AUTHOR: CUMMIN

Comcast announces rate increase

By John Cummins

Daily Journal

Citing the rising costs programmers are charging for their shows, Comcast cable television has announced a rate hike for subscribers, beginning in November.

The most expensive increase for most subscribers will come in the Preferred Service package, which will rise from $26.73 to $28.63 per month.

The cost for Expanded Basic service will rise $1.16 to $18.80 per month, while monthly rental for an addressable converter will rise $1.24 to $2.89 per month.

Other increases range from a 19-cent increase in the Limited Basic package rate, a $2 increase in the payment late fee, a 55-cent increase in the Value Pak package, and an increase of 28-cents in the standard converter rental.

Comcast will be lowering its remote control rental 22 cents, and its FCC User fee by 1 cent.

Subscribers received a notice of the pending rate changes last week. According to 1996 figures, Comcast had 14,400 subscribers in Tupelo and portions of Lee County, 8,400 subscribers in Corinth, and 3,200 subscribers in West Point.

As of last week, the company had 804 subscribers in Okolona. The company currently offers 48 channels in Tupelo, said Len Grace, general manager of Comcast.

Programming costs "have been one of our complaints," he said. "That's what is really driving our cost up."

Not all of Comcast's cable systems nationwide will see an increase in rates, he said. The Philadelphia, Pa.-based Comcast is the fourth-largest cable company in the nation.

The rate increase is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission, Grace said. Morgan Broman, a spokesman with the FCC's Cable Service Bureau in Washington, D.C., said the FCC must get a complaint to examine the cable system's rates.

Local franchise authorities such as the City of Tupelo would have 90 days from the date of the rate increase to file any complaint with the FCC.

The federal agency would then look at formulas that consider inflation, programming costs, and system upgrades to determine if the rate increase is legal.

If the rate increase is found illegal, refunds will be ordered to customers. In the last 18 months, 437 complaints by franchise authorities have been filed with the FCC, resulting in 49 refunds.

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