FARMINGTON — Bee Line Cable customers were still able to view 12 channels offered in the company’s basic package Tuesday as negotiations over a rate increase continued with Viacom.

The contract deadline passed at 11:59 p.m. Monday with no resolution, but Viacom, owner of MTV Networks, extended negotiations for an hour, Bee Line General Manager George Allen said Tuesday.

That went on all night as attorneys for the National Cable Television Cooperative continued to seek a smaller rate increase for 850 cable services across the country.

An email at 9:17 a.m. Tuesday said negotiations had been extended to 10 a.m., Allen said. By late afternoon Tuesday, nothing had changed. The channels were still on and negotiations continued.

When negotiations with Viacom started, the company wanted a 100 percent increase. It was down to 45 percent as of Monday, Allen said Tuesday.

Cable providers are looking for a 20-30 percent increase. 

Cable companies normally see rate increases of 5 or 10 percent, an amount that is not sustainable, Allen said last week.

“When a multibillion dollar company such as Viacom demands an unprecedented increase in its monthly fees, we believe it’s our responsibility to take a stand,” he said.

The cable company pays a contracted amount for each channel and each customer who receives it. They pass increases on to customers, who don’t want them, Allen said Tuesday.

In order to offer MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, cable operators have to carry networks or fillers that are not as popular such as Nick Jr., MTV2, TeenNick and Nicktoons and pay monthly licensing fees for them.

Monday was crazy for the independent cable provider in Madison. 

“The phones were ringing,” Allen said. “We received over 200 calls from customers.” 

Viacom put a message crawl across the bottom of channels such as MTV, Nickelodean and Comedy Central, telling customers the channels may be dropped as of 11:59 p.m. Monday if the contract wasn’t settled. They encouraged viewers to contact their local cable company immediately, he said.

The message crawl has been removed.

They are making some progress, Allen said.

The American Cable Association is holding a conference in Washington this week. Allen hopes they will seek help from legislators. He doesn’t normally support federal regulations, but this time, some are needed for cable television providers, he said.

Bee Line Cable provides cable television services for Farmington, Wilton, Industry and Anson, Madison, Millinocket, East Millinocket and Skowhegan.

More information is available on its website www.getbeeline.com or a new website www.TVOnMySide.com.

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