TCI Systems Set Varied Rate Hikes


Tele-Communications Inc. systems have begun to roll out
their rate-hike notices for the year, at levels that vary community to community.

Although the cable industry is mindful of federal backlash
should rates rise too high, with this year's sunset to some rate regulation,
TCI's corporate office has not set a global figure on rate increases, a spokeswoman
said. Local-system management is allowed to determine the appropriate rate increases.

As a result, some communities will see no change, or even
slight drops in basic rates, while others have been notified that their costs will go up
as much as 7 percent.

For instance, in the suburban systems near Mobile, Ala.,
consumers got their increase notice in January: a 7 percent increase by TCI of Gulf
Plains. But they also got a handful of new channels that were shifted out of a
higher-priced tier.

In the Denver area, the hike is 5 percent to 5.5 percent.

In the San Francisco Bay area, increases in the cluster
averaged 4.8 percent, which exceeds the 3 percent rise in the cost of living in the area.

Cable regulators said they are not resigned to annual
increases, and they will subject all of the hikes to a reasonableness test.

"We sent our filing off to a consultant, who will go
over it with a fine-tooth comb," said Pamela Stone Jacobs, assistant to the city
manager in San Jose, Calif. That community has already challenged the last three annual
increases, and it is still awaiting federal action on its appeals.