Getty Images | chargerv8When US lawmakers hold public hearings about the cable TV and broadband industries, their main goals are usually to criticize regulators and try to strip the Federal Communications Commission of its consumer protection powers.
But in an unusual twist, senators are actually planning to force cable companies to explain why they offer such poor customer service. US Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) yesterday announced a hearing in which cable TV and satellite TV companies will answer questions about “practices involving billing, fees, refunds, and other customer service issues.”
Comcast, Charter, Time Warner Cable (now owned by Charter), DirecTV (owned by AT&T), and Dish Network were all called to testify at the June 23 hearing of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

These companies account for more than 70 million TV subscribers, more than half of all US households, and over 70 percent of homes with TV service, the senators said.
“For more than a year, we have conducted a bipartisan investigation of the largest cable and satellite TV companies,” Portman and McCaskill said in their announcement. “We believe our hearing will be a big step forward for consumers, allowing them to understand how their TV providers really work and make informed decisions about their video service.” The senators said they will “conclude their investigation in fall 2016.”
ISPs and pay-TV operators have repeatedly ranked as the nation’s most hated industries in customer surveys.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has generally ranked at or near the bottom.
In addition to customer service, the Senate committee said it will also “investigate potential barriers to competition in the industry, including the difficulties faced by companies attempting to create innovative new television delivery models.”
This isn’t the first time senators have criticized cable TV customer service.

But far more often under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s reign, the Republican-led Congress has sided with cable companies in their numerous fights against regulators.