Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tci Cable System Plans Rate Hike City Subscribers Can Expect to See Increase of 5.4 Pct

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tci Cable System Plans Rate Hike City Subscribers Can Expect to See Increase of 5.4 Pct

Article excerpt

TCI, the largest cable television company in the St. Louis area and the nation, said Thursday that it plans to raise rates about 7 percent on June 1 for most of its 14 million customers.

A TCI spokesman said he could not say exactly how much rates might go up for its 250,000 subscribers in the St. Louis area. Glenn Ryerson said such information might be available next week.

However, the city of St. Louis' regulator of cable TV said the company has already filed its rate increase proposals for its 57,000 customers in the city. Susan Littlefield said TCI wants to raise the rate on its most popular service to $24.99 a month from $23.71, an increase of 5.4 percent. That's for the combined basic and expanded service, which gives customers access to all but the premium movie channels. Only 2,000 subscribers in the city do not opt for this service, she said. Littlefield said the company did not propose to raise rates again for the movie channels, which can add an additional $10 to $12 a month to the bill. She said some of those rates went up $2 a month on Jan. 1. But TCI is proposing to charge more to rent remote control devices and the converter boxes that some may need to get cable TV. TCI, based in Englewood, Colo., lost 70,000 subscribers last year. It said it needs the increase for the higher cost of such popular programs as MTV and ESPN. TCI is also in debt $15 billion and, like other cable companies, has experienced increased competition from satellite TV. TCI will soon roll out a new digital cable service called ALL-TV. It promises better picture and sound quality and up to 150 channels. City officials have started to review the proposed increases. "We're going to be looking very, very carefully at these rates so they remain as low and as reasonable as we can make them within constraints of federal rules," she said. Last year's federal telecommunications law began the deregulation of cable rates. But the federal government, in theory, still exercises some control. Littlefield said the city's objections to rate increases in the past have received little, if any, support from the Federal Communications Commission. …

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