The Federal Communications Commission has quietly approved a proposal that could make it easier for major cable providers like Comcast to raise prices.
The decision is a rare win at the FCC for the cable industry, which has suffered a series of losses on net neutrality and other major issues under Chairman Tom Wheeler, himself a former cable lobbyist.
The FCC voted 3-to-2 Tuesday to limit the power of state and local regulators over cable TV packages and prices, according to agency officials. The agency declared that it will assume that there is "effective competition" for cable services nationwide.
Wheeler won support from the commission's two Republicans, but the two other Democrats opposed the decision, officials said. It is extremely unusual for an FCC chairman to side against the commissioners in his own party. A spokesperson for Wheeler declined to comment on the decision, which has not yet been made public.
A number of top congressional Democrats had urged Wheeler not to loosen the regulations on major cable companies, warning it could lead to higher prices for consumers to get access to news, sports, weather, and other programming.
"As the cable industry becomes increasingly concentrated, the Federal Communications Commission must maintain meaningful protections to ensure that American consumers have affordable access to the programming most relevant to them," Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Ed Markey, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and others wrote in a letter last month. "The FCC's proposal runs contrary to this important responsibility."