Cable rates to jump $3

Cable television rates in both Ely and Babbitt will increase by just over $3 a month - effective with April billings - according to the cities' cable provider.<BR><BR>Charter Communications has notified officials in both communities that beginning next month, rates for the basic 100-channel-plus expanded basic service will increase to $41.99. <BR><BR>That's up from the current monthly rate of $38.95.<BR><BR>Company officials say the rate increase is attributed to, according to company government affairs and public relations representative Mike Hill, "a significant increase in our business costs."<BR><BR>Hill said that a substantial part of the increase is due to the rising costs associated with obtaining cable programming.<BR><BR>And though Charter has a franchise agreement with both Ely and Babbitt, the municipalities have no voice in the rate process. Federal law prevents local governments from regulating cable television rates.<BR><BR>"It's a free market system," said Larry Klun, city attorney for both Ely and Babbitt. "We no longer have the authority to regulate rates. Charter has no requirement to obtain our approval to increase the rates."<BR><BR>In Ely, several council members said they have concerns about the quality of service and reported several instances when reception problems wiped out access to one or more channels. They've asked Charter officials to offer an explanation.<BR><BR>The rate hike is limited to the expanded basic package. Rates for digital and premium services won't c change at this time.<BR><BR>Cable customers will be notified of the increase by mail.<BR><BR>