November 26, 2004

Comcast’s Cable Price Hike to Help Pay for New Products

Nov. 26--Local cable customers soon will pay $3 more -- that's a specialty cup of coffee at a local coffeehouse, a beer at a nearby pub, or almost a gallon of milk -- each month for the service.

Comcast Corp. plans to broaden its array of products available here next year, possibly with phone service. And its customers will help pay for that through the second rate increase in seven months. In January, the rates will increase by 6.6 percent for full standard service.

About half of the company's cable television customers in the Fort Wayne area subscribe to full standard service, and the price per month for that will rise to $47.89 from $44.89.

Customers are expected to begin receiving notices of the rate increase starting next week, said Damon Miiller, vice president and general manager.

The last rate increase for full standard service came in April, when Comcast raised the monthly rate by 6.25 percent, to $42.45 from $39.95.

The price per month on digital cable packages also will rise, to $74.99 from $70.99 for the lowest level (bronze) package--a 5.6 percent increase; and to $102.99 from $97.99 for the highest level (platinum) package--a 5.1 percent increase.

More than 20 percent of subscribers in Allen and Whitley counties have digital packages.

Prices for the above services do not include sales taxes and fees, which add nearly $5 to the cost of the full standard service each month.

Comcast employees are testing a new product for the area, On Demand, and it could be available within the next 30 to 45 days.

On Demand was designed for Comcast subscribers who would like to view programming whenever they want, without having to record it.

The new product requires a subscription to the company's digital television service. Part of On Demand will be available without additional charge.

On Demand won't include all the programming carried by Comcast, but a lot of it from several channels. The company will record it and make the programming available at all hours.

On Demand will sell 24-hour access to movies pay-per-view-style, for $3.95. Subscribers to some premium channels will get their content through On Demand at no additional charge.

The Internet-based phone service Comcast could offer here is available on a limited test basis now in Indianapolis.

Depending on how the test goes, it could become available here this summer, said Mark Apple, corporate affairs director for Comcast Cablevision of Indianapolis.

Customers here would pay a flat monthly fee of $39.95 for all their local and long distance calls, if they also subscribe to the company's cable TV and high-speed Internet service.

The monthly fee will be $44.95 for customers who subscribe to one other Comcast service and $54.95 for those who don't subscribe to its cable TV or high-speed Internet service.

Comcast's phone service can function like traditional phone service with existing equipment and customers won't have to change their phone numbers to use it, he said.

Because it's a Voice Over Internet Protocol service, it will come with some additional features, including the ability to access voice mail via the Internet.

For customers who subscribe to other Comcast services, eventually, "we will be able to integrate all of them," Apple said.

Customers who choose to will be able to see Caller ID information popping up on their television sets when the phone rings, or will be able to watch television in a corner of their computer terminals.

Comcast began testing the Internet-based phone service in June and "most people are staying with it," Apple said.

"Until we really launch the product, we don't really know how it's going to stick," he said. "But people really like the product."


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