Local cable rates rise; new services on the way

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001

NATCHEZ – Beginning May 1, residents of Vidalia and Adams County will pay more for their cable television.

Cable ONE Manager Bobby McCool said the cost of basic cable will increase from $31.45 to $35.50 a month. The last increase was in May 2000 when basic service rose from about $28.

But the rates are still on target with the national average, said McCool, and subscribers will soon be getting more for their money.

A combination of factors contributed to the rate increase, including rising network programming fees and the cost of updating equipment and technology.

McCool said customers may have noticed fewer interruptions in their service lately, even with recent thunderstorms, thanks to the new equipment.

&uot;We’ve seen a big difference. The number of outages we’ve had has been drastically reduced,&uot; he said.

But the real cost to Cable ONE is the purchase of more than $2 million worth of new equipment to allow the system to move to digital service in Natchez and Adams County beginning as early as mid-summer.

McCool said the equipment is on order now, and installation will begin in Mississippi as soon as it arrives. Cable ONE must obtain a permit to carry the new service across the bridge to Vidalia, which should happen within the year.

Fiber optic wires will allow more channels and expansion into more of Adams County, he said. Going digital also means the system will require fewer amplifiers, which should greatly improve picture quality.

Once the new system is installed, Cable ONE plans to offer a digital converter, or &uot;box,&uot; to all its customers free of charge for one year. Additional converters may be rented for $4.95 a month.

Those customers who have a converter now may swap it for a digital converter, and the monthly charge they pay now will be removed from their bill for one year.

McCool said Cable ONE is the only cable provider in the country which is offering the converters free for the first year. Normally, each would cost $8.95 a month.

Under the digital service, customers with basic cable and a converter will receive 40 DMX channels, all-music channels similar to ones available with digital satellite service.

And subscribers to premium channels such as Showtime and HBO will automatically receive 20 more premium channels at no extra cost, among them Flix and Sundance.

All customers with a converter will have the opportunity to select from almost 50 pay-per-view channels, with almost 50 more sports pay-per-view channels coming in the next year.

The City of Natchez, which holds a franchise agreement with Cable ONE, has issued a request for proposals to other regional cable providers in hopes of luring competition to the area.