Mediacom rep discusses rate increase; Internet is 'weeks away' by M. Jill Karolevitz The rate increase Vermillion cable television customers have just experienced is the first price hike by the city's cable provider since 1996, according to John Varvel, government relations manager for Mediacom.
Varvel addressed the Vermillion City Council during its regular meeting Monday night, Aug. 6.
"The current rate increase averages out to 4 percent per year since the last increase," he said. "It also increases the number of channels for the basic package from 34 to 65, along with providing the availability of digital access, which has a multitude of channels."
Customers in Vermillion have voiced their concerns to council members about Mediacom's dramatic price increase.
"In July, a basic cable package cost $26.51 per month," said council member Gary Wright. "Now it's up to $33.91. That's a 28 percent increase and I've had people call me and tell me they're going to drop cable and probably go to DirecTV."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Varvel said. "I assure you in the long run they will be disappointed with DirecTV."
Council member Jere Chapman asked why Mediacom did not spread the increase out over several years. Varvel reiterated that the difference in cost is only a small percentage if averaged out over the last five years.
"And with the increase in the number of channels available, customers are paying an average of 49 cents per channel per month, compared to 73 cents per channel per month when there were only 34 available," Varvel said.
"I just want to know why Vermillion's cost for the basic package is higher than Yankton's for the same thing," said council member Joe Grause.
"Yankton is not in the real world right now," Varvel answered. "There are two providers there (Mediacom and McLeod USA) and we're in a price war. One will survive and one will go away. We intend to be the survivor."
Varvel also told the council that Mediacom's rebuild project is substantially complete in Vermillion, "but we still have some things to do."
Council member Kevin Annis shared his concern with Varvel about picture quality.
"If someone is having trouble with reception, is it something in their house, or is it system wide?" he asked. "For me, I'm having trouble with the higher channels � up into the 40s and 50s � they are fuzzy or don't come in at all."
Mediacom customers who are experiencing poor reception should not hesitate to call the local service number and complain, Varvel said. The problem could be an isolated situation, not necessarily system wide.
"You should be getting crystal-clear reception," he said. "There could be problems with the broadcast channels � ABC, NBC and Fox � because they are still picked up via tower and can be affected by weather or atmospheric conditions. But there should be no problems with the satellite channels. If you are having problems, just call me and I will see to it that the problem is fixed."
Council member Barbara Yelverton asked Varvel when high-speed Internet access will be available to the city.
"The Internet is only a matter of weeks away," Varvel replied. He added that customers should be pleased once it's up and running. Customers in Yankton, including Varvel's wife, have expressed satisfaction.
"This is an exaggeration, but I have heard her say that once you use the system, you'd better have your seat belt on because the connections are so fast they can throw you right out of your chair," Varvel said.