Comcast to Hike Rates Across Marin

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Comcast is boosting the price of cable TV and Internet service in Marin County and the rest of Northern California, where 2.3 million customers face bills almost 4 percent higher next month.

The cost of most Comcast cable television packages in Marin will rise Aug. 1, along with Internet rates, although the "limited basic" or least costly television package rate will remain the same in most of Marin aside from Novato.

Comcast, which last increased rates nine months ago, is doing so again in light of rising costs, technology expenses and related improvements, said Andrew Johnson, Comcast regional vice president.

"We continue to invest in next-generation technology to support new product features, more program choices and improvements in customer service," he said. "As a result of these investments, combined with the increased cost of doing business and rising programing costs, the average customer bill will increase by 3.8 percent."

Because of varying contracts negotiated by Comcast and the predecessors it acquired in Marin and elsewhere in the Bay Area, basic rates vary slightly across the region, making charges in Novato a bit different from those in the rest of the county.

The new rate program in Novato, for example, means that subscribers who signed on for the least expensive "limited basic" service face one of the biggest boosts, a 9.4 percent hike that will send the cost of basic service there to $19.48 a month. But the limited basic rate for the rest of Marin is not due to change and will remain $16.89 a month, according to Bryan Byrd, Comcast’s California regional spokesman. Prices for limited basic service average $18.74 in California.

"Expanded basic" service in Novato will rise from the current $44.19, to $45.51 a month, while in the rest of Marin expanded basic rises from $45.10 to $48.10.

The new rate structure indicates Comcast is trying to lure customers to its digital TV service by cutting the cost of an entry plan known as "digital economy." That rate will plummet $10, from $39.95 to $29.95 a month in Marin, including Novato.

Other rates are headed up, although they won’t affect special promotions.

The "digital premier" plan will increase across Marin from the current $66.95, to $69. Rates to subscribe to premium channels like HBO, Starz, Cinemax, Showtime or the Move Channel will each increase $1 a month, to $19.99 across the

Consumer advocates chided Comcast for hiking the basic rate by a higher percentage than other programs.

"For most people, cable is the way they get their television," said John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. "They ought to have some responsibility to make that basic service as affordable as possible."

But Comcast publicists characterized the increase with a rosy brush, pointing out the average customer in California will see prices rise 7 cents a day for digital video service, paying $2.03 a day for more than 300 television channels, or about as much as a cup of coffee.

Marin Comcast bills rising

– Limited basic service will rise from $17.80 to $19.48 in Novato and remain $16.89 elsewhere in Marin.

– Expanded basic will be $45.51 in Novato, $48.10 in the rest of Marin.

– Digital premier will rise from $66.95 to $69 a month across Marin.

– HBO and movie channels will rise $1 to $19.99 a month across Marin.

– Economy Internet will increase $2 to $26.95 across Marin.

– Digital Economy TV rates will drop $10 to $29.95 across Marin.

Contact Nels Johnson at ij.civicc[email protected]; Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.

Consumer Watchdog
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