The Prince George's Cable Commission agreed this week to allow the first rate increase by one of the county's two cable franchises.
The rate increase for Storer Cable, the company serving the northern county, will mean that customers will pay 42 cents more a month, or $7.37, for basic cable service. Cable users with more than one outlet in their homes will also pay 17 cents more a month per outlet.
Howard Stone, executive director of the commission, said the increase passes on to the customer the cost of providing programs from the so-called "super stations," which are transmitted from distant cities, such as Chicago, New York and Atlanta.
Cable companies that provide the "distant signal" service are required to pay royalty fees to the artists and producers. The formula for paying the royalties was set only six to eight months ago.
According to officials for the county's other cable company, MetroVision, its fee structure already includes the cost of "distant signal" programming. MetroVision customers pay $7.45 a month for basic service.
"No one's making any money on this one," said Stone. "The company could choose either to drop the service, by which they could potentially lose subscribers, or they can simply pass this cost through to subscribers."
Stone said the copyright royalty adjustment is one of a small number of cases in which a rate increase would be approved solely by the Cable Commission. Under other circumstances, requests for rate increases must be reviewed in public hearings in the franchise area and ultimately must be approved by the County Council.
Stone's administrative assistant, Norman Rivera, said both cable companies have successfully completed their first year of construction and are following the 30-month goal agreed to by the cable companies and the county.