Sen Commerce Committee chmn John McCain (R-AZ) officially rescheduled his cable rates hearing for Thurs (Cfax, 3/17). Dubbed "Escalating Cable Rates: Causes and Solutions," it features nearly the same witness list as the canceled Nov ’03 hearing. Only NCTA head Robert Sachs is missing (no word from the Hill on why, but NCTA confirms there was no scheduling problem). Instead, new best friends Cox’s [COX] Jim Robbins and ESPN’s George Bodenheimer will testify, as will Consumers Union’s Gene Kimmelman, GAO’s Mark Goldstein and Knology [KNOL] pres/CEO Rodger Johnson. Thurs’ hearing originally was set to discuss GAO’s annual cable rates report, but was canceled. In addition to a la carte, expect McCain to grill cable on a GAO study that examined a tiny sample of overbuilders and found lower cable rates in overbuilder markets. That study already was the subject of a subcommittee hearing and prompted McCain to proclaim, "The apparent implication for all other consumers is that they continue to be fleeced by their cable operators." —As a public service, here are other oldies, but goodies from the McCain hymnal to tide you over until Thurs: "The cable industry has risen to new heights in its apparent willingness and ability to gouge the American consumer;" and "There are 2 sure signs of spring in Washington: the arrival of tourists to enjoy the cherry blossoms, and the release of the FCC report that cable rates have risen during the previous year."

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