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Cable rates in east Pasco to increase 5 percent

(ran PC edition)

Another year, another rate increase for cable subscribers in central and eastern Pasco County.

Hard on the heels of last year's 9 percent rate increase, FSN Cable is raising rates another 5 percent this year.

Starting next month, the basic cable bill will jump from $34.75 to $36.50. After taxes and franchise fees, subscribers will pay more than $40 a month. And that doesn't include the cost of premium channels such as HBO.

FSN Cable, based in Zephyrhills, serves about 22,500 customers and 680 miles of cable in east and central Pasco County, from Odessa and Land O'Lakes to Dade City and Zephyrhills.

For that $36.50, FSN offers 56 channels such as the Discovery Channel, ESPN, the Learning Channel, the Cartoon Network, Comedy Central and the Travel Channel. A recent addition the past year was the Fox News Channel.

John McQuaid, FSN's general manager, said rising costs, particularly for sports channels, forced the company to raise rates.

"It's just the general cost of doing business," he said. "The cost of our programming continues to go up."

A further hindrance to keeping rates low is the company's rural franchise territory, McQuaid said, not to mention the legions of seniors in Florida only part of the year.

"They don't come down to Florida in the winter time to watch cable," he said. "They're here to do Florida things."

FSN is neither the cheapest nor the priciest cable provider in the Tampa Bay area. Time Warner Cable, which surrounds FSN's territory, charges $32.07 for 50-plus channels in west Pasco. In Tampa, where about 60 channels are offered, Time Warner charges $38.01. However, unlike Time Warner and other large cable providers, FSN has yet to offer fast Internet hookups.

"We are the hole in the Time Warner doughnut," McQuaid said.

FSN has raised rates every year since winning its franchise in 1981, McQuaid said. FSN's parent company is Moffitt Communications, based in Winnipeg, Canada.

But McQuaid said the company offers some of the best service in the business for the rate it charges.

"In the last six months, if you called us before 4 p.m. any day, we will service you before we go home that night," he said.

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