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Lawmakers fight to keep your cable bill high

Every day, I hear from folks sick of paying huge cable bills, so when I learned that D.C. lawmakers are actually fighting to keep your bills high, I had to find out more. Though I keep recommending that you cut the cord with TV alternatives, follow along to see how an opportunity to bring viewers better service turned into a way to charge more.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed an act the other day that seems great on its face. The Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act, also called STAVRA, lets broadcast networks send their signals via satellite to rural areas where antennas can't pick up the signal.

That sounds great. It's giving folks in rural areas the opportunity to watch the broadcast networks. That's important because those are the channels that a lot of people rely on to watch local and national news.

But, STAVRA could have done even more for all cable customers if senators hadn't gotten rid of another piece of the legislation altogether. The proposed amendment would have gone a long way to saving all cable and satellite customers a lot of money on their monthly bills.

But, it looks like senators caved to pressure from the cable industry to help keep your bills high, so the companies can continue to make up for all of the money they've lost to cord cutting. After all, 2013 was the first year the number of cable and satellite subscribers actually fell.

Choose your channels

The proposed amendment would have allowed cable and satellite subscribers to choose which channels they want to receive. That sort of a la carte pricing could save you a lot of money by getting rid of the tens - even hundreds - of channels you don't use.

"It's too big a change to be swallowed," [Committee Chairman Jay] Rockefeller said, according to "The Hill."

Rockefeller acknowledged to "The Hill" that cable industry lobbyists "just went crazy" at the idea of a la carte pricing, and he pledged to bring it up again.

Right now, cable and satellite companies haggle with content providers over packages that include their most popular channels and the ones that few people actually want or even watch. So, companies like Walt Disney can force cable companies to purchase less popular channels like ABC Family if they also want ESPN and Disney Channel. The companies then pass on the cost of those extra channels to you and your monthly bill.

Senators could have changed all that with the amendment, but chose to leave it out. But, that doesn't mean you have to live with expensive cable bills. You can still cut the cord and stream all of your in-home content. In fact, it seems like streaming services - and even some cable companies - are coming out with more attractive packages every day.

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