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Antietam Cable sets July 1 rate increase

June 07, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Many Antietam Cable Television customers will pay higher rates beginning July 1, a company spokeswoman said Friday.

The spokeswoman, Marketing Director Cynthia Garland, said the rate increase, which she attributed to higher costs for programming, will cost a typical Antietam customer $27 more a year.

The cable company last increased rates in August 2002.

Antietam Cable officials are continuing to try to put some programming, such as sports channels, on a separate tier so only people interested in those programs have to pay for them, but that is not now possible, said V. Gene Hager, company president and general manager.

"We would love to do that but the programmers won't let us do that," Garland said.

Antietam Cable can't disclose how much cable networks charge, but it has been widely reported in industry publications that ESPN is demanding a 20 percent increase, Garland said.

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Other networks are also seeking increases, but ESPN's is the most costly, Hager said.

Approximately 36,000 of Antietam's 38,500 customers subscribe to limited and standard basic cable services, Garland said. Standard basic provides 44 additional channels, including CNN, ESPN, MTV, TNT and TBS.

On July 1, Antietam Cable's limited basic service is scheduled to increase from $11.05 a month to $11.40 a month. The amount increased from $10.87 to $11.15 last summer.

Standard basic service is scheduled increase from $20.35 to $22.35. The amount increased from $17.63 a month to $20.35 last summer. Limited basic service is required to receive any other level of service.

This will be the eighth time Antietam has raised its average customer rate since January 1996, the month before cable deregulation was approved.

Antietam Cable upgraded its system in 1996, installing fiber-optic lines to provide two-way service for Internet and digital transmissions, Garland said.

In mailers to customers, Antietam Cable says it has the second lowest monthly cable rate in the Tri-State area for monthly standard basic service rate and includes a chart showing Antietam's rates and those of other companies. However, an official with one of the companies said its rate as shown in Antietam's chart is higher than what the company actually charges.

Tele-Media Co. offers a package similar to Antietam's to its customers in Hancock, Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Great Cacapon, W.Va., for $31.90, a Tele-Media office manager said.

Antietam listed the rate for Tele-Media in Hancock at $33.55, which includes tax. Antietam's $33.75 rate does not include tax.

Garland said she received the $33.75 rate quote from a Tele-Media official who told her the amount does not include tax.

Tele-Media increased its rate from $30.45 to $31.90 in January, also citing increased programming costs, the company office manager said.

Antietam Cable is owned by Schurz Communications Inc., the company that owns The Herald-Mail.

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