Comcast Fee Has Jumped 900 Percent in 5 Years — for Free Channels

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January is a good time to start looking around for simple ways to save money. Here’s a good one: Stop paying for TV channels that you can watch for free. Or at least check your cable bill this month.

January apparently is also a “good” time for pay TV companies to impose shiny new fees on users, and Comcast is leading the way. The firm charges a “broadcast TV fee” to every customer — even those on its cheapest TV plan — and in January, users are noticing a 25 percent increase in the fee, from $8 to $10 each month.

That’s bad enough, but the fee was only $1 back in 2014. That’s a 900 percent increase in five years. Good money if you can get it.

And it’s good for Comcast’s bottom line. KillTheCable.com estimates that Comcast will take in $2.6 billion each year via the broadcast TV fee. Again, this is a fee charged to consumers for something they could be getting for free. (To be fair, Comcast does pay to retransmit these channels. But you can watch them for free with an antenna.)

Comcast has raised other fees too — like its regional sports network fee, or its modem and HD box fees. I don’t care for those, but they fall into a different category as far as I’m concerned. Users don’t have to pay those fees. You can make a case that these are genuine add-ons to basic service.

The broadcast TV fee is different in my eyes because you can’t get Comcast TV service and not pay it. Even by sneaky airline fee standards, the broadcast TV fee is out of line. It should simply be included in the price of service.

As others have noted, having the separate charge not only lets Comcast advertise rates that are artificially low; it also lets the firm raise prices on consumers who have long-term, price-fixed contracts. At least, for now. Comcast’s pricing tactics and fees have attracted legal action in the past.

Comcast is hardly the only firm using these bait-and-switch tactics. RCN charges slightly more — $10.78 per month — for its broadcast TV fee. Charter charges $9.95. An interesting clustering of price tags there. If you didn’t know better, you might wonder whether market forces are really operating on these prices.

And remember, consumers could get these channels for free with an antenna. That requires dropping cable altogether, however, and paying only for internet access. That’s an option for some consumers, but your mileage may vary.

Before I dropped Comcast, Comcast dropped its internet-only plan from my area, basically forcing me to sign up for TV. Another curious step, eh? Fortunately, a new provider finally arrived in my building, and I broke up with Comcast as soon as I could.

So what is a consumer to do? Hopefully, double-digit nonsense fees are enough to make you consider cutting cable and going with an over-the-top service like SlingTV. At least give it a try. You know cable firms are counting on you being lazy. But if you are paying $120 a year for something you could get for free, I’m going to say they may be right.

More from Bob Sullivan:

Do you pay a broadcast TV fee, or have you cut the cable cord? Let us know why by commenting below or on the Money Talks News Facebook page.

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