About Cable TV Companies

By Jared Paventi

  • Overview

    Cable television's place in American society is that of utilities like electric and telephone companies. A recent nationwide survey showed that more then 57 percent of American households receive the pay service. Cable television started out as a means for people in remote locations to get programming from broadcasters in cities 50-100 miles away. Today, these companies are multimillion dollar corporations, which deliver hundreds of channels from networks such as CNN and ESPN to users which pay a monthly fee.
  • The First Cable Company

    The federal government, worried about the rapid growth of the television industry, instituted a moratorium on station licensing from 1948-52. While the growth of television stations was halted, the appeal for television grew stronger. From the license freeze came complaints from people living in areas outside of a television signal's scope. One such case of this was Lansford, Pennsylvania. Its residents live in a valley and were unable to receive a clear signal from stations in Philadelphia, the nearest city with a television station. In 1950, an electronics seller named Robert Tarlton built an antenna on the roof of his store in Lansford tall enough to receive the television broadcast. He then sold rights to residents in Lansford to receive the signal. Special cables would run from the store to the person's home and plug into their television. This first cable system gave birth to similar growth throughout the country.
  • Top Cable Companies

    The top five cable companies in America provide services to 52 million of the more than 64.7 million cable subscribers in the United States. Comcast Corporation, based in Philadelphia, is the largest cable provider in America. It provides service to 24.5 million subscribers. Time Warner Cable is second on the list of largest companies, reaching 13.3 million televisions. Cox Communications and Charter Communications serve 5.4 million and 5.1 million subscribers, respectively. Cablevision is the fifth-largest system in the United States, serving 3.1 million homes. Cox Communications has the largest individual cable system in Tempe, Arizona, with more than 892,000 basic cable subscribers.
  • Cable Company Services

    Since the mid-1990s, cable companies have branched out to provide other services to its subscribers. Time Warner is a pioneer in this area. In 1995, Time Warner tested Internet-over-cable services in Elmira, New York. This pilot grew into its national RoadRunner high-speed Internet product. RoadRunner has 7 million subscribers nationwide. Time Warner introduced digital phone in 2003, utilizing bandwidth on its network to provide telephone service. The cable provider is one of many voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) services in the country. Time Warner has 1.9 million VoIP customers.
  • The Largest Cable Company

    Comcast grew from a regional carrier in the Mid-Atlantic to the nation's largest cable company. It boasts 24.5 million cable television customers, 14.4 million Internet subscribers and 5.6 million digital phone users. It is involved both in the delivery of content and its production, owning a number of regional sports networks, such as Comcast SportsNets in Chicago and Philadelphia, and variety channels, including CN8 in Philadelphia. It also owns, or is the majority partner, in cable networks E! Entertainment Television and the Style Network, among others.
  • Regulation

    Cable companies are regulated by the Federal Communications Corporation (FCC). This history of regulation has forced cable companies to act within the public service of their communities. In 1969, the FCC stated that cable systems with more than 3,500 subscribers must also offer facilities and network space for public access programming. In 1997, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld an FCC regulation which required cable systems to carry local broadcast stations. The ruling of Turner Broadcasting vs. FCC protects the 1992 statute and prevents television station owners from charging cable companies licensing fees to carry their channels.
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