They'll have to subscribe to Cox's expanded basic lineup, channels 2 to 72, and shell out a whopping $47 a month, a $31 ' or 194 percent increase ' over the price they previously paid for basic programming.
Cox spokeswoman Sharon Kleinpeter attributes the rate adjustment to increased programming costs, fleet fuel spikes and rising insurance rates.
Cox is also making up for lost time. After years of annual hikes and recent increases in neighboring markets, the Acadiana market hadn't had a price increase since February 2004, a much-needed break most people attributed to the threat of competition from Lafayette Utilities System. But legal challenges have delayed LUS' effort. Just last week LUS lost another battle in its plan to provide cable, Internet and phone services via a fiber-to-the-home network when the Third Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the bond ordinance voters passed last year, which local government tweaked in hopes of complying with a previous Third Circuit decision, violates the state's Local Government Fair Competition Act. Lafayette Consolidated Government said it plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Kleinpeter, who says she can't address the rate decisions of previous Cox management, acknowledges that moving The Weather Channel on the heels of two massive storms and in the midst of a new hurricane season hasn't gone over well with local subscribers. She maintains the move was necessitated by a "contractual obligation" that requires Cox to group networks like The Weather Channel with other programming ' all of which can't be squeezed into the basic tier. When pressed for specifics, however, she cites confidentiality clauses in the contracts.
The Weather Channel has no such contractual obligations regarding programming partners. "There would be nothing in our contract like that," says The Weather Channel's Becky Powhatan, executive vice president of distribution and business affairs for the Atlanta-based cable network. "On occasion we have heard that other networks try to keep us from being carried on the basic tier," adds Powhatan. "We always prefer to be on basic, [but] in most markets, we are on expanded basic."
Clara LeBlanc-Burke, executive director of the Lafayette Council on Aging, plans to meet with Cox about offering a discount to senior citizens, a key demographic for The Weather Channel. LeBlanc-Burke says Cox initiated the talks. But Kleinpeter says what's under consideration is a break on basic service, which won't address the primary issue of the elderly's access to weather updates 24 hours a day.
The Weather Channel has moved from Channel 3 to 55, and ESPN from 12 to 35, the same lineup in Baton Rouge, a parity factor that also motivated management's decisions, according to Kleinpeter.
The Cox official is unsure why Cox's previous Lafayette management had The Weather Channel on the basic tier. "I just can't speak to what happened before we took over," she says, referencing the January 2006 consolidation of Cox's Baton Rouge and Lafayette operations. "It just has to do with the changing world of our business. It's a change that's very painful; I understand that."
According to Powhatan, The Weather Channel is in the basic lineup in New Orleans, a different Cox system.
Steve Creeden, who joined LUS' effort shortly after being let go by Cox in early 2004, says Cox's motivation is simply to drive subscribers to the more expensive package. Creeden was often the lightning rod for Cox when presenting rate increases to the council and allowing for public input, a courtesy Cox chose to forego this time around. "I felt like you have to put a face on Cox. You have to allow [council members and residents] to ask questions," Creeden says.
Rather, the company contacted City-Parish President Joey Durel within the 30-day notification period and informed him of the changes. (They are required to make written notification but did not do so, according to local government's legal counsel, Pat Ottinger.) Though local government has no say-so in the rates Cox charges, which are regulated by FCC formulas (and in fact stands to get more money because LCG's franchise agreement is 3 percent of Cox's gross revenues), council members want to discuss the changes with Cox reps and asked them to attend the upcoming Aug. 29 council meeting.
Among other local changes is a $2 increase in high speed Internet, a $6 increase in expanded basic, the relocation of KATC TV3 from Channel 4 to 5 to make way for Cox's own local sales station on Channel 4 ' and the displacement of Acadiana Open Channel from channels 5 and 19 to 15 and 16, a point of contention for local government. In an Aug. 7 letter to Cox, Ottinger says per the franchise agreement, Cox needs to explain why it moved AOC. In a separate letter also dated Aug. 7, he asks Cox why it has not been offering on each of its Lafayette subscribers' bills the opportunity to voluntarily contribute 50 cents monthly to AOC, as required by the agreement. "Because this violation has resulted in lost revenue to [AOC], it is requested that you also advise as to the action which you will undertake in order to mitigate this loss of revenue for the past violations of the Franchise Agreement," Ottinger writes.
As of press time, Kleinpeter had not seen either letter.
"At the end of the day, I don't think Cox [will] give a hoot about any contract," says AOC Executive Director Ed Bowie. "They're nearly invincible, and they know it."
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
The administration says public college campuses won't be on the chopping block.
The legendary musician is performing at a $1,000-per-person fundraiser Dec. 1 in New Orleans.
Old savings and checking accounts, payroll checks, stocks and dividends, insurance proceeds, oil and gas royalty payments and other unclaimed money is sent to the state when a business cannot locate someone.