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Time Warner to sock customers again with spate of monthly increases in March

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Look out, Time Warner Cable customers, because a spate of increases will be tacked on to monthly bills starting in March.

The monthly broadcast cable charge will increase from $11.75 to $13.49, while standard cable will jump from $77.45 to $79.99. Digital television packages will be increased by about $3 each.

Customers received letters in the mail this month from the national cable provider, which said the raised prices are a result of the “increased cost of TV programming, particularly for local broadcast stations and sports programming.”

The across-the-board increases will affect all Time Warner customers except those enrolled in promotional programs. They will continue to receive discounted prices for the duration of those periods before the increased prices kick in.

The increases are due largely to increased programming costs charged to Time Warner in 2013, Central New York spokeswoman Stephanie Salanger said.

“We’re held captive to the programmers, and these costs represent almost half of every dollar that a customer would spend on TV services,” she said. “Content providers who sell us programming for customers have a dramatically higher program charge every year, and that represents almost all of the increases.”

The timing for introducing the increases isn’t opportune for Time Warner, which in the fall implemented a $3.95 monthly rental fee for customers who own cable modems. Postcards were sent to customers in the mail only weeks before the change was implemented in October, and they were advised to purchase their own modems if they wished to avoid the fee.

That move already will generate $500 million a year in extra revenue for Time Warner, the nation’s second largest cable provider with more than 15 million customers in 28 states. But the company might not get away scot-free with the plan. A dual lawsuit filed in Manhattan and Fort Lee, N.J., in November accuses the cable provider of violating its customer contracts with the charge, along with consumer fraud laws in New York and New Jersey.

Ms. Salanger said the increases in March and cable modem fees are separate revenue sources for Time Warner that are channeled to different causes.

“One is for our programming networks, and one is for the equipment device,” she said. “And our customers had the choice on that modem lease fee to avoid it by purchasing a compatible modem. It’s a tough time to raise prices with the modem fee; we get it. But our new TV prices reflect higher costs for programs that customers are willing to pay for even in a slow economy. They want more HD channels and faster Internet speeds.”

She said customers will see an average increase of 2.5 percent on their bills in March.

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