I have had the privilege of representing a group of seven cable operators during the past several months, and I feel I must respond to Tom Shales' hyperbolic diatribe against the cable industry {"The Great American Cable Tangle," Outlook, June 10}.

Put simply, his article was inaccurate. Mr. Shales' claim that cable has "an awesome record of customer dissatisfaction" simply flies in the face of the fact, also noted by Mr. Shales, that the number of cable subscribers has increased from 14 million in 1980 to 53.9 million today. Further, a recent Wall Street Journal poll found that consumers, by more than a three to one margin, have a positive view of cable. Dissatisfaction, indeed.

On the contrary, it is clear that Congress' decision to deregulate cable in 1984 has been a smashing success. Cable operators have been able to triple their investment in programming, and as a result the number of national satellite channels has increased from 43 in 1985 to 65 last year, and upwards of 40 more channels are on the drawing board. The American public has much greater choice as a result of deregulation. Renewed rate regulation would threaten the vitality of many of these channels and would likely deprive the public of not only the channels Mr. Shales ridicules but also such respected services as the Arts & Entertainment Network, Black Entertainment Television, The Learning Channel, Nickelodeon and the Discovery Channel.

The dangers of reregulation were noted by Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher and Assistant Attorney General James Rill in a recent letter to the Senate Commerce Committee. They stated that: "Since its deregulation in the Cable Act of 1984, the cable industry has developed rapidly and brought substantial benefits to the American consumer. Current reregulatory proposals put these gains at risk."

The average cable service now offers 30 channels on its basic tier at a price that is less, in real terms, than it was in 1972, when only six or seven channels were available. While cable rates did experience a two-year spurt in the wake of deregulation, as would the price of any product freed from overly-restrictive regulation, the spurt has ended, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of cable service increased by only 3.8 percent last year, less than the rate of inflation. The recent GAO report on cable rates also showed a moderation in rate increaseses, even for basic cable service.

With regard to customer service, the cable industry recognizes that its tremendous growth over the past 10 years has strained its ability to respond quickly to customer concerns. As a result, the industry has instituted a new set of customer service standards in order to resolve this problem.

Mr. Shales claims that poor customer service is an example of the woes of deregulation. What he neglects to point out, however, is that the cable industry is still subject to strict regulation by city governments. Indeed, cable operators must obtain a franchise from local governments and face the prospect of nonrenewal of their franchises if they do not provide adequate service.

The cable industry is not a dangerous behemoth, monopolizing America's information flow. Instead, it is a young industry, subject to intense competition from other entertainment media, that has managed to create a wealth of television programming that is the envy of the world. Congress should take great care not to do serious harm to an industry that is leading America into the information age. STUART E. EIZENSTAT Washington