Cable company raises rates on cheapest package

Posted: Thursday, October 26, 2000

Most Juneau cable TV subscribers will pay more to watch the tube beginning Dec.1. And there are program changes in the works, according to Terry Dunlap, regional manager for the city's only cable TV provider, GCI.

The company has 8,500 to 9,000 subscribers in Juneau.

"We're trying to continue to bring more good programming to the Juneau public," he said.

GCI is trying to accommodate customer requests with respect to channel location as well, Dunlap said. The company is moving toward packaging all news channels next to each other and is looking to do the same with all sports channels. "Instead of having to surf around to the next news channel, a customer will be able to simply click to it."

GCI is combining its Basic and Standard services, which in the past cost $14.16 and $21.65 per month, respectively. The result is a new Basic service that will cost $19.16 and add six channels to the former Basic list: KING in Seattle; KWGN in Denver; KATH in Juneau; University of Alaska Southeast TV; C-Span; and C-Span 2.

GCI is also bumping up its Premium movie channels HBO/HBO Plus and Showtime/The Movie Channel by $1 per month.

The loss of a couple of venerable cable programs to Basic service subscribers is also in the cards. TBS, Ted Turner's old-movie network, and The Learning Channel, a provider of documentaries, including so-called "reality TV," how-to programming and adventure accounts, have been promoted to GCI's more expensive Preferred service.

Due to Juneau's mountainous terrain, the three broadcast TV channels KTOO, KJUD and KATH are difficult to pick up without a cable connection.

Though GCI has no direct cable competition, there does exist another avenue for TV programming, according to longtime cable critic Larry Buzzell.

Buzzell led a group of Juneau residents to fight one of GCI's predecessors and succeeded in persuading the Alaska Public Utilities Commission to force the company to provide basic service for $5 per month though those costs have crept back up since.

Buzzell does not subscribe to cable which he denounces as a monopoly but does own a satellite dish.

"Big small dishes are the way to go," he said. "You're not going to get good quality picture from the pizza-pan dishes you need one approximately 1.2 meters across."

Buzzell estimated installation of a dish and receiver might cost $500-$600. And the basic satellite service provided runs $22.50 a month $3.34 more than what cable's Basic costs.

But with 48 channels for its basic service, satellite offers a great many more apples than cable does oranges. And they include channels that GCI offers only to its Preferred customers: MSNBC, the Disney Channel, and CNBC, for example.

GCI hiked its HBO and Preferred rates by a dollar each in 1999. A previous rate increase in August 1998 hiked Tier 1 by $2.50 and Tier 2 by $1.50.

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