November 30, 2004

Comcast to Hike Monthly Rates for Cable Subscribers

Comcast Corp. cable subscribers in Southwest Washington and Oregon will see their monthly bill increase in January, a move necessitated by increased services and offerings, according to a company statement.

The most common rate hike will be for subscribers to the 71- channel standard cable package, which will increase in cost by 6 percent to $44.04 a month, up from $41.55. Changes to other packages will vary.

A year ago Comcast upped the the standard package price by 6.4 percent.

In both increases, the company said the higher rates resulted from technological improvements. The latest change is being attributed to the launch of high-definition television and a video- on-demand services as well as adding 100 customer service representatives to call centers in Oregon.

The cable provider serves more than 78,000 cable TV customers in Clark County, more than 30,000 Internet customers and more than 25,000 local phone customers. Comcast's regional office in Beaverton, Ore., also serves more than 500,000 customers in Oregon.

The increase will not affect Comcast high-speed Internet and phone customers.

Bob Jenks, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Oregon said the annual increases are the result of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which blocks local governments from opposing cable rates. Jenks said the result is a de facto monopoly.

"Until Congress decides to turn this unregulated monopoly into something that can be regulated, consumers don't have much of a choice other than unplugging their TVs (from cable) or putting up with it," Jenks said.

Cable television companies such as Comcast typically respond to such comments by saying that they are not monopolies because of growing competition from satellite television and other telecom providers.

"We realize that our customers have other alternatives for entertainment and we're working hard to offer the best choice and value in the industry," said Comcast regional spokesperson Theressa Davis.

Jim Demmon, cable television manager for the Vancouver-Clark County Cable TV Office, said his office encourages people that call with complaints to contact Washington's federal senators and representatives and urge them to return local control on prices or institute a price control.

"At least they are continually improving services," Demmon said.

Comcast, a publicly traded company based in Philadelphia generated $18.3 billion in revenues in 2003. One year sales grew by 47.3 percent. The stock, which is traded on the Nasdaq exchange, closed Monday at $30.23 a share, down 32 cents.

The company employs 1,400 people in Oregon and Southwest Washington.


Previously: Comcast Corp. increased its standard cable rate a year ago by 6.4 percent.

What's new:The company plans to again increase the standard rate by 6 percent.

What's next: Subscribers can expect to see bills reflect the new rate after Jan. 1.