Cable One announces March 1 rate increase

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 3, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; Cable rates are rising for Natchez customers.

After freezing rates last year, Cable One announced Monday that, effective March 1, it will increase rates by $2 per month for limited service and 50 cents per month for the Digital Value Pak. Most premium packages will increase $1 to $2 per month, with increases of $4 to $5 per month for the digital bundled services, said Bobby McCool, Natchez Cable One general manager.

However, a package with only the broadcast channels is going down in price.

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Because of the economy, the company chose last year not to increase its rates, McCool said, and the company absorbed increased costs on its own.

&uot;Because we understand that no one wants to see increases, we’ve worked hard to keep changes at a minimum and lessen the impact of rising network programming costs for our customers,&uot; McCool said. &uot;We’ve taken extraordinary steps to be proactive and cost-effective.&uot;

Natchez Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, chairwoman of the city committee that helps oversee the cable franchise, said she hopes the company offers more services in exchange for the increase.

&uot;I want to know what they’re adding,&uot; she said.

Cable One blames the rate increase on increases in fees from popular networks such as ESPN, but McCool said the company plans to add some new channels this year as well as a digital video recording service.

He could not say which new networks the company is considering because of ongoing negotiations, nor could he give details on the digital recording &045; or DVR &045; program.

&uot;It’s coming available this year, but we don’t have an official announcement yet,&uot; McCool said.

In the past, Cable One customers have complained to the company and to the city about the need for a more basic package of channels and the poor reception quality of the lower channels, which include network feeds from Baton Rouge and Jackson.

Cable One has in the past blamed those reception problems on weak radio signals and the distance between Natchez and those cities.

The city’s franchise agreement with Cable One was renewed for a 10-year term in August 2002, after some negotiations in which the company pledged to provide a basic package of channels.

Indeed, McCool said Cable One has introduced a Lifeline package, with a streamlined service of local broadcast networks, for $17.95 per month. The digital version of Lifeline is $27.95 per month.

The city has the option of contracting with another cable company for a franchise, but few are interested because Natchez is such a small community, said city attorney Walter Brown.