Tens of thousands of cable television subscribers across much of Los Angeles will see rates for basic and premium services climb early next year, with the biggest increase slated for hookup fees charged to new cable customers in South-Central Los Angeles.
Five cable companies with subscribers from Sylmar to San Pedro told the city's Board of Telecommunications Commissioners on Friday they intend to raise basic rates between 2.6% and 9.4% in coming months. Because of federal deregulation of the cable industry, the city has no authority to control rates, officials said.
Susan Herman, general manager of the city's Telecommunications Department, described the increases as a "Christmas rush" timed in part to beat re-regulation of the cable industry expected next spring. But that suggestion was flatly denied by a cable company executive who attributed the increases to higher operating costs.
The largest increase was proposed by Continental Cablevision, which plans to boost hookup fees from 15% in the Hollywood and Wilshire areas to 91% in South-Central, according to city figures.
Continental Cablevision Vice President John Gibbs said the move will equalize the installation charges in areas of the city served by his firm.
Installation charges will rise from $20.95 to $39.95 in South-Central Los Angeles. In the Hollywood and Wilshire areas the cost of installation will grow from $34.65 to $39.95.
Gibbs said that despite the increase the installation fees will still be lower than those of other city cable companies. He called the city's analysis of the percentage increase deceptive because firms frequently deeply discount hookup fees to attract new customers.
Unlike the other four companies, Continental Cablevision is not increasing its basic monthly service charge.
Falcon Cable, whose Los Angeles franchise is limited to a small part of Pacific Palisades, is increasing its basic cable charge by 5% and premium service by 9.4%, according to city figures.
In a letter to subscribers, general manager Paul Radefeld said that the increases are necessary because the costs of operating the Falcon system are rising faster than inflation.
Elsewhere, Copley/Colony Cablevision, which operates in the Harbor area, will boost its basic cable rates by about 5% beginning in January.
King Videocable, in northern parts of the San Fernando Valley, will increase its rates between 5% and 6.7% in January.
United Cable will boost its charge for basic service by 3.3% and premium services including Home Box Office will rise by 4.3% beginning in January, according to city figures.
United Cable general manager George Noel said the increases are very small and are intended to cover the cost of enhanced services. Noel denied any intention to push cable rates up in advance of the expected re-regulation of the cable industry next spring.
After a bitter fight, Congress, over President Bush's veto, passed landmark legislation that would again regulate cable television rates.
Herman said the city is prepared to assume authority over cable rates after the Federal Communications Commission acts on new regulations. But that will not affect the rates presented to the city commission Friday. The increases that take effect early next year involve nine of the city's 14 cable systems, she said.