By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Cablevision Systems Corp, the New York-based cable operator, said on Thursday it would raise its Internet prices by $5 in January, representing an average hike of 3.2 percent for customers' total monthly bills.
The company said in a statement that prices for its video and phone services will not be affected and that prices for promotional packages, which generally last one year, will not rise.
But all customers who have Internet service as part of their video or phone package will see prices rise.
Cablevision said it had not raised Internet prices in a decade. It raised video prices in 2011, which saw customer bills rise by 2.88 percent on average.
The company said it has invested $140 million in improving its Internet network, deployed more than 50,000 WiFi "hotspots," and puts no usage caps on its service, unlike some cable competitors.
Canaccord Genuity analyst Tom Eagan downgraded his Cablevision rating from "buy" to "hold" on November 27 and said that Cablevision would lose customers if it were to decide to raise prices not long after Superstorm Sandy.
"Given the massive service outages among its subscribers (after Sandy), we don't believe the company can raise rates ... without incurring material customer churn," Eagan said.
The cable provider, which is controlled by the Dolan family, said in early November that costs from Sandy, which knocked out service for as many as half its customers, would be substantially higher than its $16 million bill from Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Like bigger operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Cablevision has been losing customers to rivals such as satellite television provider DirecTV and telephone operator Verizon Communications.
Cablevision shares closed up 2.6 percent, at $14.16, on Thursday.
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Leslie Adler)