Cable rates to increase in 2002

5.5 percent rate hike will affect both local, national customers

By CHRISTINA M. CURRIE
Daily Press writer
Watching shows on Fox, ESPN, Lifetime or CNN will become more expensive beginning Jan. 1 when AT&T Broadband raises its rates for customers nationwide.
Rates will increase an average of 5.5 percent nationwide, meaning most customers will see their bills go up by about $2.
AT&T officials attribute the rate change to an increase in programming costs and expenses associated with doing business, such as the rising cost of fuel and wages for customer service personnel and technicians.
"The cost of programming keeps going up just like everything else is," said Kim Musgrove, office manager for AT&T's Craig office. "When they raise their rates to us, unfortunately, we pass them on to the customer."
In Northwest Colorado, a basic cable package will be $12.74 until Jan. 1 when it increases to $13.10. Basic plus expanded cable the most popular package will increase from $32.01 to $34.15.
"I don't know what the heck we can do about it," said Craig resident Marian Kagie. "I'm not for [the rate increase]."
Blaming the rate increase on higher programming costs is just "an excuse," Kagie said. "They'll do what they want to because, unfortunately, people love watching television."
Despite the increase, the second in two years, Kagie said she hasn't considered trying any alternatives to cable television, but Craig resident Bessie Hayes wouldn't go back.
"I got tired of them always raising prices. Every year the price would go up," said Hayes, who is now a satellite television customer.
According to Hayes, satellite television is a less expensive alternative to cable, but industry officials still debate which is the better deal.
"There's no doubt satellite is the better value," said Daryl Newell, owner of Craig Satellite TV. "Nine-and-a-half out of 10 times, it's better to go with satellite."
According to Newell, when satellite television companies, such as Dish Network or DirecTV increase prices, more channels are added.
"Satellite is actually lowering rates when you look at per channel," he said.
He doesn't expect to see any cost increases as a result of AT&T's rate changes. The company's last increase was $1 and occurred about one year ago.
Satellite service companies are able to keep rates so low, Newell speculated, because they only have to maintain one uplink and dish instead of a connection to millions of individual households.
But, Musgrove warns consumers to look for hidden costs when signing up for satellite television.
"Satellite rates do go up, too," she said. "Consider how much you'll be paying a year from now."
Musgrove said satellite television companies offer good deals for the first year of service, but prices sometimes increase after that.
"We give customers all the information up front," she said. "That's where we feel satellite does not."
Both Musgrove and Newell urge customers to make the decision. They invite people to make the comparison and shop around.
"Get the literature and compare," Newell said. "I don't see the value of [cable television]."
If the number of customers is any indication, there is still indecision as to the relative value of each service. AT&T has about 14 million cable television subscribers nationwide. Dish Network and DirecTV have a combined 16 million.

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