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Some Martinsburg cable rates to increase

December 09, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A plan to increase cable rates again raised the ire of Martinsburg City Councilman Donald Anderson, who invited an official with Adelphia to take a drive around Martinsburg and "look at all the nice satellite dishes that are going up."

Despite his objections, the rate increase was approved Thursday night by a 3-2 vote at the Martinsburg City Council meeting.

Beginning in February, those who have the classic cable package, which features around 70 channels, will pay $46.31 a month, which is a $3 increase.

He did not indicate that any new channels would be added.

Those with the broadcast package, which includes local channels and a few others, will continue paying $17 a month. The cost to have a box to receive digital channels will increase by 50 cents a month, while the cost for the company's fastest-growing service - a cable modem - will not increase, said Alan Hall, general manager for Adelphia.

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Raising rates is needed for Adelphia, which is expected to be purchased by Comcast, to remain competitive. Also, the price Adelphia must pay for networks is partly driving the increase, Hall said.

"A lot of the programming that we carry has a price tag to it and that price tag has gone up," he said.

He said this is not the best time to raise rates, since the purchase by Comcast is based on the number of Adelphia customers. However, Adelphia cannot emerge from bankruptcy and be sold until it can prove it's a viable business, Hall said.

"It truly is a Catch-22," he said.

Anderson noted that this will be the third rate increase in the last 21 months.

"I'm a former customer of Adelphia and the reason I am is because you just don't know how to control the prices," he said to Hall.

Hall said Adelphia has been working to improve the network by investing more than $1 million in new vehicles to serve the region and spending more than $500,000 for new equipment for the area. He said the number of customers who need service has decreased and that a new service - on-demand movies - will soon be available to those with digital cable.

The earliest possible sale date to Comcast is the end of March, he said.

Council members Shari Knadler Persad, Roger Lewis and Betty Gunnoe voted to accept the rate increase, while Councilmen Anderson and Richard Yauger voted against it.

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