Comcast to raise rates for basic cable service

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

Updated: May 11, 2012, 4:45 PM

 

Comcast says it will increase its rate for a low-cost cable television offering, called “limited basic service,” to $16.50 a month from the current $15.07 monthly rate, effective July 1. The cable package provides access to channels 1 through 30.

The 9.5 percent increase is the first hike in the basic cable rate since November 2010, said Jim Demmon, cable television manager for the City County Cable Commission. The increase will affect about 9,300 Comcast subscribers, he said.

Rates for larger cable packages increased earlier this year and will remain unchanged, Comcast said in its letter to the commission. Comcast had more than 82,474 cable television subscribers in Vancouver and unincorporated Clark County in March, down slightly from its 82,829 subscribers in December, before its most recent price increases for premium cable service, Demmon said.

The cable commission was notified of the increase late Thursday, Demmon said. “We are concerned (about) the timing of the rate increase given the current economic climate,” Demmon wrote in an email to local government officials and cable commission members. “However, this is a business decision by Comcast over which neither local nor federal government has any regulatory authority.”

In an interview, Demmon said this new increase on Comcast’s low-cost package will affect subscribers on fixed incomes. He noted that Comcast franchise fees pay for public education and government channels that provide a valuable service to the entire community. “My overall concern is that we want a viable cable system,” he said. “Any time there’s a rate increase, there can be people dropping the cable system.”

Comcast typically has raised rates by about 5 percent a year, Demmon said, but the larger increase could reflect that fact that the company didn’t raise the basic rate in 2011.

Sanford Inouye, Comcast’s vice president for government affairs, said in a letter to the commission that the increase reflects Comcast’s “increased cost of doing business, including gas prices, health care costs, increases in the cost of programming, and technology and service improvements.”

Comcast also said in the letter that it will raise rates on some video equipment and installation rates. It said it will include GMC-Channel 485 to its “digital starter” package and add two channels each to its “Sports Entertainment” and “Digital Preferred” packages.

The cable commission is continuing its discussions with Comcast about the terms of an extension of the company’s nonexclusive franchise agreement with Vancouver and Clark County, Demmon said. The next discussion is scheduled in mid-June, he said.