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Cable rates to climb in March

Ben Godar

Charter Communications will raise a number of its rates in March,

including an increase in the cost of basic service that will affect

nearly all its cable subscribers.

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Almost all Charter customers will see modest hikes for basic

service. But the big increases will come in the area of field visits,

which will skyrocket by as much as $16 in one category.

In Burbank and Glendale, the monthly cost of basic service will go

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from $12.84 to $13.49. In Montrose, La Crescenta and La Canada

Flintridge, the basic service rate will change from $13.30 to $13.49.

The increase is part of an effort to standardize rates throughout

Southern California, Charter spokeswoman Sandra Magana said.

The cost of expanded basic service will increase $1.20 in Burbank

and Glendale and $2.18 in the foothill areas, bringing the monthly

cost in all areas to $30.46. While there are no changes in the cost

of digital services, those subscribers will still be affected by the

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increases in basic and expanded service.

“Anyone who signs up for cable is part of our basic service,”

Magana said. “It will impact every subscriber to cable.”

The only subscribers who won’t see a rate hike are senior basic

subscribers in Burbank and Glendale, whose rates have remained fixed

since 1997, Magana said.

The cost for certain types of field visits will increase as much

as $16 for analog and digital customers. While the increases in some

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cases nearly double the cost of such service, Magana said relatively

few customers will be affected. Few customers have analog service,

and digital service rarely requires a service visit, she said.

Burbank’s and Glendale’s franchise agreements with Charter give

them control only of hikes in the basic service rate, which has not

been increased since 2001. While a consultant is investigating the

proposed increases, city of Glendale spokesman Ritch Wells said they

appear to be within the parameters set by the FCC and the company’s

negotiated contract with the city.

“Our job is to monitor the rate increases, and we’re doing that to

the best of our abilities,” he said.

The contract between Charter and the city expires in 2005, but

Wells said officials from the city and the cable company already have

begun discussing renewing that agreement.

The city of Burbank also is investigating the proposed rate hike,

but spokesman Michael McManus declined to comment on whether the city

plans to oppose the increases. Wells and McManus said the number of

complaints about Charter have fallen dramatically since a Burbank

call center was opened.

“Problems arise from time to time, but we get a hold of Charter

and try to work through them,” McManus said.

Cable costs in Burbank and Glendale are roughly comparable to

providers in surrounding areas. An 81-channel lineup through Charter

in Burbank and Glendale costs $42.10. An 80-channel lineup through

Altrio Communications in Pasadena costs $39.95, while a 72-channel

lineup through Adelphia in Santa Monica costs $47.50, company

officials said.


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