WALLA WALLA -- Customers with the fewest Charter Cable channels will see the biggest increase to their bills this month because of a Charter Communications rate increase.
Under the new rate structure, Basic Cable will increase from $19.99 to $24.99 per month or roughly 25 percent. Customers with Extended Basic will see a $2 increase from $53.99 to $55.99 because the Extended Cable tier was reduced by $3.
Kathy Covey, director of Community Services for Blue Mountain Action Council -- a nonprofit agency that serves lower-income people -- questions why Charter increased rates the most for the customers with the least service.
"I am just shocked that they are balancing their budgets and raising their rates on the very lowest of low income that are minimally signed up due to budget reason," she said.
Charter Communications spokesman John Miller said in an e-mail, "Costs on our Expanded Basic service have decreased, therefore we are passing that cost reduction on to customers."
In addition, Charter clients with the most service, or those who bundle their cable, Internet and phone services, will see no increase.
"These adjustments do not impact customers who are in the Charter Bundle or in a promotional pricing package, which represents more than half of our customers. Bundling provides a great value for our customers," Miller said.
But bundling isn't an option for Vivian Duff, 90, who lives on a fixed income at a low-income apartment complex managed by BMAC.
"You just have to pay it. That's all. I don't have a choice. I just have to take my bills as they raise them," Duff said, noting she will likely keep cable.
To those who consider cable a luxury, Duff points out she is mostly disabled and rarely gets out. To her, cable is a way to stay connected to the community.
"I like to turn it on and get the news," Duff said.
Charter customers with cable Internet will see a 150 percent increase to their modem rental fee, from $2 to $5 per month.
"An increase in the cost of equipment to achieve even greater speeds requires an adjustment to modem rental fees," Miller said, noting that renting a modem from Charter "includes full support and replacement for all leased equipment."
But he noted customers can and often do buy their own modems to cut out the rental fee.
At Staples office supply, 420 N. Wilbur Ave., tech support staff said they have modems available from $60 to $80 and almost all cable modems are interchangeable with those locally rented through Charter.