AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.The decision is the latest in a series of actions by the commission under Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, to put pressure on cable companies to lower their rates and make their markets more competitive. In December, in a 3-2 decision, the commission approved a proposal by Martin to force municipalities to accelerate the local approval process for the telephone companies to enter new markets. Martin has also pressed the cable companies to offer so-called a la carte plans that would permit subscribers to buy individual channels, or groups of channels, at lower rates than they now pay. The change would be an abrupt reversal for the commission, which only four years ago ruled that such exclusive agreements sometimes actually promoted competition by giving landlords the leverage to negotiate for the best terms. WASHINGTON – The Federal Communications Commission, hoping to reduce the spiraling costs of cable television, is preparing to strike down thousands of contracts this week that shut out competitors by giving individual cable companies exclusive rights to provide service to apartment buildings, the agency’s chairman says. The new rule could open markets across the country to competition. It would be a huge victory for Verizon Communications and AT&T, which have challenged the cable industry by offering their own video services. The two phone companies have lobbied aggressively for the provision. They have been supported in their fight by consumer groups, satellite television companies and small rivals to the big cable providers. Commission officials and consumer groups said the new rule could significantly lower cable prices for millions of subscribers who live in apartment buildings and have had no choice in selecting a company for paid television. Government and private studies show that when a second cable company enters a market, prices can drop as much as 30 percent. The change, which is set to be approved Wednesday, is expected to have a particular effect on prices for low-income and minority families. They have seen cable prices rise about three times the rate of inflation over the last decade. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!