It’s an old story by now but one that almost never fails to get many consumers’ blood to rise. We’re referring to the inevitability of regular increases in consumer cable bills, and we have yet another example of how permanent a reality that’s become.
Starting January 1, Comcast is set to hike its “Broadcast TV” and “Regional Sports Network” fees again, with Cord Cutters News reporting last week that the newly raised broadcast TV fee will be about 10 bucks a month. The sports fee will be $8.25 a month, which the pair of increases coming after Comcast raised both last year to $8 from $6.50 for the broadcast TV fee and from $4.50 to $6.50 for the sports network fee.
These price hikes are going to raise cable bills generally across the US in most of Comcast’s regional markets, although a Comcast spokesperson told Ars Technica today that some cities won’t get hit with the price increases until later in the year. It’s also important to point out that the fees won’t be uniform across the country and some cities might even see smaller increases than those we mentioned above.
Along with these increases, though, equipment rental fees are also going up. You can avoid that hike by buying your own modem, but if you don’t you’ll have to pay another $2 a month to cover the increased modem rental fee, which was already raised last year from $10 to $11.
The Ars piece today notes that the broadcast and sports fees noted above are a common part of the cable industry while also being controversial, since Comcast doesn’t include them in their advertised prices. On a related note, Comcast is currently facing at least one major lawsuit on behalf of consumers over the TV and sports fee issue. Comcast also in recent days agreed to pay $700,000 “and cancel debts for more than 20,000 Massachusetts customers” as part of a deceptive advertising-related settlement, according to the office of Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
Among other things, Healey found that Comcast’s advertised rate at which customers are locked in “did not adequately disclose equipment costs and mandatory monthly fees” that would be added to monthly bills. Comcast has reportedly agreed to improve fee disclosure as part of that settlement.
Fees and contracts, as you can imagine, are some of the factors driving a growing number of consumers and households to cut the proverbial cord. Indeed, as we reported in November, the most recent quarter saw so many consumers ditch cable that the industry suffered its worst quarter on record.
In a statement provided to Ars about the coming fee increases, Comcast said that: “We continue to make investments in our network and technology to give customers more for their money — like faster Internet service and better Wi-Fi, more video across viewing screens, better technology like X1 and xFi, and a better customer experience. While we try to hold costs down, price changes are necessary for a number of reasons, including the continually increasing costs associated with carrying the programming our customers demand, especially broadcast television and sports programming, which are the largest drivers of price increases.”