Happy New Year From Comcast: Usage Caps, Rate Hikes, And More Sneaky Fees In 2017
from the innovation! dept
Comcast continues to perfect the art of raising rates in a variety of creative new ways. In addition to just straight rate hikes to TV and broadband service, the company has taken to using hidden fees to covertly jack up the cost of service even higher. These fees take some of the cost of doing business and bury it below the line, letting Comcast falsely advertise a lower rate. This is all before you even get to Comcast’s slow and steady expansion of usage caps and overage fees, which are just glorified rate hikes being imposed on uncompetitive broadband markets.
This week the company began informing customers that they’ll be paying 3.8% more for service starting in the new year. In addition to increases in most of the company’s bundles, TV and broadband packages, Comcast will be raising the company’s sneaky “broadcast TV fee,” as well as the company’s ever-skyrocketing regional sports fees:
The Broadcast TV fee is moving from $5 a month to $7 a month, while the Regional Sports Network fee is rising from $3 a month to $5 a month, according to notices sent to customers in several cities. Combined, that’s a change from $8 to $12 a month, giving Comcast an extra $48 a year from each customer that has to pay the fees.
Comcast began charging these fees a few years ago, and has increased them quickly. Just over a year ago, Comcast raised the Broadcast TV fee from $3 to $5 and the Regional Sports fee from $1 to $3. The two fees have thus gone from $4 to $12, combined, in little more than a year.
…The Broadcast TV fee was introduced in 2014, initially as $1.50 a month, and the Regional Sports fee was added in 2015 at $1 a month.
You might recall that Comcast is currently being sued over the broadcast TV fee, which simply takes a part of the cost of programming and buries it below the line, again letting Comcast mislead customers as to what the service actually costs in advertising. When the company was criticized back when the fee was introduced in 2014, Comcast tried to claim that hiding the real cost of service was just its way of being “transparent” with consumers. While Comcast’s certainly being transparent, it’s not quite in the way they meant.
Comcast, for what it’s worth, continues to justify the rate hikes with the usual statement about how gosh, programming these days sure is expensive:
“We continue to make investments in our network and technology to give customers more for their money— like faster Internet service and more Wi-Fi hotspots, more video across viewing screens, better technology like X1 and a better customer experience. Unfortunately, the costs we are charged to carry popular networks continue to increase significantly, especially broadcast television and sports programming, which are the largest drivers of increases in price adjustments.”
And while Comcast certainly does pay a significant amount for programming, it certainly helps that the company owns NBC Universal, not to mention a number of regional sports networks. But these programming-related fees also aren’t the only fees seeing an increase. The company is also informing users that the company’s “digital adapter outlet fees” will be increased from $3.49 to $5.49 per outlet, and a fee to reactivate TV service is being bumped from $1.99 to $3.50. And again, this is all before we get into Comcast’s usage caps, which penalize users looking to use streaming video competitors.
And if you’re looking for things to get better anytime soon, you may be waiting a long while. Comcast may be facing greater competition from streaming competitors on the video front, but its monopoly over broadband is only growing as phone companies like AT&T and Verizon give up on upgrading unwanted DSL users. Combine that with an incoming Trump administration that’s giving every indication it intends gut the FCC as a consumer watchdog, and there’s going to be less market and regulatory pressure on Comcast than ever to offer quality service and decent customer service at a reasonable price.