December 2, 2004 in Business

Comcast plans rate increase

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Comcast Corp. has announced cable television rates in Spokane will go up between 5 and 16 percent for most subscribers, effective in January.

Cable subscribers who now get the basic package of 74 channels will see an increase of 5.7 percent, to $43.49 per month from $41.14.

That increase means Spokane’s cable-TV subscribers will pay $1.20 more per month than Comcast’s Seattle customers for essentially the same lineup of channels, according to Comcast releases. In January, Seattle’s basic lineup of cable channels goes up $2.81, to a monthly cost of $42.29.

About two-thirds of Spokane’s 97,000 city and county Comcast cable subscribers get the basic lineup, according to Comcast officials.

Another 10 percent of Spokane cable TV subscribers will see a 15.7 percent hike for the limited basic lineup of about 30 channels. The monthly rate will go to $14.99 from $12.95 for that service, said Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp.

Nationwide, Comcast’s average cable rates for 2005 will rise by 5.9 percent. Comcast, based in Philadelphia, is the nation’s largest cable operator.

Time-Warner, another large cable operator, is announcing 2005 cable-TV hikes of about 4.1 percent. Cox Cable, another provider, is planning rate hikes of about 2.5 percent next year, according to industry press releases.

Nationwide, inflation during the past year has been 3.2 percent.

Kipp said the rate increases are justified by Comcast’s investments in new programming, more customer service workers and technical improvements to the system here. Kipp said the company has added 200 customer-service workers in the past 12 months.

One major innovation to be added here in 2005 is the introduction of Comcast’s video-on-demand service, said Kipp. The new service, available for those with digital cable service, allows viewing of more than 2,000 hours of premium programs. Included are a large number of popular movie releases. Also offered will be NFL highlight packages.

Kipp said the video-on-demand service is due to start “in the first quarter of 2005.” Western Washington Comcast subscribers have just started signing up for that option, he added.

No rate increase has been planned for Comcast’s high-speed Internet service, according to company press releases.

Comcast’s last cable-TV hike occurred in January 2003. The increase then ranged from 4.5 percent to 7.5 percent, based on channel packages. On average, most subscribers here saw a $2 per month increase, said Kipp.

City and county officials here are just now concluding a series of negotiations with Comcast to renew the cable franchise. The current city contract with Comcast expires in August 2005.

However, the city and county, in general, have no regulatory role over cable rates.

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