North Arundel Cable TV is raising its basic rate for the second time this year, boosting the price for its 42-channel service to $17.90 a month.
But even with the latest $3 increase, company officials boast the service still is the best bargain in town because the basic package includes Home Team Sports.
Neighborhood rival Jones Intercable Co. offers 60 channels for $16.95 a month, but charges extra for the popular sports network, which shows Baltimore Oriole and Washington Capital games.
Determined to keep sports fans happy and add at least one new channel by next February, North Arundel CATV was forced to raise its rate, said Robert J. Salem, vice president of Acton Corp., the Woburn, Mass., company that owns the cable service.
"Traditionally, we've kept our rates a lot lower than many other cable operators, but our programming costs really have caught up with us," he said.
North Arundel's more than 40,000 customers already were hit with a $3 rate increase in May. Sharply rising programming costs, especially for sports channels, prompted the cable company to raise its standard rate, Salem said.
With the latest increase, North Arundel rates will have increased 50 percent since May.
"It's a fairly expensive service, but we decided to put Home Team Sports on basic in an attempt to provide more in terms of value for what we're charging," he said.
The latest increase, which will take effect Dec. 1, edges North Arundel out of first place as the cheapest cable service in the county. Both Jones and United Cable of Annapolis offer packages for $16.95 a month.
But North Arundel claims its service is still the least expensive, about $13, if the $5 for Home Team Sports is deducted from the price. Cable operators serving Baltimore, Calvert, Harford and Howard counties charge between $17.95 and $23.95 a month for their basic packages.
Most areas are served by only one company, but in the northern end of Anne Arundel County, a turf battle continues between the rival North Arundel and Jones Intercable companies.
Both have installed cable on the same streets in some neighborhoods.
They remain neck-and-neck in the race for customers, with about 40,000 each.
Officials from the Colorado-based Jones Intercable could not be reached for comment Thursday on future rate increases or expansion plans.