have anyways.

Our total telecommunication costs -- phones, internet, Netflix -- seem to be lower than most people here are paying for cable alone.

Likewise, our children don't have any traditional television in their homes. Beyond Netflix I don't know what streaming services they subscribe to.

It's possible the traditional television business model is doomed anyways and Maine doesn't need this law.

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