Comcast Increases Prices And Bogus Fees In The Middle Of A Pandemic
from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
Last week, we noted how Comcast had expanded its bullshit broadband usage caps during a pandemic, insisting that the confusing, technically-unnecessary restrictions were being deployed in an alleged act of fairness. Of course as we noted, there’s nothing “fair” about costly, punitive surcharges that serve absolutely no technical purpose, and exist exclusively so a monopoly can extract additional revenue from monopolized markets and captive subscribers with no alternative ISPs to choose from.
But Comcast’s not just using usage caps to extract its pound of flesh. The company is raising prices across most of its services just before the new year, including significant price hikes for its TV services, broadband services, and hardware rental costs. Comcast will also be increasing a bevy of misleading fees, including another $4.50 per month for the company’s “Broadcast TV Fee,” which is simply some of the cost of programming broken out and hidden below the line, so that the company can falsely advertise a lower rate than you’ll see on your final bill:
“Other changes for 2021 include a Broadcast TV Fee increase of up to $4.50 depending on the market; $3 increase for Internet-only service; and up to a $2.50 increase for TV boxes on the primary outlet, with a decrease of up to $2.45 for TV boxes on additional outlets,” the Comcast spokesperson added. The fee for a customer’s primary TV box is rising from $5 to $7.50, while the fee for additional boxes is being lowered from $9.95 to $7.50.”
Comcast isn’t engaged in any meaningful network upgrade projects to necessitate such notable price hikes, so this is simply a monopoly raising prices on its services, including an essential utility, during an historic health and economic crisis.
And of course Comcast can get away with this for two reasons. One, roughly 83 million Americans live under a broadband monopoly (usually Comcast), so there’s no place for these customers to flee to. And despite a lot of chippy, feel good talk about the “digital divide” being his top priority, Trump FCC boss Ajit Pai is a feckless bureaucrat who has never had the backbone to stand up to this industry on any issue of real substance. Pai hasn’t made so much as a peep as a major US broadband provider imposes major new additional costs in the middle of a pandemic crisis in which broadband in an essential lifeline.
You’d think the obvious one-two punch of limited competition and regulatory capture would drive US policy makers to action. Instead, most US policymakers spend their days either pretending there is no telecom monopolization problem, or engaging in performative histrionics over “censorship” by “big tech monopolies.” Having just effectively convinced the Trump FCC to neuter itself at lobbyist behest, the US government is in a weaker position than ever when it comes to standing up to telecom monopolies or protecting already struggling Americans from a telecom monopolization problem we often refuse to even acknowledge, much less fix.