Comcast Increases Prices And Bogus Fees In The Middle Of A Pandemic

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

Last week, we noted how Comcast had expanded its bullshit broadband usage caps during a pandemic, insisting that the confusing, technically-unnecessary restrictions were being deployed in an alleged act of fairness. Of course as we noted, there's nothing "fair" about costly, punitive surcharges that serve absolutely no technical purpose, and exist exclusively so a monopoly can extract additional revenue from monopolized markets and captive subscribers with no alternative ISPs to choose from.

But Comcast's not just using usage caps to extract its pound of flesh. The company is raising prices across most of its services just before the new year, including significant price hikes for its TV services, broadband services, and hardware rental costs. Comcast will also be increasing a bevy of misleading fees, including another $4.50 per month for the company's "Broadcast TV Fee," which is simply some of the cost of programming broken out and hidden below the line, so that the company can falsely advertise a lower rate than you'll see on your final bill:

"Other changes for 2021 include a Broadcast TV Fee increase of up to $4.50 depending on the market; $3 increase for Internet-only service; and up to a $2.50 increase for TV boxes on the primary outlet, with a decrease of up to $2.45 for TV boxes on additional outlets," the Comcast spokesperson added. The fee for a customer's primary TV box is rising from $5 to $7.50, while the fee for additional boxes is being lowered from $9.95 to $7.50."

Comcast isn't engaged in any meaningful network upgrade projects to necessitate such notable price hikes, so this is simply a monopoly raising prices on its services, including an essential utility, during an historic health and economic crisis.

And of course Comcast can get away with this for two reasons. One, roughly 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly (usually Comcast), so there's no place for these customers to flee to. And despite a lot of chippy, feel good talk about the "digital divide" being his top priority, Trump FCC boss Ajit Pai is a feckless bureaucrat who has never had the backbone to stand up to this industry on any issue of real substance. Pai hasn't made so much as a peep as a major US broadband provider imposes major new additional costs in the middle of a pandemic crisis in which broadband in an essential lifeline.

You'd think the obvious one-two punch of limited competition and regulatory capture would drive US policy makers to action. Instead, most US policymakers spend their days either pretending there is no telecom monopolization problem, or engaging in performative histrionics over "censorship" by "big tech monopolies." Having just effectively convinced the Trump FCC to neuter itself at lobbyist behest, the US government is in a weaker position than ever when it comes to standing up to telecom monopolies or protecting already struggling Americans from a telecom monopolization problem we often refuse to even acknowledge, much less fix.

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Filed Under: broadband, competition, covid-19, fees, pandemic, prices, usage caps
Companies: comcast


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 11:08am

    Time to change, if possible, or quit even better. Isn't it about time that politicians were held to account for just sitting there, thumbs up bums, brains in neutral doing nothing for the people who put yhen in office? Worrying about campaign donations is one thing but letting this carry on for decades is way past a joke!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Jason, 2 Dec 2020 @ 11:28am

      Re:

      Sadly, as far as they're concerned, Comcast and its similarly lobbyist-deploying corporations are the people that put them in office. Or at least the only ones worth listening to once they're there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PeterV (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 11:47pm

      Re:

      Yes, it is call an election, unfortunately while everyone hates all the other politicians, they just love their own because no matter how ineffective, useless, criminal, insane or uneducated their representatives are, their base is even more so and continues to vote for them, usually against their own best interests.

      There is a reason the saying "You will always get the politicians you deserve." appears to be 100% accurate.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Dec 2020 @ 10:00am

        Re: Re:

        "everyone hates all the other politicians, they just love their own"

        I have read this in the past and it makes just as little sense today as it did back then. For example, Biden won by a landslide. If one were not paying attention, one might think that a lot of people agree with his platform. Well, this is not the case and demonstrates that the saying is incorrect for many people.
        Because of this, the following claim is incorrect.

        "There is a reason the saying "You will always get the politicians you deserve." appears to be 100% accurate."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jason, 2 Dec 2020 @ 11:30am

    Next?

    I'm guessing this means that my Charter bill will go up in a month or two. Can't let Comcast have that kind of competitive, moneymaking advantage for very long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 2 Dec 2020 @ 11:52am

    Great!

    I'm sure they will use the money to improve their customer service...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dan (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 12:00pm

    I always thought math would be the best solution

    I always thought using math to legally restrict broadband's marketing would be a great solution.

    "Your advertised download speeds can be no higher than the total data allowed by your data cap."

    By my rough calculations for example, (not 1024 math, it's my day off LOL): Using 50Mb/s 24/7 for an entire 30 day billing cycle would be 16.2 TB per month. Using a 1.2 TB cap, the maximum allowed advertised download speed would fall to approximately 3.85 Mb/s. Ouch! (Feel free to recheck my math and correct me.)

    If the broadband industry were forced to limit themselves in this way, those caps would disappear virtually overnight. If you screw with their marketing, they would be motivated to fall in line. Forcing them to advertise pricing using the average TOTAL monthly billing of their customers, would also go a long way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 4:23pm

      Re: I always thought math would be the best solution

      Forcing them to advertise pricing using the average TOTAL monthly billing of their customers, would also go a long way.

      Well, yeah, and that was a proposed rule that the FCC backed away from after being convinced it was "too burdensome" to have to tell people the prices in advance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 12:20pm

    Comcast raising prices? Whaaa
    At least we can run Windows 10 on our new Apple M1's in the meantime...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 1:24pm

    Wait a second... how are they not running afoul of both the FCC and the FTC here? That "Broadcast TV Fee" is asking you to pay for, below the line, something that the REGULATORS have required them to do in order to broadcast anything in the first place, isn't it? This isn't an add-on option for customers, nor is it a fee required by the government that the company is passing on to you. They're passing on the cost of their contractual obligation to provide service TO THE CUSTOMER, OUTSIDE THE CONTRACTED FEES.

    That's false advertising, deceptive billing, and since it crosses state lines, it's even mail fraud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pixelation, 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:20pm

      Re:

      Welcome to regulatory capture.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 4:30pm

      Re:

      Wait a second... how are they not running afoul of both the FCC and the FTC here? That "Broadcast TV Fee" is asking you to pay for [...] That's false advertising, deceptive billing, and since it crosses state lines, it's even mail fraud.

      Well, the FTC can't do anything because the FCC has sole jurisdiction. I imagine the Postal Inspection Service has the same problem. The FCC won't do anything because it revoked its rules against hidden fees, which Ajit Pai considers "excessive reporting obligations" (because it would take an ISP 6.8 hours/year to comply).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Davin, 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:17pm

    Comcast raises prices every new year

    Comcast keeps raising prices every new year and I think that since we are in the middle of a pandemic, it would not be appropriate to do so. The commuter train, subway and other local utilities are not raising their prices. I hate they keep raising their prices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Dec 2020 @ 5:00pm

      Re: Comcast raises prices every new year

      They are like the landlords who raise rent every year, citing "increased costs of some bullshit", including things like utilities when in fact the utility prices have gone down, and maintenance or improvements, when they don't do any.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Chris ODonnell (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 2:37pm

    Hulu Too

    Hulu Live is going up another $5 to $65/month. It was $30 a month when I cut the cord 3 years ago. I'm trying to talk my wife into dropping back to basic Hulu for $12/month.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 2 Dec 2020 @ 7:32pm

    The only things certain in life are death, taxes, and a cable company raising its bills.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 3 Dec 2020 @ 12:32am

    Trump FCC boss Ajit Pai (...) has never had the backbone to stand up to this industry on any issue of real substance.

    I disagree.

    The quoted statement implies that he thinks what they're doing is wrong, but he's too much of a coward to do something about it.

    All evidence points to the opposite: he's brazen as fuck (at least in his actions), but thinks what the ISPs are doing is how things should be done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    cattress (profile), 3 Dec 2020 @ 1:14am

    So I'm supposed to believe that even with Comcast's shameless jacking of prices, that it really wasn't worth the cost of installing the infrastructure to provide Fios (or that AT&T service that I think might only be in the West) to a wider customer base? Comcast was just too competitive in their pricing for giants like Verizon or AT&T, and the bean counters decided ROI was too little, too slowly realized. Right...
    What really chaps my ass is that stupid broadcast TV charge is partially based on sports coverage, which no one in my home gives 2 shits about. Plus they charge late fees, and separate reconnection fees that I seem to remember being $10 each (because the bill was due on the 13th though we repeatedly tried to get changed to the 15th, payday, and it would revert back after a month or two) when the entire process of cutting the service, paying the bill, and turning it back on is done electronically!
    And FFS, can Comcast provide any actual proof that any actual update is occurring during that stupid daily update? I believe it is just a scheme to make customers call for repair service, (because all the damn connections that can be accessed indoors without drilling and holes are screwed on tight and straight as I've checked them each many times) and enroll in a monthly service plan for more money or pay some ridiculous rate for a repair tech to come out. Not that I want to give them any ideas, but why my cable box, but not my modem, requires this daily update and restart?
    I bet Comcast overtakes the airlines to reclaim their position of worst customer service ever.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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