At the beginning of this year, Comcast began charging customers a controversial new fee of $1.50 to cover the costs of certain programming.
Called the “Broadcast TV Fee,” the new line item has just started appearing on the bills of Washington state residents to the ire of local customers.
Besides price hikes typically upsetting customers, this one in particular is maddening because of the way it’s being conducted. In essence, by tacking on the additional cost below the bill’s main charges, the company is able to jack up prices without having to advertise that anything has changed. It’s a topic that the Consumerist has taken issue with on multiple occasions. Meanwhile, Comcast would like you to believe that by itemizing this fee, it is being more transparent as to the factors that are driving costs.
GeekWire columnist Frank Catalano happened to notice that the fee started to appear this month, and dug back into previous bills to see that the fine print warned him that the new fee was coming on July 1.
In a statement, Comcast spokesman Steve Kipp said the charge is due to broadcast “retransmission costs,” which have more than doubled in recent years.
“Beginning in 2014, we will itemize a portion of broadcast retransmission costs as a separate line item to be more transparent with our customers about the factors that drive price changes,” he said. “In 2014, we will not increase the price of Limited Basic or Digital Preferred video service, and adjustments to other video service prices will be lower than they would have been without the Broadcast TV Fee.”
Retransmission fees have to do with how much Comcast and other cable operators get charged to carry the signals of broadcast stations, which they are required to do.
To Comcast’s credit, it is the first year it is implementing the broadcast TV fee here, even though it has been doing so in other areas for more than a year. Additionally, other cable operators have been collecting a similar fee, ranging between $1.99 and $2.15 a month, for years.
The fee will apply to all Comcast video customers who are not currently on a promotion.