The first episode of "TCI Cablevision of Utah - A New Beginning" opened in City Council meeting Tuesday night with residents hissing about possible rate increases.
"If this contract is renewed, I will cancel my subscription until I see improved service or lower rates. I'm tired of paying for promises," said resident Dave Higginson.TCI's proposed contract with the city is loaded with promises such as service to all Provo homes on record by Dec. 31, 1992, and a state-of-the-art system that can deliver improved picture quality within three years. The council listened to citizen concerns Tuesday and will do so again April 2. After the April public hearing, the council will decide whether to adopt the 10-year franchise agreement.
"Our rates have to be and will remain competitive with other rates in the market," said Dan McCarty, TCI state manager. Basic cable service is $17.80 a month, expanded service runs $19.25.
The company plans to put $4 million to $6 million into updating and improving its service in Provo. Subscribers are concerned about having the cost passed on to them. They also are skeptical TCI can make good on its promises.
"I feel we've been paying premium prices for a lesser quality service," said Sherry Loosli. Any rate increase, she said, should come after customers see better service.
McCarty said the cost for the improvements will be spread out over a 10-year period mitigating any rate increases. "It's meant to be a long-term deal," he said.
As the new technology comes on line, TCI plans to offer a kind of smorgasbord of subscription options. The rate will be dependent upon the number and types of channels one signs up for. McCarty said rates are largely based on what the company has to pay to link up with particular stations.
"We're trying to package it so customers can choose their appetite for cable TV," he said.
Tom Martin, city chief administrative officer, encouraged the company to offer an "economy" package at about the $10 level.
As for installing the new system within three years, McCarty said TCI plans to beat the deadline by getting most of the work done this summer. The proposed contract contains penalties and fines for failure to comply with franchise requirements.
Some citizens wanted to know why the city can't regulate rates and programming.
Mayor Joe Jenkins said by federal law Provo has "absolutely no control" over those two things.