A federal district court judge has granted class action status in a lawsuit that accuses Comcast of “clustering” various Philadelphia-area cable systems in an attempt to boost cable bills. Asserting that Comcast’s actions violate the Sherman Act, the antitrust suit is said to be one of the first of its kind to receive class-action status. Plaintiffs in the suit include several Comcast cable subscribers in Philadelphia. According to the complaint, Comcast purchased Philadelphia-area cable systems from rivals that include cable overbuilder RCN, then raised rates annually by 11% throughout the Philadelphia market where Comcast commands an 87% share of all pay-TV subscribers. Claiming that 1.8 million Comcast customers in Philadelphia are paying higher rates as a direct result of Comcast’s actions, the lawsuit charges that, “Comcast . . . has market power because it does not face sufficient competition to constrain prices, [with] competition from satellite providers and overbuilders being insufficient to constrain prices.” In assigning class action status to the case, U.S. District Court Judge John Padova noted that the harms allegedly suffered by the plaintiffs were similar enough to make them representative of a larger group that may have been harmed by Comcast. Padova also added that the plaintiffs had “succeeded in demonstrating the sine qua non of class-wide proof of impact: damage to each class member because the prices charged by Comcast were higher than the range which would have existed under competitive conditions.” Disputing the allegations, Comcast asserts that per-channel prices have actually decreased for 11% of Philadelphia residents and that 50% of Philadelphia customers were subjected to smaller per-channel rate increases than pay TV subscribers in other markets.