Chicago -- Prime Cable and Tele-Communications Inc. in
Chicago will slash their late fees to $1.50 per month and submit to more stringent
regulation of customer service if they want to be refranchised.
The formal refranchising process began earlier this month,
as the operators' proposals -- along with an Ameritech New Media franchise request
for the city's South Side -- were presented to aldermen, who may vote on the plans as
early as July.
The operators agreed to the changes after Mayor Richard
Daley pledged earlier this year that no operator would receive a new franchise without a
late-fee price break. TCI's and Prime's franchises expire next March.
For TCI, the new fee will mean a $5 cut in the cost of a
The plan carries no date for implementation because Prime
and TCI said they need time to revise billing software. The plan lifts the cap on late
fees after 17 days, after which an operator can charge "reasonable costs of
collection" to get its due, according to a proposed ordinance.
The city will crack down on service standards, assuring
that customers encounter a busy signal less than 3 percent of the time and that they are
offered service calls in four-hour windows.