Comcast Cablevision, Howard County's largest cable company, will raise its monthly rates by as much as 95 cents for some channel packages starting March 1, company officials told County Executive Charles I. Ecker in a Jan. 25 letter.
"Modest inflation and the addition of a couple of channels led us to raise rates in a modest fashion," said Comcast spokesman David Nevins, who noted that the company last raised its rates two years ago.
Comcast, which serves about 270,000 viewers in the area, including about 45,000 in Howard County, also increased rates in Baltimore and Harford counties. But prices in those jurisdictions are different because each county has its own cable rate structures.
In Howard County, rates will increase for three of Comcast's five channel packages: Limited Basic Service, Expanded Service and Value Pak.
Value Pak will rise by 95 cents to $1.51 a month. Viewers also will no longer be able to pay for individual channels but must pay for them collectively. The package, which features the Sci Fi Channel, TBS, and TNT, will add Turner Classic Movies, a 24-hour, commercial-free service offering more than 400 movies each month.
Expanded Service will increase by 75 cents to $12.85 each month and begin featuring the Learning Channel and the Cartoon Network.
Monthly rates for Limited Basic Service will increase by 19 cents to $9.63, with no additional channels.
Comcast also dropped Encore, a movie channel, from its overall lineup in the county.
L The rate increases caught some county officials by surprise.
"The increase is news to me," said County Council Chairman Charles C. Feaga, a 5th District Republican. "There's a limitation to what we can do to set rates and amounts."
Mr. Feaga said the County Council may discuss the changes during a Feb. 8 meeting.
But Mr. Ecker said he expected the rate increases, describing them as a "modification" of the cable company's services. Under Federal Communications Commission guidelines, cable companies are required to notify county officials of rate changes.
Mr. Nevins said the FCC allows cable companies to review their rates regularly and to raise them under certain circumstances.