Because of an editing error, an article in yesterday's Metro section reported that heavily populated areas of Montgomery County should receive cable television service by the end of December 1989. The service should be available by December 1988. (Published 1/30/ 88)

Officials of the cable television company serving Montgomery County told the County Council yesterday that cable service will be available to nearly all households in the county by the end of next year, more than 17 months ahead of schedule.

"We've managed to overcome many if not all of the problems" inherited from the previous and troubled cable operation, said Gustave Hauser, president of Hauser Communications and chairman of its affiliate, Montgomery TV Cable. He said trouble calls from customers had declined over the past six months to about 10 percent of subscribers, a level he said was considered normal for the industry.

Nine out of 10 households in the more heavily populated areas of the county should be able to receive the 61-channel cable service by the end of December 1989, Cable TV Montgomery President Peter Alden said. The service also will be offered to about 12,000 homes in rural areas of the western and upper county, sections not previously included in the company's construction program, Alden said. In all areas except Laytonsville, Woodfield, Germantown, Darnestown and Potomac, which are scheduled for complete service in 1989, work should be finished by the end of this year, the officials said.

Cable construction work is virtually complete in Bethesda, Glen Echo, Kensington, Chevy Chase and Somerset in the lower county, the County Council members were told. Construction will be largely finished by April 1 in Takoma Park, Silver Spring, Montgomery Village and Calverton, the officials said.

Countywide, including areas equipped by the previous cable company, there are 48,000 subscribers who pay an average of $29 a month for the service, Alden said. Ultimately, the company hopes to offer service to about 242,000 households. The company recently increased its rate for basic service by $2 a month, to $16.95.

The old equipment, which required installation outside the home rather than a converter box inside and causes the majority of complaints from customers, is being replaced, Alden said.

In the meantime, he said, complaints during the construction phase of a cable operation are to be expected. In many homes, multiple connections must be made to several televisions and videocassette recorders, he said, complicating the service and leading to customer questions.

In turn, the cable officials were questioned -- both about interruptions in service and the quality of picture their system provides -- by council member Bruce Adams, who said the cable service at his Bethesda home has had several interruptions and less-than-perfect picture quality.

Alden and his associates said some interruptions in service resulted when equipment was affected by the cold weather and had to be tested.

The county consumer affairs office has also received a number of complaints about the billing process, council members were told, particularly when customers try to deduct money for long periods of interrupted service. Adams said he received a coldly worded telegram last year when he adjusted his payment for one month, a problem the company said had been corrected.