East County Basic Cable Rateto Rise 11 Percent In Jan.

December 02, 1990|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Staff writer

The cost of basic cable television service, which increased 36.5 percent in western Howard County Nov. 1, will go up 11 percent for eastern county subscribers Jan. 1.

Howard County Cable Associates, which serves the county from Columbia eastward, will raise its monthly rates to $19.95, from $17.95, for its basic 36-channel package.

In addition, subscribers should expect to pay more for some premium channels, with Howard Cable raising its Home Team Sports fee $2, to $13.95.

The fledgling Mid-Atlantic Cable, which started up in September 1989 and serves areas between Columbia and Lisbon, has already raised its monthly charge for a basic 23-channel service from its original $10.95 to $14.95.

The 48-channel Mid-Atlantic offering increased 61.8 percent, from $12.95 to $20.95.

"We've had four years of losses; we've had expenses and no income," John Norcutt, general partner for the Bethesda-based Mid-Atlantic, said. Even though the company has been in business for barely more than a year, it began working on the western county franchise in 1986, when it requested the franchise from the County Council.

Since then, the company has experienced expensive delays in finding a location for its antenna, seen a quadrupling in some cases of premium channel costs and decided to upgrade its equipment to increase its channel capacity from 60 to 80 channels, Norcutt said.

Howard County Cable also has bought better equipment and had to pay more for programming. In addition, its rates were controlled by local government for years, General Manager Thomas Beach said.

With the January increase, Howard County Cable's basic rates will have gone up 66.9 percent, from $11.95, since December 1986. That is when a new federal law took away local governments' power to regulate cable companies.

"Over the span of '77 to '86, we'd been about 20 percentage points behind the Consumer Price Index," Beach said. The CPI rose about 79 points during that period, while cable prices rose 59 percent, he said.

County Councilman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, said he tried to pass a resolution asking cable companies to limit increases to the level of inflation last summer, but the measure was defeated, 2-3. Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass was the resolution's other supporter.

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