Salah: Cable customers can tune out

HendOpinion1Comcast, the biggest television service in the country, has been dragged through courts about its high rates since 2003. While it often seems easy to pile on the giant, inhuman corporation, what’s more important is that this action could inadvertently set an unsound precedent of people choosing to go to court with issues that could simply be resolved by the plaintiff taking his or her business elsewhere.

A class-action lawsuit was filed against the company in Philadelphia by subscribers to the cable television service due to their belief that Comcast violated antitrust law by charging too much in lieu of sufficient competition. Although Comcast lost the case in the lower courts, the Supreme Court ruled in the company’s favor on March 26.

When the lawsuit was first filed, there weren’t too many cable providers in the city that were easily accessible, so viewers had to pay whatever price the company set for them in order to use the service. Since Comcast was essentially a monopoly, it had control of its service fees without being restricted by competitors. The sole control that belonged to Comcast was seen as a perfect means for exploiting the market and forcing customers to pay more than they should.

Whether that is true or not, any company reserves the right to charge however much it wants for its goods and services. Comcast is no different. Its boundaries lie in what it decides is good or bad for business, not the morality of the amount being charged. Like every business, its objective is to maximize profit.

“The cost of service may or may not be what the market can bear, but the determinate in this situation is literally the market,” said John Dileonardo, an economics professor at Temple. “Comcast can charge what they believe is appropriate for their business model. People may or may not leave, but that is their decision.”

If Comcast charges more, there will be either negative or positive effects on business. People may leave, causing the company to lose money, or people can stay, allowing Comcast to profit from the heightened expense with little detriment. The company itself takes a risk with every extra dime it asks of its customers.

This tends to work out very well for businesses where their goods and services are necessities. Cable is not one of them. It is a luxury that most Americans see as a basic need, thus leading them to believe it should be offered at a lower cost. No one absolutely needs to have cable in his or her home. People choose to pay to get that extra service, and this does not give them the right to set an asking price.

True, the amount Comcast charges for is borderline thievery, but it isn’t illegal or even unfair. The ruling in the company’s favor isn’t a “bias toward big business,” as I’ve heard so many people say.

The lawsuit was thrown out by the Supreme Court because it was labeled a “class-action suit,” even though all Philadelphia customers can’t be established as a class.

“A class-action lawsuit is made by a certain amount of people to sue a company on behalf of others affected because of damages it made to its consumers,” said Joe Hoeffel, a former Congressman and political science professor at Temple.

This type of case could not be made because there have to be obvious class-wide damages. Here, no damages could be calculated and so no class exists within the restrictions of the law. Therefore, the court decision was not only reasonable, but also seemingly unbiased.

Aside from this, customers are not forced to use Comcast. Ignoring the fact that basic channels have the most important and most watched programs, there are a plethora of other options to watch television. There are other companies that offer good deals on their services, and most things you want to watch can even be found on the Internet these days. So, instead of paying the extra fees with cable, you can just use Comcast – or any other service – as an Internet provider.

Filing a lawsuit against a company when there are many other ways to get basically the same service you already have is pointless. It also seems like an unnecessary waste of both effort and money.

Hend Salah can be reached at

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