Springfield, MO

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TCI of Springfield to raise cable rates in June

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

TCI of Springfield will raise its rates for its expanded-basic cable service this June. Last year, the cable company decreased rates, but this year rates will go up approximately 6 percent for subscribers to TCI's expanded-basic service, said Ross Summers, general manager for TCI of Springfield.

Expanded-basic customers will see an increase in their rates from $25.09 per month to $26.59 per month as of June 1. In 1997, the rate dropped from $25.23 per month to $25.09, Summers said. The price change for the two-year period is about a 5.4 percent increase.

Basic-service subscribers will see a small price decrease from $8.17 monthly to $8.15 monthly.

Decoder and digital-box rental fees will increase from $3 per month to $3.25 per month, and converter-box prices will change from $1.50 per month to $1.60 per month. Installation will cost $46.95 as of June 1; it was previously $44.95, and the reconnect fee for residential service will remain $24.95.

The reason for the rate increase is that programming costs continue to increase for TCI, Summers said. The rates are calculated by the Federal Communication Commission using a "complex formula," the major component of which is the programming fees, Summers said.

"The majority of the increased costs TCI incurs are in programming fees. We believe those costs will continue to rise as networks continue to pay more and more for their programs. We have some good, quality programming on cable television, but to maintain that level and enhance it will result in increased costs," Summers said.

Last year, the cable company announced new channels and channel readjustments along with its rate change, but this year there are no new channels being added and no adjustments being made, Summers said. The company has added Channel 67, which will air Kansas City Royals baseball games this spring and summer.

TCI of Springfield also introduced digital cable this year, which has had "very good acceptance," Summers said.

Over the next 10 months, the company will get ready to roll out Internet access through the cable system. TCI is testing the service in two of its market areas now, Summers said, and TCI of Springfield will begin offering the Internet access on a limited basis this summer in portions of the city.

"The service will be several hundreds of times faster than people are getting now through the phone lines. I already have a waiting list of people who have asked for this service," Summers said.

Because the service is provided through the fiber-optic and coaxial-cable plant TCI has, and is not a switched or non-switched phone service, the service is not subject to any regulatory approvals but is considered an extension of TCI's existing cable services, Summers said.

Springfield will be one of the first markets outside the test markets in Fremont Hills, Calif., and Seattle, Wash., to receive the service. The cable company will install a special modem in the customer's computer so that he or she can access the service.

Though the installation fee and monthly service charge for the Springfield market have not been set, the service has been running about $40 per month in test markets, Summers said.

TCI of Springfield currently has about 53,000 customers in the Springfield market.

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