Charter Spectrum Keeps Mindlessly Jacking Up Its Bullshit Fees

from the false-and-deceptive dept

When Charter Communications (Spectrum) proposed merging with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, the company repeatedly promised that the amazing “synergies” would lower rates, increase competition, boost employment, and improve the company’s services. Of course like countless telecom megamergers before it, little if any of those promises actually materialized.

Instead, the company quickly set about raising prices to manage the huge debt load. And its service has been so aggressively terrible that the company recently almost got kicked out of New York State, something I’ve never seen in 20 years of covering telecom. All the while, the company continues to not only jack up its standard pricing, but the sneaky fees it uses to advertise one rate, then charge users something else when the bill actually comes due.

We’ve noted for some time how cable providers over the last few years have added a “broadcast TV” fee to customer bills. Such a fee, which simply takes a part of the cost of programming and buries it below the line, lets cable providers advertise one rate, then hit customers with a higher bill. It’s false advertising, but you’d be hard pressed to find a regulator anywhere in North America that gives much of a damn about the practice, be it in telecom, cable TV, the airline sector, or anywhere else. Culturally, American “leadership” appears to view such fees as the pinnacle of capitalistic creativity.

So it just keeps on going. The Los Angeles Times notes that Spectrum is informing its already angry customers that they’ll soon be facing yet another $2 monthly hike in the company’s broadcast TV fee, on the heels of another hike just last fall. The fall hike bumped the fee 12% to an additional $8.85 per month. This latest hike bumps it another $2 (20%) to $12 per month. And again, this is just for the cost of programming, something you’re supposed to have already paid for in your base, above the line bill.

All told, the company nets quite a significant profit from this tap dance, notes the Times David Lazarus:

“That 20% fee increase means big bucks for Charter. The company reported Thursday that it had just over 16 million residential pay-TV subscribers as of the fourth quarter of last year.

Hitting up each of them for an extra $2.04 a month means Charter, the country?s second-largest cable company, will be raking in an additional $391 million in annual revenue, on top of the tens of billions of dollars it already earns.”

Keep in mind, this is a company facing unprecedented competition by cheaper, more flexible streaming alternatives. In a functioning, healthy market, you’d either have competition or moderate regulatory oversight applying some pressure to protect consumers. But telecom, cable, and broadband is far from healthy. It’s a coagulation of natural broadband monopolies that also sell video, but have such entrenched power over state and federal lawmakers (aka regulatory capture), efforts to actually protect consumers from this nonsense wind up being few and far between in most states.

Until we see somebody in a position of regulatory authority actually crack down on this obvious practice of false advertising, it’s pretty clear American leadership’s breathless dedication to things like transparency and consumer protection are just empty lip service. Whether we’re talking about hotel resort fees or the laundry list of annoying airline fees, we’ve culturally embraced the idea that false advertising and nickel-and-diming captive customers is not only ignored but actively encouraged. Somebody wake me up when that changes.

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Companies: charter communications, spectrum

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Comments on “Charter Spectrum Keeps Mindlessly Jacking Up Its Bullshit Fees”

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Jason says:

Right on the heels of the Tribune dispute and blackout. Coincidence? Ha.

The broadcast fee hike must not have been enough extra money for them, though. Effective a week or so ago, the various bundles have been updated as well. Several of the premium networks have been removed from the "Gold" package and instead made available as add-on groups for an extra fee. ($10 or $12 per month per premium channel group, as I recall.)

I’ll note that the cost of the "Gold" package remains unchanged by these updates.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Its a pity that cities & states didn’t have the lawyers who wrote Charters service agreement write one about the poles, easements, etc.

Its sad but perhaps the only way to teach the industry is to do to them what they do to us… Imagine a city boosting their easement costs 12% every 6 months… the telcos woudl scream bloody murder. Of course we have competition, so they can just subscribe to a different city (who will be doing the same thing in lockstep).

Anonymous Coward says:


The author states:
"Keep in mind, this is a company facing unprecedented competition by cheaper, more flexible streaming alternatives."

I don’t understand that statement. How can a customer stream without a different ISP in their area? Is the author suggesting that the customer in an area serviced by Charter "stream" via the local phone company DSL, or the local satellite based ISP, or a local FTTH ISP? Yes streaming can be cheaper (depending on how many streams you subscribe to) than cable tv from the local cable company/ISP monopoly, but if you’re paying Charter to stream, instead of paying Charter for cable tv…you’re still paying Charter.

As much as I hate to admit it, with few exceptions, we’re surrounded by monopolies and oligopolies, and it sucks.

Moe says:

time warner cable (spectrum) jacking up prices forever

In a system that brags favoring competition, spectrum (time warner cable) is enjoying being the ONLY cable internet provider in the north east and capital region, and crushing their customers with price jacking and poor fidelity and service: $65 a month for basic cable internet: they eliminated all the lower broadband internet subscriptions (10) mbps, 15 and 30 which had lower pricing and more popular, so all the customers can only have the 100 mbps cable internet subscription (because no competition for that price range in the area) which isn’t fair for their customers, I wonder if they have infringed the law doing this.

Upstate says:

ty ny

Fist, TWC was charging for hi speed internet and not providing it so any sues them? NY agreees to a fine so the state has profited off of a corporation lying to NY customers? Next we allow the merger and claim Spectrum is being kicked out. We then allow them to stay in terms they expand access to hi speed internet, so basically Soectrum just erroneously increases charges to allow customers to pay for their lack of sticking to their commitments. So as a Ny customer i got lied to, overcharged, NY and TWC profited off of it, then NY allows Soectrum to further charge me more to pay for more access to internet? Will the big corp ever be held responsible?

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