Our view: Cable competition is good news for consumers

February 14, 2019
MetroNet has received a green light from the city of Rochester to provide cable television service in the city. It is hoped that competition from MetroNet will improve overall service in the Rochester market, which Charter Communications has had to itself.

Is there anybody in Rochester who is not celebrating the city’s awarding a franchise to a second cable provider?

Well, maybe folks who work for Charter, the current provider. Even they must realize, though, that competition makes everyone better.

As for consumers, adding competition in the form of MetroNet, which now has a five-year franchise agreement with the city, can only be a win-win.

Complaints about cable companies are common throughout the industry. But most consumers don’t have any option other than to sign on with the company that holds a franchise contract with their local municipality.

In the future, that won’t be the case for residents of Rochester. MetroNet plans to spend a year designing and constructing a cable network, and then two years expanding service throughout the city.

After that, let the competition begin.

Council Member Michael Wojcik, who has been a proponent of a second cable provider, said he’s hopeful the competition will drive down rates. We share that hope, and can’t imagine that competition would drive up rates.

We’re also hopeful that customer service by both companies will be top-notch, and that consumers won’t be faced with take-it-or-leave-it service options.

One concern would be that, with so many people figuratively cutting their cable and choosing to view programs via internet hookups, will there be enough business to support two cable suppliers? The franchise agreement doesn’t cover broadband service, but MetroNet obviously plans to offer it in direct competition with Charter.

City officials have expressed the belief that MetroNet will offer a better quality product, but consumers will have to be convinced that the combination of quality, price and service are worth making a switch. Of course, years of resentment about the current provider could enter into that decision.

Some of these questions will only be answered once MetroNet is up and running. No matter what claims are made about pricing and service, the rapidly changing broadcast market could be much different in three years than it is now.

What we can forecast with some certainty is that competition will be good for consumers. Rochester finally has that competition in the cable field.