“No Gimmicks” Vs America Is Getting Screwed. The Free French Telecom Fiber Optic Triple Play vs Spectrum-NYC Prices.

Bruce Kushnick
9 min readJan 10, 2024

$181 Dollars of OVERCHARGING A MONTH? How can the Spectrum-Charter NY Triple Play cost almost 5–7 times more?

We assembled our previous research with new findings in this new series, using both 3rd party expert analysis as well as examples, including the actual bills, with all of the charges listed.

Briefly, this is PART 2 and is based on actual communications bills where we compare Free Telecom of France Triple Play with Spectrum-Charter Triple Play in New York City. December, 2023.

And it is an ugly mess.

Part 1: Examined the pricing overseas, and specifically based on communications bills we received from a senior American couple living in France. They are paying 29.99 Euros for a Triple Play (cable TV, phone, and broadband internet) at a speed of 5 GBPS over a fiber optic to the home connection. After a year it goes to 39.99 Euros, about $44 dollars. We compared that bill to the current Spectrum-Charter New York City current December 2023 bill which is for $225 with no frills or pay movie services. It is just basic service.

This is the second story: The column on the right is what America is paying, read being overcharged on fees, taxes, surcharges and made-up items that are just revenue to the companies, and on top of that the customers are paying the companies’ taxes and expenses that are ‘pass-throughs’ — i.e., Spectrum, et al have been able to have their taxes and fees paid for by their customers. Equipment that is required to use their services, such as the set top box for the cable TV and was originally part of the cable TV service became ‘deregulated’, meaning “what was free, the subscriber now has to pay for”. As we now understand, the cable and phone companies, along with nonprofits who are now being funded via the corporate foundation grants and tied to the Digital Equity funding, have helped to capture the regulators so they serve the will of the providers rather than protect the subscribers from corporate greed.

§ PART 3: We have written about the price of wireless overseas vs the US, using extensive research and analysis by Rewheel Research. And we compare the price of stand alone wireless 5G broadband in the US and overseas, that focuses on the EU countries.

  • PART 4: America’s Egregious Broadband Rates vs Overseas Prices. Why? In 2022, the European Union published an extensive analysis on the price of broadband and internet services, using different categories and speeds. And it shows that prices in the US are 5–10 times more when comparing data from other countries, And, as the report details, even basic stand-alone high speed broadband prices overseas are a fraction of what we’re paying in the US.

§ PART 5: UPCOMING: We will slice and dice the analyses of the FCC, NTIA, AT&T, Verizon Centurylink, Comcast, Spectrum-Charter, Telco, Cable and wireless — and their associations and friends — and we will cover overcharging on billing, the ACP low income funding and government subsidies of over $42 billion in BEAD money — which has taken good intentions and has become a new profit center. And we will explain how America’s prices went out of control and helped to create the Digital Divide.

There are “No Gimmicks” on the Free France Telecom Bills.

The difference is $181 extra a month — and the opening chart, which we will go into in detail, is based on a second letter which confirmed that there are “no gimmicks” overseas; the advertised price is all inclusive and even includes the VAT tax, a standard tax in the EU countries.

There are no equipment fees, no made-up, ridiculous additions, and, as you can see from the long list of taxes, fees and surcharges on the chart, there is no way anyone can figure out how the taxes are applied.

Most importantly, this analysis is a direct hit to a number of different FCC and state proceedings that relate. We will address these issues in PART 5.

The rest of this article will go through the opening chart to explain the specific charges that are on the Spectrum and the FREE French Telecom Triple Play bills,

FREE Telecom France vs Spectrum NYC Triple Play Analysis

In our first article, we started this investigation based on receiving bills and examining the marketing materials of Free Telecom, in France, vs the Spectrum bills and including the FCC and state filings by Spectrum NY, etc., in order to answer basic questions.

We specifically asked about the taxes paid, the added fees and whether there were charges for the equipment, such as the ‘set top box’.

The reply from the American couple living in France:

“FREE’s advertised prices are what you pay. There are NO gimmicks.”

By the Numbers:


  • In the US, the Plan Fee comes to $156.74 vs $43.98 from FREE telecom.
  • The total cost comes to $225.37 on the Spectrum bill, and there are no other added charges in Free Telecom.
  • The overcharge is $181.39 — a month, which is the difference of the total cost from Spectrum and the plan from FREE, but — the price for service the first year is only 29.99 Euros.

THE ADVERTISED PRICE, unless specified, is what the customer actually pays.

Summary 1:

In France, Free Telecom

  • The advertised price is what you will pay. There are no added fees, etc.
  • The price of the bundled Triple Play for cable TV, costs 29.99 Euros to start, then 39.99 Euros — around $44.00.
  • This increase is shown in their advertisement, not hidden somewhere on the website.

In America, Spectrum-Charter NY

  • The advertised price is not what you will pay — ever.
  • The advertisement left out almost all made-up and hidden fees, as well as taxes, fees, surcharges, and it did not include the additional equipment charges, such as the set top box, etc.
  • This means that the additional charges on the Spectrum bill comes to $68.
  • The price of the American Triple Play is almost 5–7 times larger than in France.
  • This price in the advertisements are for a promotion price that goes up after one year — and this fact is hidden somewhere on the website. The fine print on the advertisement says “standard pricing applies after 1 year.”


Summary 2:

in France, Free Telecom


In America: for Spectrum-NYC

  • SET TOP BOX EXTRA In the US: The current Spectrum bill has a ‘set top box’ added for $11.75.
  • NOTE: The cable TV service requires the set top box in order to use the service. This charge was historically not a separate charge.
  • CABLE MODEM: Is extra at $10.00 a month.
  • TOTAL: $21.75 in EQUIPMENT added to the bill for these 2 items, each month as of December 2023

FRANCE FREE Taxes, Surcharges,

  • INCLUDED: The VAT tax standard for the EU, is included in the advertised price.

AMERICA: Taxes, Fees and Surcharges

“Made-up Fees”, also called “Junk fees”, as well as other added fees, pass-through taxes and franchise fees that should have been paid by the cable provider.

  • The Made-up fees include Cost Recovery, Broadcast and Sports fee, etc.
  • These are NOT included in the advertised price, and they are NOT government mandated, and they can add 30–50% more than the advertised price.
  • Quadruple taxed, fee-ed and surcharged. The made-up fees are considered revenue to the companies and therefore are taxed, fee-ed and surcharge, and these can be more made-up fees being applied to the original tax.
  • MISSING: HOW TO CALCULATE TAXES: Anyone who attempts to examine how the taxes, fees and surcharges are being applied and to what parts of which service is suddenly confronted the fact that none of the phone/cable companies, or the FCC, or the state utility commissions ever supply the necessary roadmap — the “Rosetta Stone” for answering basic questions.
  • There are no audits or investigations of these charges.

Made Up Fees:

The most egregious is the Broadcast and Sports Fee, now at $27.90 on the Spectrum Triple Play offered in NYC.

  • TRUTH-IN-ADVERTISING VIOLATIONS; These 2 charges and all of the ancillary taxes, fees, and surcharges, are NOT included in the advertised price.
  • CONTINUOUS INCREASES WITH NO AUDITS OR OVERSIGHT. For example, the ‘Broadcast and Sports fee is now $27.90 in NY. In 2014 it started as $2.25 cents. Now, an increase of 1140% shows that this one charge is now 12 times more money. This charge is not government mandated, there have been no audits or investigations or anything to show that this is a just and reasonable charge.
  • There are taxes, fees and surcharges that are added to this charge — as it is considered revenue, and some of these are also made-up, it is quadruple taxed. — adding an additional 10–25% more to this one charge.

Example: The Franchise Fee is $7.06 and it represents 5% of some amount of cable company revenues in the franchised areas that are being applied to “cable TV” services

This would mean that about $141.00 is being charged this 5% fee. All of the charges are on this bill from December 2023.

— Please tell us what is considered part of this $141 cable service?

Hint — the broadcast fee is considered part of the Cable TV service and therefore is revenue to the company and it therefore also pays taxes — which are passed on to the customer.

===Where are those other taxes, fees and surcharges applied to this broadcast fee?

=== But isn’t it a made-up fee and why are there taxes on taxes?

=== And how much is the actual amount of money being charged for the cable service on this bill?

=== What part of the Triple Play are we talking about?

The amount of sleight of hand maneuvers to cover the tracks of the companies’ revenues from the services, and the profits, especially all of the various subsidiaries that have been illegally using the cable TV networks as the corporate cash machine — — must be investigated. But considering that this has been going on for decades, we are stuck with a fundamental regulatory issue — the cable and phone companies are working as a cartel and have been able to even rewrite history and hide their collusion.

For example, Spectrum-Charter is reselling Verizon Wireless service. As we discuss, the price of adding a 5G wireless broadband service using Free is 9.99 Euros, (about $11 dollars) and it comes with 250GB — that’s 4 cents a GB. The Spectrum Deal is $29.99 and it comes with 30GB and then slows to a crawl due to throttling when you exceed the limit, or there is a $14 a GB fee added to your service fee — and these also have additional taxes, fees and surcharges.

Bottom Line — America is clearly getting screwed. There is no rational you can apply to deny that the differential in prices between FREE and Spectrum, et al. must be investigated — and yet, these companies are going to get billions of dollars in government subsidies instead of being investigated.

Verizon Wireless controls the wholesale cell phone prices along with AT&T in America by illegally using the fiber upgrade funds and yet there is no mention or recognition that these companies created the Digital Divide, through the failure to properly upgrade the networks and making sure prices were affordable.

§ PART 5: UPCOMING: We will slice and dice the analyses of the FCC, NTIA, AT&T, Verizon Centurylink, Comcast, Spectrum-Charter, Telco, Cable and wireless — and their associations and friends — and we will cover overcharging on billing, the ACP low income funding and government subsidies of over $42 billion in BEAD money — which has taken good intentions and has become a new profit center. And we will explain how America’s prices went out of control and helped to create the Digital Divide.

§ We will also address the state broadband 5 year plans and the failure to include basic material facts — such as the pricing overseas vs the US or the billions that should have been spent on network upgrades — but were diverted to wireless and other lines of business. No 5 year broadband plan even mentions the state telecommunications public utilities, such as Verizon NY or AT&T California, or calls for investigations of price increases in America. In fact, no state has answered the basic questions of how the Digital Divide was created in their state.



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.