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Member Profile: Trust Communications (Jackson, MS)

Year after year, the broadcasters and programmers put pressure on our company to add their affiliated networks to my basic programming package resulting in a more bloated, costly tier with channels that my customers neither want nor can afford. Most of our communication's customers in rural communities are satisfied receiving only 65 channels as basic, especially those in low income areas - not everyone wants to pay for 125 channels.

Our company wants to provide a video service that meets the needs of the community, which means offering programming of local interest at affordable prices. However, some programmers have forced our company to set aside limited capacity and cash resources to carry their affiliated networks geared toward national audiences -- resources that could be used instead to offer my customers a more unique local service at a lower price. Our main concern is that five years ago programming represented about 30% of my expenses, and now it is close to 44%. These increased costs are passed along to our customers.

Trust Communications has been in service for more than 10 years operating in rural, mostly low income areas of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. We have nearly 3,500 subscribers, and we offer video and broadband services from our mostly 550 MHz systems.

It's not easy for a small, rural cable operator to provide a reasonably priced service to its community. Because we're small, broadcasters discriminate against us by charging us higher fees per subscriber for retransmission consent than they do with larger operators in the market; pole owners do the same for their attachments. Moreover, we pass fewer homes per mile than larger operators, so our per subscriber costs are higher for pole attachments, headend equipment, and fuel for our trucks. We also have to pay franchise fees which our satellite TV competitors do not.

It is becoming more and more difficult for small, rural cable operators to remain in business. Unless the FCC and Congress address the market abuses of broadcasters, programmers, and pole owners, rural cable operators will have a tough time making it for another three years.

Steve Inzinna
Trust Communications

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