BY ANDREA FIGLER Starting next month Adelphia Communications will begin revamping all of its digital programming packages, raising prices anywhere from $5 to $10 for video and up to $26 for video bundled with high-speed data services, Cable World has learned. Adelphia will start to notify local franchise authorities and consumers of the changes in the next few weeks and plans to roll them out to all systems by the first quarter of next year, says Ron Cooper, president and COO. Cooper emphasizes that each new package is unique. Further, he says that Adelphia will not force existing customers to pay more. However, in a case in which the consumer believes the new package is substantially similar to the old, the consumer will be offered a less expensive, and expansive, package. “We have as one of our goals upselling,” he explains. “We are not going to unilaterally implement that kind of price increase on a customer.” But to prepare for customer static regarding the price increases and programming changes, the company has been training its customer service representatives on how to explain the value behind these new packages, appropriately called Valupaks. The inherent value and simplicity within a Valupak will help justify these price increases, the company states in a training manual obtained by Cable World. In order to achieve this simplicity, Valupaks will be split into Bronze, Silver, Gold and such. For example, a package that includes broadcast and satellite cable channels, digital basic and one premium channel will be called the Silver Pak. Adelphia prices the Silver Pak at an average of $71.45, according to the manual’s list of average prices for these new packages. In Miami-Dade County, it will cost $6.65 more for the Silver Pak than the comparable service now if Adelphia charges the average Silver Pak price, according to David Mattison, the county’s cable telecommunications license administrator. Currently, Adelphia offers broadcast and satellite cable channels, digital basic and one premium for $64.80. Rate hikes will soar even higher when it comes to video service bundled with high-speed data. Right now, in Miami-Dade County, a consumer can get the classic cable broadcast and satellite cable networks, digital cable channels, six HBO mutliplexes and the company’s high-speed data service Power Link for $80.95. In contrast, the average price for a package with the same offerings under the revised pricing structure is $107.40. That’s $26.45 more a consumer must pay monthly if he or she subscribes to Adelphia’s bundled package under the new changes. “That’s a nice chunk of change,” Mattison says. “The higher-end customers are going to drop some of this stuff.” Cooper says that many of the company’s Power Link packages have been deeply discounted. As a result, comparing the two packages is not “apples to apples,” he insists. So when the new packages come about, although they may cost more, the company will give the consumer the choice to upgrade to the appropriately priced package or choose another one that costs less. Price increases will vary per region, Cooper adds. In Southern California, for example, the basic price of digital equipment, which now averages $3.50, will increase to $3.85, according to another document obtained by Cable World. Undoubtedly, price increases and program changes could create customer complaints and possible defections. But Adelphia has prepared for that, Cooper says. The training manual itself dedicates almost 50 pages to customer retention. “We feel that, in the end, this represents a terrific value to the customer,” he says. “And, in the end, we think it will be well received.” The new pricing structure does not affect rates for basic analog cable.