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CASPER, Wyo. -- With TV viewers stuck in the middle, an impasse continued on Tuesday between local television stations and DISH Network over a proposed rate increase.

In a Sunday press release, DISH Network accused the owners of Casper stations KTWO, KFNB and KGWC of making unreasonable demands and trying to force DISH into paying "an exorbitant rate increase" for content.

"Essentially, they are taking our customers hostage in these negotiations," David Shull, senior vice president, programming, for DISH Network said in the release.

KTWO, an ABC affiliate, is owned by Silverton Broadcasting. KFNB, a Fox affiliate, is owned by Wyomedia Corp., while CBS affiliate KGWC is owned by Mark III Media.

Citing ongoing negotiations, DISH Network on Tuesday would not make anyone available for an interview.

But in an email, DISH Network said, "Our efforts to negotiate with Wyomedia, Silverton and Mark III Media are ongoing, and we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement that will allow DISH Network customers to regain access to their local channels. Our goal is to provide the best programming at the most reasonable rates for our customers. That means we have to hold the line against any outrageous demands by broadcasting companies."

Mark Nalbone, general manager for Mark III Media, said the rate hike proposal is not unreasonable. He said three cable television companies have already made agreements at higher rates than that proposed for DISH Network.

Nalbone said the total fee would be about 1 percent of what an average DISH customer pays per each month.

"My DISH bill has gone up $15 in the last year," he said. "Our rate with DISH has remained the same for the last three years."

Nalbone pointed to higher costs for the increase: "We have a lot expenses we didn't use to have to get programming content from networks and syndicators."

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While DISH blamed local broadcasters for turning its customers into negotiating hostages, Nalbone said DISH Network ignored efforts to reach an agreement over several months.

"I think their negotiating tactic was to get us to New Year's Eve and then try to get us to take some low-ball offer," he said. "Otherwise, we'd be off DISH."

And so they are. To the chagrin of many local football fans, the stations have been off DISH since early Sunday.

Neither Nalbone nor DISH officials would venture a guess regarding how long the stalemate might last.

The number of Natrona County households affected by the loss of service was not immediately known. A DISH spokesman said the company does not provide market-by-market breakdowns of customer numbers.

 

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