Adelphia: L.A. Hike's On

Adelphia Communications Corp. is standing firm on its planned rate hike in Los Angeles, despite Mayor James Hahn's plea to reconsider the move, which he called "ill-advised."

In a letter to the company last Friday, the mayor cited the bad timing of the 6 percent increase — especially since the company's move to file for bankruptcy protection has generated an atmosphere of eroded consumer confidence.

Los Angeles officials are also concerned that the increased subscription fees will go into the company's global bankruptcy account, and not the local system's coffers.

City officials are pressuring local executives for a full build-out of the operator's L.A. properties. Currently, only one franchise — in neighborhoods adjacent to Santa Monica — has been substantially upgraded.

Rebuilds in Adelphia's other Los Angeles franchise areas, such as the San Fernando Valley and the eastern suburbs, are far from complete, though MSO officials say work has resumed.

In a return letter, a copy of which was obtained by Multichannel News
late Wednesday, interim CEO Erland Kailbourne reiterated that the hike was necessitated by market forces, such as programming expansion, sports-rights fee hikes and the costs associated with around-the-clock customer service.

The increase was planned well in advance of the current financial problems, he added.

"While we acknowledge that the rate increases are never welcomed by our customers, we firmly believe that this annual adjustment is appropriate given the rising costs," Kailbourne wrote.

Consumers didn't see it that way. Talk-radio callers and executives from competing companies who are Adelphia subscribers said the brochure announcing the rate increases did not promote consumer benefits.

One customer said he fumed when he saw such factors as insurance increases and salaries among the costs cited by the cable company.

And Los Angeles Councilman Jack Weiss, whose entire district is served by Adelphia, said in a public comment that the only increases he wants to see are in customer service and high-speed data penetration. His offices are barraged with complaints following every Adelphia misstep.

The increase brings Adelphia's basic service charge in Los Angeles to $48.89, a $2 a month hike. Fees for broadcast basic and the digital tier will each increase by $2.

Premium services were raised $1, and an additional digital outlet will cost an extra 50 cents.