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Comcast to raise rates
[February 16, 2007]

Comcast to raise rates

(Post and Courier, The (Charleston, SC) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 15--Comcast Corp., the Charleston region's dominant cable television provider, is raising its rates in March, including a $2.71 monthly increase for one of its most popular subscriber packages.

The company, which serves about 118,000 local households, said it is boosting prices between 2.8 percent and 6 percent March 1, depending on the service.

One of Comcast's biggest sellers, the 69-channel preferred basic service plan, will rise to $48.70 from $45.99 a month, or 6 percent more. Over a year, that works out to an extra $32.52 per customer.


The more expensive digital TV tiers, which now range from $76.70 to $136.70 a month and include premium channels such as HBO, will go up $3.71 across the board.

Comcast also will raise various rates for installation and repair services. Prices for Internet service will not change.

The Philadelphia-based cable giant said this year's rate increase is tied to system upgrades and new offerings.

"It reflects the increased value of the services ... more high-definition programming, more on-demand programming and millions of dollars in capital investment," said Bill Watson, Comcast's general manager in Charleston.

Comcast's price increases over the past seven years have outpaced inflation. In the past, the company has attributed rising rates to higher programming fees, which it must pay to networks such as ESPN for the rights to broadcast their programs.

The higher rates are stacking up at Comcast. The company reported a 19 percent increase in revenue last year and $2.53 billion in income, almost triple its 2005 profit. Comcast said it will spend $5.6 billion on its cable network this year and it expects to collect at least $18.6 billion from TV packages.

Big rate increases are widespread in the cable industry, according to annual studies by the Federal Communications Commission.

Georgia-based Knology Inc., for example, raised rates on its most popular TV package to $47.99 from $44.99 as of Feb. 1. Knology has about 180,000 cable customers in nine markets in the Southeast, including pockets throughout the Charleston region.

"It's all programming," said Lee Endicott, Knology's local general manager. "It's just ridiculous how much it goes up."

Cable prices have drawn the ire of consumer advocates and lawmakers, many of whom say the carriers are justifying higher rates by giving subscribers more channels than they want or watch.

"One conclusion that is easy to reach is that this market is in desperate need of competition," FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said at the time.

Consumers can expect rates to climb more. The reason: Local station owners, such as the company that owns WTAT and WMMP-My TV in Charleston, are pressuring Comcast and other cable providers to fork over a monthly fee for what now is free programming. Those payments would be passed on to customers.

PRICE CHANGES

One of the most popular services, the 69-channel preferred basic plan, is rising by 6 percent:

--Cost today: $45.99

--Cost in March: $48.70

The more expensive digital TV tiers, which now range from $76.70 to $136.70 a month, will go up $3.71 a month.

To see more of The Post and Courier, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.charleston.net.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.
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