BY JON LAFAYETTE Responding to pressure from federal regulators and sports programmers, some cable operators are finally charging commercial accounts, such as bars and restaurants, the higher rates originally set by carriage agreements, according to three cable industry sources. In the past, operators have let bars pay lower residential rates to keep them from dumping cable, according to a source within a cable system. (Many sports bars switched to DirecTV after it landed its exclusive NFL contract.) In addition, some bars sign up as residential accounts. After an internal review, Adelphia discovered it was inadvertently charging residential rates to many commercial accounts. Sports programmers encourage these internal reviews because they get higher license fees for business accounts. Fiscal pressure from federal regulators and Wall Street has also forced some operators to charge commercial accounts the higher rates, a programming source says. A spokeswoman for Comcast Corp. was not aware of any problems with commercial accounts. Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications did not return calls by press time. Satellite broadcast service provider PanAmSat is leasing capacity on its transponders to HDNet for its twin, around-the-clock, high-definition networks, which are currently available to Charter Communications customers in limited markets. PanAmSat’s expansive reach grants HDNet the potential to reach every head-end in the United States, said Bridget Neville, SVP of engineering, PanAmSat. HDNet co-founder and GM Philip Garvin said the network selected PanAmSat on the strength of “its commitment to hi-def.” Garvin also characterized PanAmSat as “one of the more cable-friendly services.” Charter’s payroll continues to dwindle via job cuts and the departure of frustrated employees. The MSO laid off several dozen employees at its St. Louis headquarters last week, part of what it calls “a continuing process.” Chris Fenger, SVP of Western operations, left the company Feb. 21. Majid Marwan, SVP of telephony and advanced services, is gone. Ditto for top engineer John Petrie. Meanwhile, Paul Allen continues to pay nearly 30 times the going rate for Charter stock as he honors puts dating back to Charter’s acquisition of various properties. Last week Charter vice chairman Marc Nathanson collected $25.5 million (851,500 shares at $29.94) when Allen responded to the latest put. Nathanson could collect up to $224 million more by exercising the rest of his puts. Another set of puts landed Allen on the list of ways Comcast is cutting debt: Allen is due to pay the larger MSO $718 million on April 14. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber is expected to decide as early as today whether to approve Adelphia Communications’ $40 million-plus compensation package for its new executive team.… Comcast plans to open eight new call centers this year.

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