SIKESTON - Charter Cable customers in Sikeston who subscribe to expanded basic cable service will pay $3.95 more in 2002, according to Dave Huntsman, general manager for Charter Communications in Sikeston.
Rates for basic cable, which offers 23 channels, will stay the same, but Huntsman said during the public hearing at Wednesday's special city council meeting that 95 percent of their customers currently have the 35-channel expanded basic cable. Charter is slated to add two new channels to the expanded package for a total of 37 with the rate increase.
At one time 98 percent of Charter customers in Sikeston subscribed to the expanded basic cable service, according to Huntsman. He predicted the figure would drop to 90 percent with the rate increase.
The rate hike was not unexpected, however. Shortly after St. Louis-area customers received word in September that their expanded basic cable rates would go up $3.95 a month, Huntsman explained it was a nationwide rate increase and predicted Sikeston customers would see their increase in December or January.
Huntsman said the higher price was to counter the increase in Charter's operating costs from paying higher prices on fuel, power and manpower in addition to the cost of upgrades.
Huntsman also discussed Charter's other plans for the year 2002 and fielded questions from council members regarding service.
With upgrades complete, according to Huntsman, additional channels for the digital package are planned for the beginning of next year.
Charter will begin testing cable modem access for Sikeston customers in March with around 300 testers "to help work out any bugs we have in the system" before making cable Internet service available in May.
Huntsman said Charter was looking at getting a microwave connect to ensure a more consistent picture quality for some on-air stations while dropping others such as the St. Louis channels.
David Craig, pastor of the Powerhouse of God Church, asked if area pastors could use any local cable access channel time not being used by the Sikeston Public Schools or city.
Craig said he was not seeking the time to solicit donations, but "just the opportunity to preach the gospel" for local ministers.
Huntsman said the decision is up to the city.