Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Comcast to hike rates, charge for adapters
BY ERIC G. STARK, Staff Writer
Free has an expiration date.
In spring 2010, Comcast Cable required Lancaster and Elizabethtown subscribers of the "expanded basic package" (channels 25-78) to get digital TV adapters. The first two adapters were free.
The cable provider, however, never said the adapters were free forever. Effective March 1, Comcast will charge Lancaster-area subscribers $1.99 per digital television adapter per month.
The adapter fee also coincides with a March 1 general price increase for all Comcast customers. The fee and price increase are an attempt to recover the cost of video programming advances, according to Comcast.
"While we've worked hard to hold down price adjustments, the average customer bill will increase by 1.8 percent," Comcast spokesman Bob Grove said in an email about the March 1 charges.
"We continue making investments in our network and next-generation technology to make enhancements customers want and value, including faster Internet speeds, more multiplatform video, improved customer service and self-help options."
price remains unchanged for "limited basic" (channels: 2-7, 9-13, 20-24 and 96) customers, who can get up to three adapters at no additional cost. The digital television adapter price is unchanged for this group.
The company previously charged any subscriber $1.99 a month for each adapter beyond two.
This change means Comcast will be charging per TV. Previously, customers could run a cable line directly into multiple TVs.
According to Lancaster Newspapers' records, Comcast's last price increase was May 1, 2012, a 3.8 percent average hike. Grove said households on promotions will not see a price change until the promotion ends.
Comcast started upgrading digital technology and required adapters in 2008 for customers in the Pittsburgh area, Grove said. Those customers enjoyed free adapters for more than four years.
The cable provider used the adapters to free up broadband width, allowing room for more high-definition channels and doubling the speed for Internet customers.
During the upgrade, Grove said, Lancaster-area customers went from 30 HD channels to more than 100 (seven new channels were added in Lancaster and 10 in E-town Thursday morning; the channels start at 1116).
"In addition to providing customers with additional channels -- including History International, Biography, C-SPAN 3, G4, Sprout, Bloomberg News and Hallmark Movie Channel -- at no change in price, DTAs (digital television adapters) also provided customers improved picture quality," Grove said.
The company says it will upgrade this first generation of adapters with HD adapters, and an interactive guide for DTA-connected TVs. The DTA will include TV remotes.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Comcast deployed 23 million adapters in U.S. homes during the upgrade. The new $1.99 lease charge could boost Comcast Cable revenue $550 million a year.
The adapter fee appears to be a sign of the times, as many of Comcast's competitors -- DirecTV and Verizon Communications Inc. FiOS TV -- currently charge $6 for adapters, and DirecTV started imposing a "regional sports fee" on its subscribers. The satellite provider admits that the fee, which is anywhere between $2 and $4, could grow larger, according to a recent New York Times story.
Verizon has announced that some subscribers to its FiOS fiber optic cable service will begin seeing a regional sports network fee on their bills as soon as this month, and no later than the spring.