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Experts: Cable bills unlikely to drop soon

Don't expect any immediate drop in your cable television rates just because Congress overrode President Bush's veto of a reregulation bill. It will take a while, and some experts say it may not happen at all.

"Cable prices are going to rise less rapidly than they have in the past," but they will still continue to go up, said David Londoner, a cable industry analyst with the New York investment firm of Wertheim, Schroder.

Consumer advocates disagreed.

"It will bring down rates up to 30 percent, depending on the individual system," said Bradley Steelman, a spokesman for the Consumer Federation of America.

Steelman conceded that it won't happen "for every single place" because some people are already paying a fair rate.

"But for those who are being overcharged, it (cable rate) will come down," he said. "It (the bill) will also stem the increases."

But Peggy Laramie, a spokeswoman for the National Cable Television Association, said: "Our view is that consumer advocates are misleading people when they suggest massive rollbacks. It may never happen."

In any case, nothing is expected to happen for at least six months, the deadline for the Federal Communications Commission to set procedures to determine whether rates are unreasonable.

Most regulation will be by cities, but will be subject to review by the FCC.

The most stringent regulation under the bill applies to basic service, which usually means getting improved reception on regular broadcast stations plus receiving some governmental and other public channels.

Regulation of the next tier, cable channels such as C-SPAN and CNN, will be by a less stringent standard. Premium channels such as HBO are not regulated, according to an analysis by the House subcommittee on telecommunications.