Tuesday, November 28, 2000

Lebanon cable costs up

City likely to raise subscription price

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — Cheap cable — so far the only visible benefit of the city's $8.2 million telecommunications system — may soon get a little less cheap.

        Lebanon City Council will get its first look tonight at legislation to raise rates about 17 percent overall on its cable TV package. Internet fees will not change.

        “This is a direct reflection of what we have to pay” for the channels the city system carries, telecommunications director Jim Baldwin said Monday.

        Programming costs for basic and deluxe channels have risen 28 percent since the cable system was launched in 1999, from $9.66 per subscriber to $12.37 next year. The most expensive channel is ESPN, which has risen from $1.19 per customer in 1999 to $1.51 each in 2001.

        The city, which did not raise rates in 2000, has little choice but to pay more when programmers raise their prices, Mr. Baldwin said.

        “If you want to watch sports coverage, you have to get ESPN,” he said. “If you want to watch news, you have to get CNN.”

        Cable prices are likely to continue rising through 2005 as programming costs increase, Mr. Baldwin said. Variables such as the possibility of the telecommunications system adding telephone and automatic meter reading services, however, make rate increases difficult to predict.

        Time Warner will not change its rates in Lebanon next year, spokeswoman Jennifer Mooney said Monday. The company dropped its rates for basic and deluxe service to match the city's in 1999, charging about a third less here than it charges elsewhere.

        But Mr. Baldwin said he expects to lose few of his 2,731 customers — a subscriber increase of almost 34 percent since January. The city's customers have stayed despite Time Warner's constant promotions, Mr. Baldwin said, because they prefer the city's service and local programming.

        “And I think people here like the idea their money is staying here,” he added.


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