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How Cable-Rate Cuts Were Received in Rural America

SUBSCRIBING to cable television is not exactly a luxury for many rural Americans. Paying for cable or a large outdoor antenna is often the only way to get a clear, crisp picture.

That's why the government's plan to cut some cable television rates is so pleasing to people in this northern Denver suburb, where mountain foothills often skew television images.

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``The only reason we get cable is for the reception. I think they should charge less for just the basic service ... and charge more for premium channels,'' said resident Don Gagnon.

The Federal Communication Commission voted Tuesday to cut some cable television rates by 7 percent, effective in mid-May. The cable industry rejected the rate change as arbitrary and punitive and vowed to challenge it in federal court.

``If it means taking another cut in our revenues, we're obviously disappointed with that. I think the hardest thing about this is to try to understand what the regulations are,'' said Jim O'Brien, president of Jones Intercable Inc.

After last year's restructuring, Jones Intercable cut basic service rates by 83 cents a month for its 6,000 subscribers in Broomfield. Broomfield residents now pay $10.12 a month for basic service, including network, governmental and educational channels, C-SPAN, WGN, and WTBS. Extended service costs $22.39 a month.

Jim Honiotes, who heads Jones Intercable's operations in Colorado, said it's too early to tell what the new rates will be.

But cable subscribers in Broomfield welcomed the FCC effort. ``I watch some channels on cable, but not $22 worth,'' Melanie Brewer said.

Tele-Communications Inc., the nation's largest cable systems operator, said that rate decreases weren't warranted because most customers already pay less and most of its rates are below federal benchmarks.

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