Local News

Cable Subscribers Can Get Premium Channels Without Upgrade

Posted December 2, 2002

— Time Warner Cable

customer service workers take orders for customers, change service packages and answer questions. Now, thanks to a little-known law, they may hear requests for HBO or Showtime from people who have only basic service.

The Cable Act provides for what is called "tier buy through," which means cable operators can no longer force subscribers to buy expanded or digital packages to get HBO, Showtime or even pay-per-view.

Time Warner officials said they are abiding by the rule and do offer the "tier buy through."

"They just need to let us know, and equipment is required for HBO and pay-per-view services," Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Virginia Yopp said. "But we offer that equipment and they do not have to purchase the other tiers of service."

An addressable set-top box and remote control is $5.95 a month and one premium service is $11.95 a month. This is in addition to the charge for basic cable of about $11 a month for a total of about $29 a month. Without the "buy through" provision, a premium service like HBO costs $58, but subscribers get 90 channels rather than 32 channels.

Time Warner Cable has not actively marketed the "tier buy through" because just 2 percent of their 440,000 customers subscribe to basic cable.

"Our research has shown that customers who are interested typically in the premium level of service such as HBO and pay-per-view want more choices and more product," Yopp said.

Officials said rates will change in January so prices may change.

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