Basic cable rates rising


Staff writer

Basic cable subscribers in Federal Way are looking at paying a little more for the service.

The city’s Finance, Economic Development and Regional Affairs Committee reviewed AT&T’s calculations for a new basic cable rate —as well as 14 associated citizen comments — and found no problems in the company’s calculations for a rate increase.

Basic cable rates went up $1.29, from $13.14 to $14.43, effective last Monday.

The City Council will not vote on the increase because it follows Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines.

The FCC grants cities franchise authority over basic cable providers, meaning cities have a right to review the service provided and ensure the company isn’t overcharging its customers when it seeks a rate increase in exchange for allowing providers to run cables over and underground in the city.

In addition, AT&T submits accounting records to the city’s Management Services Department for review to ensure the company is meeting FCC guidelines. The rules govern how cable companies can increase rates. Calculations are based on the cable provider’s operating costs, including increases in the cost of purchasing programming and inflation.

After reviewing AT&T’s rate increase proposal, the finance committee agreed the rate increase meets FCC guidelines. If it hadn’t, the committee could have submitted to the FCC a challenge of the company’s calculations.

The FCC has a backlog of challenges from other jurisdictions that is expected to take four or five years to wade through, city finance director Iwen Wang said.

All 14 people who responded to a city of Federal Way request for public input into the basic rate hike opposed a rate increase, Wang said, but most of them had expanded cable, which the city does not regulate.

What’s more, the city wouldn’t challenge a rate increase unless the proposal failed to follow FCC rules. City officials can’t oppose a higher rate simply because residents don’t want to pay more, for example.

“Unfortunately, that’s beyond our power,” Wang said. “There are very specific things you can challenge.”

Staff writer Erica Jahn can be reached at 925-5565 and

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