Comcast’s latest price hikes include a significant increase in the company’s widely despised “Broadcast TV” and “Regional Sports Network” 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, which have risen 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.
Comcast customers recently sued the company, saying that Comcast falsely advertises lower-than-actual prices and then raises rates by tacking on these two fees. Comcast falsely portrays these fees as being required by the government, the proposed class action lawsuit said. Charter is facing a similar lawsuit.
Comcast says the fees recover a portion of the price it pays broadcast networks and regional sports networks to air their content. But paying for programming is simply part of the cost of doing business as a cable TV provider, and programming costs have always been passed on to consumers in their cable TV bills. By charging fees separately from basic rates, “Comcast has found a way to secretly and repeatedly increase the monthly price it charges for its channel packages” even when customers are supposed to be getting a flat rate during a contract term, the lawsuit said.
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. Comcast charges the sports fee even though it owns many of the regional sports networks that broadcast sporting events in local markets.
The Broadcast TV and Sports fees aren’t uniform across all markets. The lawsuit said that Comcast already raised the Broadcast TV Fee to $6.50 and the Regional Sports Fee to $4.50 in many markets as of October 2016. But the $7 and $5 charges were detailed in letters to customers in Central New Jersey; Lake Township, Michigan; and Montgomery County, Maryland, so that price point will likely hit a lot of Comcast regions.
The latest increases in these fees are in addition to $5-per-month increases in the base monthly fees for many Internet and TV packages:
The increases will average 3.8 percent across Comcast’s nationwide territory, according to TVPredictions. Comcast generally staggers price hikes so that they don’t hit every city at once, and 2017 increases will be no exception. Comcast confirmed the increases will start rolling out January 1 in some markets and follow in others later in the year, the news site reported.
Basic cable TV prices have risen significantly faster than inflation over the past 20 years, according to Federal Communications Commission data.
“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,” Comcast said, according to TVPredictions. “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.”
The letter to Central New Jersey residents also says that digital adapter outlet fees are rising from $3.49 to $5.49 per outlet, and a fee to reactivate TV service is rising from $1.99 to $3.50.
Some prices are going down; the Michigan letter said the one-time charge for professional installation will decrease from $75 to $60, and the charge for other in-home service visits will decrease from $70 to $60. The charge for a self-installation kit will rise from $9.95 to $15, though.