Made-up, Broadcast-Sports Fees Up 820%; Overcharging $250+ a Year— then Quintuple-Taxed, Fee’d and Surcharged.

Bruce Kushnick
6 min readDec 23, 2021

Over the last decade, AT&T and the other phone companies let the cable companies lead the charge to create made-up fees — but instead of being just a few bucks, the Broadcast and Sports fees on the Spectrum NY bills are now combined at $20.69 with continuous increases expected. And, as we documented, this has turned into an communications-industry-wide practice; there are similar, if not identical fees being charged to cable and triple play bills throughout America by virtually all phone and cable (and ISPs) companies, such as AT&T or Comcast, that offer cable services, according to our communications bill surveys and the surveys by Consumer Reports.

Worse, while it is impossible for the average person to understand their bills, for the true insult to injury, it now looks like these Broadcast and Sports fees are additionally taxed, fee’d and surcharged with at least 5 different additions., i.e.; — a made up fee or tax is being applied to the made up fee that may also be taxed.

And all of this is covered up because of the deceptive advertising, the unreadable fine print, and the fact that somehow a $20+ charge is not included in the price of service advertised by Spectrum NY. On top of this, these questionable, if not fraudulent acts, are, as mentioned, now industry-wide practices and no governmental authority has acted or has been able to clean up this mess — not the FCC, FTC, Congress or the state utility commissions and AG offices. While there is language in the Biden infrastructure plan for proper labeling and disclosure of charges — Why aren’t these charges removed and why aren’t these practices halted? And why are these made up charges not seen for what they are — various normal costs that are incurred when doing business.

If a large part of the Digital Divide is created because these essential services are no longer ‘just and reasonably’ priced — it is time for the regulators to stop acting like the famous monkeys — See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. (Statue available on Amazon.)

Bundled Service Pricing Is Also Hanging in the Balance of this Investigation.

We need to make clear that the triple play prices, and even the price for the Spectrum bundle of wireless and their wireline broadband, are all inextricably tied together to get the ‘discounted’ prices. These fees, then, are part of the problem for all communications services.

On the Cable and Triple Play Bills

Starting in 2014, by 2021, the Broadcast and Sports charges, (based on Spectrum-Charter bills) were combined on the bill and went up 820%, though, as we reported, the other cable providers have almost identical fees, which can actually be charged more).

This fee is not government mandated, it is not included in the advertised price, or as part of the cable plan; it must be paid, even if you don’t watch sports and is added as a separate charge so that the companies can claim that basic rates ‘didn’t go up too much’. The companies have been allowed to impose these semi-hidden charges with impunity and without auditing or regulatory scrutiny by the government.

America’s ‘Triple Play’ Prices Overcharged $175.00 Per Month or More — Over $2,000.00 Per Year.

As we point out elsewhere, this charge is part of a series of made-up fees and annual rate increases that have made Americans pay hundreds of dollars more than in other countries for comparable service, including the members of the European Union.

‘Violations & Egregious Acts’ Analysis

There is a new analysis that needs to be applied. — “Violations & Egregious Acts”. Simply put:

  • Are these charges ‘just and reasonable’?
  • Are the charges or the supporting information, web site, advertisements, etc, deceptive and possibly violating state and federal laws?
  • Most important, should they be considered violations of the basic public interest?
  • Were the consumer protections and laws either erased or need to be strengthened or enforced to fix these egregious acts?
  • If a law or regulation failed to bring fiber optic services to cities and states, or they led to the removal of public interest protections, is it time to scrap these corporate-friendly and paid-for legislation, (such as the ALEC bills) that helped to create the current issues?

The Unfair Fight: Corporate Capture vs the Public Interest.

As we will discuss in future posts, at the core has been the ability of the telecom and cable companies to dismantle the public interest obligations or control the markets with through monopoly/duopoly controls. The following violations and egregious acts show some of these harms and issues.

It is not a matter of whether there are regulations and laws being violated; it is whether the rules have been erased and weakened or do not exist to fix the problems before us — that must be addressed to fix the Digital Divide.

  • Violations: Truth in Advertising: Deceptive Advertising Fails to include Major Made-Up Expenses that Must be Paid.

Anyone seeing this advertisement below, and who has triple play service, will cringe at this deceptive ad and be angry at the failure of government to shut down these bad acts.

This ad claims that the price of ‘Spectrum Internet and TV’ is $44.99. It is not true. The amount is for one of these services — thus, the 2 services would be $90.00 minus 2 cents. And this is the promotional price which will end up increasing 100% or more.

  • Violation of Basic “Fine Print” Rules.

This is the fine print at the bottom of the printed advertisement — it is smaller than 8 Point font, which is the smallest size available on this computer.

  • Violation: Deceptive Advertising and Pricing

The advertised price and fees will increase over 100% after the one-year promotion ends. The advertisement doesn’t state this, nor does it explain that no one can ever pay $44.99 and receive these two services. writes:

“Broadcast TV Fee: What is it anyway?

“The short answer? Nothing.

“The long answer is that broadcast TV fees are a way for cable companies to extract a little bit more profit from you, without it looking like a price hike. They aren’t a required government tax and they haven’t always existed. They’re a clever billing trick.”

How much money are we taking about? $10 billion annually?

The NCTA , cable association claims that there were 46 million cable subscribers in 2020. At $20 per household, (as the cable subscribers are paying these fees), that would be about $900 million in revenues a month, not counting the other fees being charged, like the Cost Recovery fee, which may also be part of this.

Thus, this simple analysis shows that about $10+ billion in revenues are most likely being added by this one fee, though audits of all charges could reveal more money.

Part II: Quintuple Taxed, Fee’d and Surcharged?

It’s bad enough that they are sticking you with a $20+ made-up charge a month, but what happens when you examine your bill, which customers rarely do, (since it is a painful exercise to try and decipher an obscure bill), and find out you might be nickeled, dimed and quartered by a bunch of other added fees that appear to be taxes yet are themselves MADE UP and are being charged against the $20 fee? — i.e.; the made up broadcast fee is then considered revenue and is therefore also ‘taxed or surcharged’ and some of these are in reality also made up.

If the government is serious and really wants to make prices affordable and solve the Digital Divide, shouldn’t it first halt all of these additions to lower rates?



Bruce Kushnick

New Networks Institute,Executive Director, & Founding Member, IRREGULATORS; Telecom analyst for 40 years, and I have been playing the piano for 65 years.