The Government Accountability Office punted today in a report that attempted to assess what, if anything, FCC commissioners and other officials should do to make the video market more competitive. Although “federal laws and regulations may in some ways be outdated,” Congress’ investigative arm adds that “it is not yet clear how they should be updated to reflect 21st century technologies and market conditions.” The one semi-concrete recommendation? Reports on cable industry prices and video competition that Congress ordered the FCC to generate “may not be needed on an annual basis, especially given demand on FCC staff’s time for other monitoring and regulatory duties.” That’s a strange conclusion: The GAO notes that the average monthly cost for expanded basic pay TV was $57.46 in 2011, up 33% from 2005 even though the Consumer Price Index was up just 15%.Despite the astonishing growth of Internet use during the past decade, GAO says there’s been “little change” in how much control CBS, Discovery, Disney, NBCUniversal, News Corp, Time Warner, and Viacom have over TV programming. What’s more, although the number of households that can access at least four pay TV providers has grown in recent years, about two-thirds still have just three options: a cable company, DirecTV, and Dish Network. The Internet offers “a new and exciting venue” for video alternatives. But Netflix, YouTube and others “do not yet offer a package of programming that is substantial enough to induce households to drop their subscription to a traditional video service” — and remain dependent on traditional programmers and broadband providers. That might not change as quickly as techies predict. Cable companies “may have an incentive to charge for bandwidth in such a way as to raise the costs to consumers for using [Internet] service.”

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