Linda Hardesty The NCTA blasted a report by consumer group lobbyists claiming the cable industry artificially inflates its rates under the guise of high-programming costs. Rob Stoddard, the NCTA’s SVP, communications and public affairs, issued a statement last Wednesday in response to pointed accusations made by watchdog groups the Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America. “Claims about cable prices by consumer group lobbyists continue to be misleading and factually inaccurate,” Stoddard commented in a prepared statement. “Cable prices reflect cable costs, and cable continues to deliver great value for the dollar compared to every entertainment alternative.” CU senior director of public policy and advocacy Gene Kimmelman said both groups will lobby for the enactment of legislation that would empower state regulatory agencies to oversee cable rates. Kimmelman then took a jab at FCC Chairman Michael Powell, saying the CU was “concerned” that Powell was “coddling price-gouging cable monopolists.” The watchdogs neglected to factor in the $70 billion investment cable operators have made in upgrading their networks, Stoddard said. Nor did they account for the DBS threat.