TCI raising typical city bill $2.30 Higher costs blamed for 10% rate rise

March 12, 1996|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Because of erroneous information provided by TCI Communications of Baltimore, an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun reported an incorrect figure for the city cable system's June 1 rate increase. In fact, the typical TCI customer will pay an additional $2.32 for a package of basic and expanded basic service. The increase will bring the total rate to $24.39.

The Sun regrets the error.

The typical Baltimore cable TV subscriber will have to pay more than 10 percent higher rates for service starting in June, TCI Communications of Baltimore said yesterday.

Coles Ruff, the city franchise's general manager, said the monthly bill for TCI's basic and "expanded basic" plans will rise $2.30 -- from $22.07 to $24.37.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The increases will not affect cable subscribers in most of suburban Baltimore, where the cable systems are owned by other companies.

Mr. Ruff said the increase will be TCI's first since December 1994. The increase was primarily the result of higher programming and operating costs, he said.

Among the added costs Mr. Ruff cited were the addition of ESPN2 and the planned move of Home Team Sports from TCI's premium menu to expanded basic service April 1.

Mr. Ruff said the increase was not related to the passage last month of the Tele-Communications Act of 1996, which eventually will deregulate cable rates. He said the increases are being made under formulas set by the Federal Communications Commission after the Cable Act of 1992. The increases are part of a wave of rate changes affecting about half of the cable systems owned by Tele-Communications Inc. in Englewood, Colo., said LaRae Marsik, a TCI spokeswoman.

TCI's Annapolis system is not raising its rates right now, but general manager William Forest said "we will shortly." He said that system is still calculating the amount of its increase under complicated FCC formulas.

Steve Hyde, regulatory affairs manager for TCI's southeastern division, said rates will also increase this year at the company's Eastern Shore system but he was unsure of the exact amounts.

"They're pretty much in the same range," he said.

TCI's decision follows on the heels of a rate increase Feb. 1 by Comcast Corp., the region's largest operator.

Comcast increased its Baltimore, Harford and Howard counties rates between 3 percent and 8 percent in areas where it has upgraded its network, said spokesman David Nevins. He added that those rates rose in conjunction with Comcast's decision to add HTS, American Movie Classics, the History Channel and other channels to its standard package.

Mr. Ruff said that as of yesterday he still did not know when TCI would announce its long-expected upgrade of the city cable system.

Such an upgrade is needed before the system will be able to offer some of the same advanced services that Bell Atlantic says it expects to bring to the market, including high-speed Internet access and interactive services.

"It's still my expectation although I can't give you a date yet," Mr. Ruff said.

TCI's Baltimore system offers 73 channels -- 20 in the basic package, 44 in expanded basic and nine premium channels. The HTS switch on the Orioles' Opening Day will bring the totals to 45 in expanded basic and eight premium.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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