FACT SHEET 1: REMOVE MADE-UP FEES: BROADCAST & SPORTS FEE
Broadcast TV and Sports Programming Fee went up 751% to $19.15 a month on a basic Spectrum Brooklyn, (Nov. 2020) Triple Play from $2.25 only 6 years ago.
This is the first in a series to detail the consumer harms and why a Big Telecom-Big Cable antitrust case is necessary.
On January 11th, 2021 the IRREGULATORS gave testimony in front of the NYC Franchise and Concession Review Committee Public Hearing January 11, 2021.
Click for an abridged version of the testimony. As we pointed out, the New York City cable franchises for Spectrum (Charter), Optimum (Altice) and Verizon FiOS have all expired.
To be very blunt, NYC should not renew any of the current cable franchises that have expired and it should start with a real change — a clean sweep — to address the actual problems with NYC and NY State’s telecommunications and cable company services. These issues have been here for decades, but they are a political hot potato and ignored.
The United States should be on par with pricing of communications services throughout the world. Instead, we are being gouged.
The IRREGULATORS requested that New York City, before it renews any cable franchise, should audit the accounting of the companies, explain why prices in America are no longer affordable and to remove these ‘made up’ charges that makes prices no longer affordable. These charges are NOT government mandated, are not audited; they are not even mentioned in the advertised price of service or promotional prices.
This is now an industry-wide method of customer gouging, as these companies are acting as a ‘cartel’– a Big Telecom, Big Cable cartel.
Adding $19.15 a month to a customer’s basic triple play is out of control and must be removed, not lowered. Politicians and regulators that allow these practices to continue demonstrate that they helped to create the Digital Divide– and want it to continue, regardless of their rhetoric.
Finally, when the companies whine that their costs for broadcast TV or sports programming or government compliance costs all went up, and that they should be able to just create made up fees to cover this is — this is all garbage and obfuscation.
EXAMPLE: You go to a restaurant and the ‘dinner special’ is advertised as $12.50 but when the check comes the total bill shows $32.50 dollars because there are made up fees like ‘the price of vegetables went up fee’ or ‘the waiters needed new uniforms surcharge’. These expenses are not itemized because they are all the ‘cost of doing business’ — and this kind of bill sticker shock, in a competitive dinner market, would have customers going elsewhere.
The communications companies are now acting as a cartel; they keep the ‘advertised’ price and made up fees to fool those like the media or the politicians. Auditing the companies’ financial books for not only these fees but ALL revenues, expenses and profits will truly show just how we’ve been overcharged and how keeping prices unaffordable created the Digital Divide.
===== Let’s start at the beginning.
FINDING: America’s Triple Play (Broadband, Phone, and Cable TV) Averages $217.00 a Month and Rising, but over $60 has additional charges above a base price of $157.00.
Consumer Reports Study: How Cable Companies Use Hidden Fees to Raise Prices and Disguise the True Cost of Service (CR CABLE BILL REPORT 2019)
“The average cable bill in our study costs consumers $217.42 a month. Of this number, a little less than $157 on average was determined to be the base package price once all fees, taxes, and charges for premium services were subtracted from the total price.”
But one charge in particular stands out.
- Broadcast TV and Sports Programming Fee went up 751% to $19.15 a month on a basic Spectrum Triple play from $2.25 only 6 years ago, based on Spectrum Brooklyn, Nov. 2020 bill.
The Spectrum web site gives this definition of the Broadcast TV Surcharge
“Federal law allows local U.S. broadcast television stations (i.e. affiliates of networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc.) to negotiate with cable and satellite providers in order to obtain ‘consent’ to carry their broadcast signals (Cable TV Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992).
“As a direct result of local broadcast or ‘network-affiliated’ TV stations in recent years dramatically increasing the rates to Charter Communications to distribute their signals to our customers, we’re forced to pass those charges on as a ‘Broadcast TV Surcharge’. These local TV signals were historically made available to us at no cost or low cost. However, in recent years the prices demanded by local broadcast TV stations have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers.”
Reason for Investigations
This definition on the web site is not telling the truth. This charge is actually a combination of 2 charges the ‘sports programming fee’ and the ‘broadcast TV’ fee. The company has decided since no one audits the bills they can violate multiple truth-in-billing, truth-in-advertising laws. And all of the communications companies, in multiple ways, are creating these consumer harms.
This is the almost impossible to read ‘fine print’ from Verizon’s FiOS TV info, March 2015. It shows there were 2 fees; $1.99 for “Broadcast” and $4.99 for “Regional Sports”.
In 2021, these fees are through the roof throughout America. Suddenlink, in California, has a “Broadcast Station Programming Surcharge” of $15.00/month plus a Sports Programming Surcharge of $6.65/month — total of $21.65/month.
NOT A GOVERNMENT FEE OR MANDATED.
“The Broadcast TV Fee is an itemized charge that you’ll see on your bill. This charge is not a government-mandated fee and will increase from time to time. It is based on our costs of providing the local broadcast stations that we carry on our cable systems in each area. These costs include the fees that the broadcast stations charge us to carry them on our cable systems, which are among our largest increasing costs. The Broadcast TV Fee is not included as a part of our promotional pricing or pricing under your minimum-term agreement and can increase during your promotion or minimum-term.”
And it appears that Comcast still separates these fees:
Regional Sports Network Fee “The Regional Sports Network Fee is an itemized charge that you’ll see on your bill. This charge is not a government-mandated fee and will increase from time to time. It’s based on our costs of providing the regional sports networks that we carry on our cable systems in each area. These costs include the fees that regional sports networks charge us to carry them on our cable systems, which are among our largest increasing costs. The Regional Sports Network Fee is not included in our promotional pricing or pricing under your minimum-term agreement and can increase during your promotion or minimum-term.”
In short, the cable franchises in NYC are up; these charges are out of control and the companies who got these lucrative franchises have abused their market power to make up and add fees without any oversight.
This, then, is a picture of the Digital Divide — the companies have made the services unaffordable by adding and continually increasing made up fees.
This is the first in a series.