Comcast rates to go up March 1

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

Tupelo, Lee County, West Point and Okolona cable subscribers who receive both Expanded Basic service and Value Pak channels will see an almost $2 increase in their monthly bills beginning Friday.

Comcast Cablevision subscribers in the area will pay the extra amount based on increased programming costs and inflation, according to a statement included in subscribers' February bills.

"(The increase) may vary a penny or two from system to system," said Len Grace, general manager of Comcast's Tupelo office, which also oversees cable systems in Lee County, West Point and Okolona. "It's part inflation and part programming costs as a result of adding new channels. We didn't charge when we added those channels last year."

Rates for Expanded Basic, the tier of channels above channel 13 on most cable systems, will increase by $1.20 in Tupelo, while rates for Value Pak selections will go up by 75 cents.

Last year, Comcast added the Home and Garden Channel, the Learning Channel and the History Channel to its Expanded Basic tier of programming. The American Movie Classics channel was added to Comcast's Value Pak offerings in September.

A year ago, Comcast raised rates on the Value Pak channels, which were then TNT, WTBS, WGN and the Family Channel, by 49 cents and moved its channel lineup around to group the four channels together in a block.

In July, the company increased the rate for its basic service, channels 2-13, by 26 cents per month while lowering the charges for some service calls. It was the first inflation increase the firm had imposed since June of 1993, company officials said at the time.

The rate increases last year came after the Federal Communications Commission ordered a 7 percent reduction in 1994 in Expanded Basic charges after it said cable companies restructured their charges to get around a rate reduction imposed by the federal government in 1993.

The government also imposed a freeze on cable rates throughout much of 1994 while it studied the effect of the mandated rate reductions.

Earlier this year, Congress reversed itself by passing a revamped telecommunications bill that deregulates cable companies. The deregulation is intended to spur competition in the market, supporters said.

Grace said he could not comment on the changes the new federal law might bring locally and referred those questions to Comcast's headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa. A spokesman there could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

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