Comcast Eyes 3.7% Rate Hike

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Comcast systems acrossthe country will raise cable rates an average of 3.7% this year, the cable operator said after reports began to appear in local media about the increases.

Notices about the Nov. 1 rate hikes are now in the mail. Consumers in Maryland have been notified that the price for “standard service” will rise from $56.40 to $60.

The top-tier digital sports and entertainment programming package there will rise from its current $131.25 to $137.90 a month. DVR service will increase from $13.95 to $15.95 a month and premium channels including HBO and Showtime will each go up $1, to $15 a month.

Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said the increases are implemented on slightly different schedules — between Nov. 1 and the end of the year — based on billing cycles, local implementation of new products and other factors. She stressed that while cable prices are rising, no increases are planned for high-speed data or telephony services. This will be the sixth year without a hike in those services, she added.

Comcast is “highly focused” on controlling consumer costs, she said, but said higher prices for gas, health care and programming — especially sports — have pushed up the price of video services. The operator is also investing $6 billion a year on programming such as its large video-on-demand library, she added.

While package prices are rising, Comcast said last week it will give away basic cable packages of 20 to 30 channels, depending on local markets. The package is marketed as a digital transition solution for broadcast-only TV viewers, or to cable subscribers who want a digital solution for other televisions in their homes.

The basic package — consisting of local broadcast and public, educational and government channels — will be free if a consumer subscribes to other Comcast products, such as high-speed data or telephony.

An over-the-air viewer who just wants continued access to local broadcast fare can buy the package for $10, a price point offered for one year.

Digital subscribers who want programming for cable-ready or other non-digital sets in their home can get the new basic packages on those sets for free, Comcast said.

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