Business Briefs

Reported by Star-Bulletin staff & wire

Tuesday, February 9, 1999

FCC's cable price controls to end

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Cable rates are set to be deregulated next month and the Clinton administration won't try to stop that from happening.

The Federal Communications Commission's existing price controls on cable TV end, or "sunset," on March 31 under a 1996 telecommunications law.

"We will let it set as of March 31," Commerce Secretary William Daley told reporters yesterday at a briefing on the law, enacted three years ago.

Only the price of the most basic level of cable service, which consists of broadcast and a few cable channels, will continue to be regulated.

"We're pleased that the administration supports the scheduled sunset of cable price regulation," said National Cable Television Association President Decker Anstrom.

The cable industry opposes regulating prices beyond March 31, saying it would halt investment in new services -- such as high-speed Internet access and digital TV -- and discourage companies from adding new channels.

But consumer groups were disappointed by Daley's comments. "The administration is doing nothing to challenge skyrocketing prices charged by cable monopolists," said Gene Kimmelman, co-director of the Consumers Union's Washington office.

Cable prices have increased 21 percent since the law's enactment, while overall inflation has risen 6 percent during the same period, consumer groups say.

Isle bank records $346,000 loss

Hawaii National Bancshares Inc. had a net loss of $346,000, or 49 cents a share, in 1998, compared with a profit of $651,000, or 92 cents a share, in 1997.

The parent of Hawaii National Bank said the loss was a result of expenses that position the company for greater efficiency in the future.

The company ended 1998 with assets of $312 million, up 4 percent from $298.7 million at the end of 1997. Loans of $223.9 million were up 2 percent and deposits of $275.9 million were up 7 percent. The parent company did not issue fourth quarter results with yesterday's report on the 1998 loss.

Delta tries to lure more fliers to Web

ATLANTA -- Delta Air Lines Inc. plans to use incentives to try to lure more people into using its World Wide Web site to book their tickets. The move comes after the airline last month dropped a controversial $2 surcharge on non-Web reservations. The airline announced yesterday it will offer weekly "Web Fares" that will be posted Wednesday mornings offering discounted travel for that weekend.

"They're really trying to condition consumers not to look anywhere else -- not to access comparative travel information," said James Ashurst, spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents.

Most other large airlines also offer special fares or additional bonus miles to consumers booking through their respective Web sites.

U.S. productivity rose 2.2% last year

WASHINGTON -- A surge in productivity during the final three months of 1998 helped produce a healthy 2.2 percent increase in Americans' output per hour of work last year.

The advance in productivity at nonfarm businesses, reported today by the Labor Department, marked a significant improvement over the 1.2 percent gain in 1997 and came close to the 2.4 percent rise in 1996.

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