Charter seeks fair playing field, not hike in cable bills
November 22, 2004
In filing for deregulation, Charter Communications wants more flexibility to compete in the market, not increase subscriber fees, an official of the cable TV company said Monday.
Charter filed a petition for deregulation with the Federal Communications Commission in October. The FCC decides to deregulate a cable provider if it finds that satellite-TV competitors are penetrating the market at a rate of 15 percent or more.
“I think there is some concern that we want to keep revenue up, but that’s not what we’re after,” said Marsha Berkbigler, vice president of Charter’s government relations for the western division. “We’re not after driving rates up; we’re after driving customers up.”
Berkbigler said the company doesn’t have plans to eliminate the basic cable package, nor public access stations. The senior citizens’ 20 percent discount on basic cable will stay the same. Charter may start “skinny basic” or “fat basic” options, which are variations of basic cable.
She said if Charter’s petition is granted, franchises will still have to meet customer-service requirements. For example, when an outage is reported the company would still have to send a repair truck within two hours.
She said Charter’s deregulation will benefit Carson City because it pays franchise fees to the city based on how many customers it has.
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“We pay 5 percent of gross revenue that we collect from every customer, and the satellite dish company doesn’t pay a dime,” Berkbigler said.
Market penetration statistics are compiled by the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association, which is a national trade organization representing segments of the satellite industry.
Camille Osborne, director of communications for the association, said it gets subscriber numbers from the cable and satellite providers, compiles it into ZIP code areas and sells it back to the companies.
Osborne said these numbers are “confidential because it deals with numbers concerning competing businesses.”
Berkbigler said DirecTV and DISH Network have penetrated about 20 percent of the market in this area.
She said the company uses data only from the portion of the ZIP code area that has cable.
“In the mountain area up off of 395, where it comes into the city on the north side, we don’t have a cable plant up there, so when we figure in the Carson City ZIP code number we don’t take that area into consideration,” she said.
A press official with EchoStar Communications Corp., which owns DISH Network, declined to comment on how Charter’s deregulation would affect its business. A DirecTV press official also did not have any comment.
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
Charter Cable TV
Basic $12.34 includes the four major networks, government and public access
Expanded Basic $27.65 includes 54 more cable stations, such as MSNBC, MTV and Comedy Central
Basic & Expanded $39.99
Each Digital Tier $4
A digital tier is a group of channels with a similar theme.
HBO/Cinemax package $13
Starz! package $13
Package one $50.94
Includes basic and expanded channels, the cable box, remote and one group of channels
Package two $63.94
The above plus one premium package
Package three $66.94
Includes two premium channels
Charter’s Carson City cable rates