Since 1985, Century Communications has had a monopoly over the community of La Verne with a 15-year contract for cable service with the city.
According to Jeff Allred, assistant city manager, the city is currently in negotiations with Century over whether the contract will extend past the year 2000. Complaints of poor service and a lack of channels have given the city reason to think it over. After taking a look at what other communities are getting for their money, the grass certainly looks greener on the other side.
“The main complaint [about Century] is a failure to maintain a state of the art system,” said Allred.
It would be a poor decision on the part of the city of La Verne to extend the contract if the company does not begin to change and update its system.
Subscribers to Century get 35 channels at a price of nearly $28. That may sound like a lot of channels, but the truth is, many popular channels are left out. Among the channels that subscribers do not get is Fox Sports West 2, which shows local college football games and the local high school football game of the week. Century does not offer ESPN 2, either. Other popular channels that residents of La Verne do not get are the Sci-Fi Channel, Comedy Central and the Movie Channel.
The lack of service also goes beyond the quality of channels – it also hits quantity.
Let’s compare the La Verne package to the city of Claremont’s. Claremont’s cable company, Insight, just added Fox Sports West 2 to its system. In addition, it offers 55 channels for $28. Jones Limited Basic, which serves the Diamond Bar community, offers 51 channels for about $25. Pomona’s cable system, Media One, is a little more expensive at $33 for its standard package, though they offer 63 channels to Pomona residents.
It is obvious in comparison to local cities that Century and La Verne are far behind the competition in the cable industry. Why are La Verne residents still paying too much for less service?
Allred and the city of La Verne would like Century to switch to fiber-optic technology, which would allow for better quality service. This would help increase the number of channels that Century offers to 70. Whether this happens is yet to be determined. The only drawback to the technology would be that the price goes up, though Century said it hopes this would not happen. An increased price would leave customers with the same price-to-channel ratio.
The city of La Verne needs to give the residents a better option than they currently have – a limited number of channels for a lot of money, or no cable service at all. La Verne should also look into a better company to service its needs. If Century cannot remain competitive, it should step out of the arena.
La Verne should not need to beg for Century’s service. It comes down to classic capitalism. La Verne chooses the best deal. Based on the statistics, Century is obviously not up to par, but could it be?
The city of La Verne needs to continue to put pressure on Century to change its ways before the city extends its contract. If service improved, there would be no reason to change companies. Century first needs to understand the importance of keeping up with current technology so that it does not leave subscribers with their hands tied behind their backs. If this happens, the city needs to step in and make an intelligent change.
The city knows residents do not have a choice as to their cable company and it needs to make sure it is providing a company that will take extra care in the areas of quality, value and customer service.
The only true advocate for these subscribers is the city and it has a responsibility to make sure its residents are getting what they pay for. If not, someone needs to start changing channels.