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Maine A-La-Carte Cable Law Blocked by Federal Judge

December 24, 2019

A new state law in Maine mandating that cable companies offer a-la-carte service has encountered a major setback in court.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen ruled Friday that the conglomerate of cable companies suing the state will likely prevail because the law appears to violate the company’s First Amendment rights to editorial control, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The judge also said the state hasn’t so far shown that requiring a la carte services will actually reduce prices. Cable companies have argued that the complexities involved would increase costs that they would then pass on to customers.

Earlier in the year, Maine passed a law requiring that companies offer customers the opportunity to subscribe to individual channels if they wish instead of forcing them to pay for package deals. The cable companies filed a lawsuit in September challenging the new law.

Torreson granted a preliminary injunction on Friday, December 20. That means she found that there is enough of a chance that the cable companies will succeed in court to justify blocking the state from enforcing the law for the remainder of the lawsuit.

If Maine prevails in court, it would be the first state in the country to mandate a-la-carte cable television service.

Back in May, the bill’s sponsor, Maine state Representative Jeffrey Evangelos, an independent from Friendship, said he put forth the bill because expensive cable packages harm the elderly who are on fixed incomes.

“Folks, the problem that we’re facing is our elders — people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s — grew up in an era when television was free,” he told Maine Public Radio in May. “In order to receive a program they want to watch called the Boston Red Sox, it costs $100 in a cable package today, to get a package that includes the Red Sox.”

A-la-carte cable exists in Canada by federal law. The country implemented the policy in 2015 and most channels cost between $4 to $7 monthly, according to CBC.

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