Chattanooga's EPB and Comcast raise TV rates to offset higher broadcast surcharges, content fees

Staff File Photo by Robin Rudd / EPB's headquarters in downtown Chattanooga. EPB has announced that rates for its video services will rise by nearly 4% in April.

EPB will raise its rates for video services by 3.9% in April, adding an average of $5.88 a month to the typical bill for those subscribing to EPB Fi TV packages.

Effective April 1, the monthly charge will increase by $2 for Bronze Channels, $6 for Silver Channels and $7 for Gold Channels. EPB directors on Friday approved the higher rates, which will come a year after EPB approved a similar 2.9% rate increase last April to cover the growing expense of paying for local television broadcast rights and other television content providers.

"We try to run our operations as lean as we can, but we have to pass along increases from our content providers," EPB President David Wade told the EPB board Friday.

EPB is not increasing the price for its premium channels or for EPB Fi-Speed Internet, which EPB has kept relatively the same since the internet service began 14 years ago even with much faster service today.

EPB, which has provided electricity service in its 600-square-mile service territory since its creation in 1935, initially charged $59 a month for its internet service with a speed of 15 megabits per second. EPB now charges $57 a month for its basic internet service with a download and upload speed of 300 Mbps.

EPB is the largest internet service provider in Chattanooga.

Comcast rates up 4%

Comcast, the nation's largest cable TV provider and the second-biggest video service provider in Chattanooga, raised its television subscription rates in January by an average 4% across the country. Comcast spokeswoman Sara Jo Walker said Comcast's rate increase was only half the general rate of inflation in the past year and reflect the higher charges Comcast and other cable TV providers pay to broadcasters and cable networks like ESPN and CNN to include such content in their service.

"TV networks and other video programmers continue to raise their prices, with broadcast television and sports being the biggest drivers of increases in customers' bills," Walker said in a statement Friday. "We're continuing to work hard to manage these costs for our customers while investing in our broadband network to provide the best, most reliable internet service in the country and to give our customers more low-cost choices in video and connectivity so they can find a package that fits their lifestyle and budget."

Comcast has also diversified its TV options for customers, expanding its Choice TV package nationwide this year. Choice TV is an affordable option for customers looking for a basic HD cable package including all the major broadcast networks and a DVR. Choice TV customers can also add a variety of premium channels and genre packs so they can build a package that suits their lifestyle and viewing preferences.

Shifting viewer habits

The share of households subscribing to conventional cable TV services continues to decline as more viewers choose apps or streaming services that have their own subscription models.

Wade said when EPB-FI TV was launched in 2009, 98% of the customers connected to EPB's fiber optic video services subscribed to EPB's television service. But currently, less than 28% of those who get their internet service from EPB also subscribe to the EPB's TV lineup.

"While TV content providers continue to drive up costs for subscribers across the nation, EPB is doing what we can to reduce the impact for our customers," Wade said in an announcement of the latest fee increases for its television service.

EPB has promoted its "cut the cord" campaign by offering free online comparisons of different video and streaming TV options through its EPB MyBundle program.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.