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ADELPHIA CUSTOMER COUNT TRIMMED BY 30%
RECOUNT IS NOT EXPECTED TO AFFECT 1,700 JOBS IN WNY

It's still the No. 5 cable company, but Adelphia Communications isn't as big as it used to claim.

Adelphia revealed new, lower subscriber numbers in a regulatory filing this week. The company counted 30 percent fewer customers for its lucrative digital cable service, after ditching accounting methods that it inherited from the Rigas family.

However, the recount won't affect the company's 1,700 jobs in the Buffalo area, a spokesman said.

"It's just a restatement . . . using more conservative accounting principles," spokesman Eric Andrus said.

Recently, rumors of a looming cutback have been circulating at local customer service offices, after the appointment of new executive officers and the move of the company's headquarters to Denver in March. But the amount of work for customer service representatives is unaffected by the recount, Andrus said.

Adelphia's call centers in the Buffalo area support its cable and Internet customers. The company has avoided large-scale cuts at the sites so far during its 11-month bankruptcy reorganization.

Adelphia also announced that it has reached an agreement with creditors releasing its $1.5 billion in reorganization loans. The funds will go to upgrade cable systems.

"By substantially expanding our network build out, we'll be able to offer a robust set of valuable digital and broadband services to a greater number of customers," chairman and chief executive William T. Schleyer said in a statement.

Analysts said the lower subscriber numbers shouldn't rock Adelphia's bankruptcy reorganization, since they were largely anticipated.

"That (recount) is not shocking -- it was already a given," said Bruce Leichtman, a cable industry analyst in Durham, N.H. He and other industry analysts were aware of how the company arrived at its customer numbers, he said.

Adelphia had 5.3 million basic subscribers as of March 31, down 74,000 from the previously reported figure for Sept. 30, 2002. Of the drop, about 27,000 were the result of a change in accounting practices, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The change reflects the reduced revenue the company receives per-subscriber under "bulk" billing arrangements with apartment buildings.

A larger drop came in digital subscriptions, which fell by 733,000 from the figure previously reported for Sept. 30, to 1.69 million.

The company has dropped the practice of counting each digital box as a subscriber, instead of each customer account, the SEC filing said. Since the Sept. 30 figure was released last year, the company has gained back 145,000 digital subscribers as of March 31.

Customers of high-speed Internet service fell slightly after the company dropped the practice of counting each cable modem as a customer, Adelphia's filing said.

The "Powerlink" Internet service continues to show fast growth however, rising to 712,000 accounts as of March 31, the filing said.

Adelphia wasn't the only cable company to use aggressive accounting for subscriber totals, Leichtman said. The restatement is part of a broader shift within the industry to adopt standardized and more conservative practices.

e-mail: fwilliams@buffnews.com

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