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Sucker: How Cable Companies Make You Pay For Channels You'll Never Watch

Even though anti-trust laws say cable companies can't coordinate their business plans, they do.

 If you have cable or satellite TV you are captive behind a virtual iron curtain. That's right. You're a prisoner in an electronic gulag. You can leave, but only if you move to another electronic gulag. There is no escape. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

With all the fussing and moaning from Tea Party types about the American government going all socialist on us, it's amazing how the same people can go home, turn on their cable TV box and not notice the cable-commie shackles snapping closed around them.

I have Comcast. Poor me. But the other cable and satellite providers are cut of the same commie cloth. While they tout their companies on Wall Street as models of capitalist profitability, they are, in fact, as authoritarian and anti-freedom as any latter day Stalinist.

I turn on my TV and there they are... five hundred channels of this and that. I am supposed to be bowled over by this entertainment Horn of Plenty - for which I am charged over $1500 a year. But start clicking through them and you see what a gulag it really is:

- I can watch Vietnamese-language news and entertainment channels. Never mind that I can't speak or understand a word of it. The last time I cared anything about Vietnam was 45 years ago when I was trying to avoid being sent there with a gun.

- I can also choose between dozens upon dozens of sporting events and sports-talk shows. To put it mildly, I am not a sporting person. I could care less. The very sight of a locker room brings back intrusive recollections of high school. So I click past those channels as fast as my clicking finger can manage.

- I can choose among a bunch of home-shopping shows hawking bobbles and bangles and things that clean stuff, or claim to. Every time I pass one of these channels I get the same disturbing image in my head: over-weight women in Iowa, one hand rummaging through paper wrappers in a See's candy box, the other hand poised hunter-like on the quick-dial button, ready to pull the trigger for the next cheesy trinket that's "only available for the next two minutes."

- Then there's "local programming" channels where I can listen to locals rant the same neighborhood blather I can get free over morning coffee at the local diner... which is precisely why I avoid the local diner.

When I list the number of channels I actually watch and enjoy, it comes down to five out of the 500 - or one percent. Unfortunately four of those channels are not available on "basic cable, so I am stuck with a "premium" package.

Since I still only consume 1% of what Comcast provides, my bill should not be $1500 a year but $15. Oh, I know the cable companies could not afford to provide service for that, so I'd happily raise it to $150 a year for my five channels of free market choice.

But you can't get A La Carte service from cable/satellite providers. Even though anti-trust laws say these companies can't coordinate their business plans, they do. None of them offer an A La Carte menu allowing their "customers"to pick and choose what programs they like and want to purchase, as in that old fashioned notion of "supply and demand," and letting the market place decide which products move to the top and which fail because not enough people want or like them. That's capitalism, and the cable/satellite companies want no part of it. And they've spent lavishly on politicians, federal, state and - most importantly, local, to assure they never will have to be subject to the efficiencies of a true free market.