Charter increasing cable rates Jan. 1

Rick Wagner • Dec 28, 2008 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Charter Communications is increasing cable television rates and reconfiguring its channel offerings, effective Jan. 1.

The rate increases, which vary according to service levels and for basic rates on location, are the third ones in three years, with the most recent increase going into effect Feb. 1, 2008.

Kevin Kick, marketing manager for Charter in East Tennessee, and Tony Falin, director of operations for Charter in East Tennessee, said most customers will see an increase of $2 a month, not counting taxes that vary across localities, although the rate increases will vary based on the level of service.

“The cost of delivering products and services has increased,” Falin said. “The rate adjustment that is taking place reflects that.”

Normally, Charter announces rate increases around the first of the year, as it did for 2007 and 2008.

For those on Digital Home, which Kick said is the most common level of service, bills across the region will go from $57.99 to $59.99, while expanded basic will go from $52.99 to $54.99.

Basic will increase from $9.52 to $14.99 in Kingsport and $18.99 to $19.99 in outlying areas, Kick said.

He said the difference is franchise agreements with localities, although for higher levels of service the rates are the same regionwide.

“We’re starting to allow customers to mix and match services,” Kick said. “Our goal is always to get customers the best variety and best choices.”

For instance, to add the first premium channel to a plan is $14, the second $12, and the third $10.

“We de-packaged for more variety,” Kick said. “Everyone will be affected differently.”

Charter no longer will offer the Big, Bigger and Biggest packages, but customers can opt to receive the same services they get in those channels or can reconfigure their channel lineups.

For instance, a bill for a customer in the Kingsport area on the Bigger Package would go from $74.99 to $83.99, a $9 increase, according to the notice dated Dec. 1 and provided by a specific customer.

However, that particular customer’s bill won’t change Jan. 1 because the user is in the middle of a special package or promotional deal. It will change when the promotion ends.

The bill outlines that the HD Ultra View, a service for those with high-definition television sets, has been introduced and provides HD-only channels for $5. The old offering was $8 and provided all HD channels, including those that were simulcast in non-HD format.

Kick said that means customers with an HD TV and a Charter HD converter can view the HD channels that are not exclusively HD at no extra charge.

Those include A&E, ESPN, TBS and TNS.

“Native” HD programming is University HD, HD Theater, HDNet, HDNet Movies and Palladia. It is available for $5 a month.

Charter’s rates in the region last increased about a year ago. Kick said Charter sees relatively few changes or drops in service because of the rate increases, although he said customers do change their levels of service, including adding services, over time.

Charter’s Internet and phone service rate are not affected by the increase, Falin said.

However, the 2008 increases did affect Internet rates. Charter officials addressing the 2008 increases said the average cable TV increase then was $2, although the increases ranged from 51 cents to $10, based on specific customer billing notices.

Increases that time included the Big Package going from either $54.99 or $59.99 to $64.99, depending on the customer.

Charter next year plans to offer faster high-speed Internet access and add more HD programing.

Falin also said Charter customers do not need digital TV converter boxes required to receive over-the-air signals after full-power analog TV broadcasts end Feb. 17.

For more information visit www.charter.com.

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