back to article US cable subscribers are still being 'ripped off' by creeping price increases – and this lot has had enough

In many ways it’s a rite of passage in America: being ripped off by your cable company and trying to figure out how they did it. Now a lawsuit against Charter Communications is seeking to uncover just that. The biggest scam of all – pressuring or forcing subscribers to “rent” the clunky, technologically outdated cable box at a …

  1. redpawn Silver badge

    Sign up for your $1.32 payout

    in five years. Good to see the free market in action. As equal participants in the contract, consumers will get a fair shake and stronger regulation would only inhibit innovation in billing.

    1. Joe W Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Sign up for your $1.32 payout

      "innovation in billing"....

      I'll steal that one - > have a beer! (or that time of day, a coffee, though if you are stuck with kids in home office you might need something stronger)

    2. Louis Schreurs Bronze badge

      Re: Sign up for your $1.32 payout

      Purple Haze makes it difficult to recognise the sarcasm and enjoy the humour.

      All hail sustainable billing innovation R&D!

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Sign up for your $1.32 payout

      Clearly removing regulations is not enough. Governments need to directly fund Billing Innovation Research and Development to better give customers the BIRD.

      1. earl grey Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Sign up for your $1.32 payout

        give customers the BIRD

        Everyone knows about the BIRD!

  2. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Taxes and fees

    Yup, I cancelled my Mediacom cable when the "broadcast basic" here went from $13.91 to $25.00 all at once. They even tacked on the "sports surcharge" when the package I was on included ZERO sports channels!!! "Broadcast Basic" is literally just the channels you can get over the air if you have good TV reception... my area gets poor reception (70 miles from most of the stations that supposedly cover the area!), but ended up installing a very large (about 4 foot) Grey Hoverman antenna and amplifier to pick up my channels.

    This package was only $13.91 to begin with due to a special arrangement with the city of Iowa City, otherwise it was already costing $35 in surrounding areas. Again, for nothing but what you can get over the air for free. The next package up is over $75 a month. I don't know what the $75 service REALLY costs though, they do tend to stick on like $20 or more of "taxes and fees", and that's not counting the box rental and such. (And they wonder why they are losing customers to Dish, which starts at closer to $40.) Or, you can get "triple play" some kind of TV, some kind of internet, and landline phone (yeah..) for like $99 a month (probably $130 with fees). It just goes up in price from there.

    One positive with Mediacom, the over the air channels, and the SD versions (non high def in other words) of cable channels, are unencrypted and viewable on any digital TV, no cable box required (and more important to me and my MythTV system, also receivable with a digital TV tuner hooked to a computer). Several cable companies in the US encrypt EVERYTHING, even the over the air channels that they are legally prohibited from encrypting (someone a few years back went to the FCC to report this, and asked the FCC to enforce their own rules, the FCC declined.)

    1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Taxes and fees

      The whole system is designed to screw us. The cable companies are truly greedy bastards. But the ones that are even more evil are the ones above the cable companies. This would be Viacom, NBC Universal, Disney, and so on. In America, Disney owned ESPN adds $5 to your cable bill. And most heinous Disney even once sued to make sure every cable company had the $5 ESPN on their basic package. Did you know that the stations that you can free with an antenna charge a fee to put their free channel on your cable?

      Everyone works to screw us. What is needed is cable bill of rights. (1) Customers can pick and choose what channels they want; channel providers or cable companies cannot force people to buy a package of channels. (2) The channel provider must charge the same fee to every cable/satellite/streaming provider and that fee must be public. (3) Stations may only have 15 minutes of commercials per hour and may not show commercials during a program; promos for other shows are considered commercials. (4) Stations that are available free with an antenna cannot charge a fee to put their station on cable.

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Taxes and fees

        Did you know that the stations that you can free with an antenna charge a fee to put their free channel on your cable?

        As a cord-cutter, I find it most irritating that "Cable" channels available as streaming content as well insist upon proof that you are a cable/fios subscriber before you can view them. Now these aren't premium channels, these are channels that SHOW COMMERCIALS as part of their feed. If you watch it on streaming, you will still get commercials. So they're already getting paid for their content, and your viewing of their channel only increases a billable viewership. But apparently that's not enough for them. So I just say "screw you" and watch something else, I have way more content to watch elsewhere that I'd never have time to watch all of it anyway.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Taxes and fees

      At $25/mo for broadcast channels, you could buy a Rohn 25 tower section every 3 months and within a year or two, have enough to set up a tower with a high-gain receiver antenna on it.

      I cut the cord when DTV came out and have an antenna in my attic (no weather issues). It works pretty well, as I'm lucky to be on a hilltop with line of sight to the broadcast antennas.

      Bought my own cable modem when the rental charge went over $10/mo. I'm still paying close to $80/mo for 80/6 internet. They claim it's "up to 100", and I have seen it that high, but it's fast enough for me.

      We need ISPs to be regulated as common carriers here in the US, but as long as Pai and the lobbyists is in charge, that won't happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Taxes and fees

        "...I'm still paying close to $80/mo for 80/6 internet. They claim it's "up to 100", and I have seen it that high, but it's fast enough for me."

        You really should pay them "up to $80/month".

    3. Eecahmap

      Re: Taxes and fees

      That encryption for the basic tier is why I ditched Cox for TV.

      After moving, I ditched AT&T for DSL (was using an excellent virtual ISP, but AT&T bungled the physical service move), and am back with . . . Cox, but solely for Internet.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Taxes and fees

      "One positive with Mediacom, the over the air channels, and the SD versions (non high def in other words) of cable channels, are unencrypted and viewable on any digital TV, no cable box required "

      Wait for it... Mediacom encrypts everything here (except maybe the OTA channels, I forget). They made a big push a few years back to "get your converters NOW before the all-digital conversion" (this was not the OTA digital conversion, this was after). Since I didn't want the ripoff cable box rental fees and since all my TVs were digital ready, I ignored the push. I did research Mediacom to be sure they didn't encrypt non-premium channels, looked good (from the FAQ on their website, among other sources).

      Cutover day came, and no cable channels (might have even lost all my broadcast channels, I forget). SWMBO was displeased, so I hightailed it down to the Mediacom office. Luckily I had about 1/2 the city to keep me company. Unluckily, Mediacom was now out of cable boxes.

    5. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: Taxes and fees

      Yup, I cancelled my Mediacom cable when the "broadcast basic" here went from $13.91 to $25.00 all at once. They even tacked on the "sports surcharge" when the package I was on included ZERO sports channels!!! "Broadcast Basic" is literally just the channels you can get over the air if you have good TV reception... my area gets poor reception

      The thing I find funny about Mediacom is that their headquarters is nowhere near anyplace the provide service for (I had interviewed there once). I wonder if that's intentional?

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    Cable and satellite TV are looking less and less like good deals when you compare them against having a Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video subscription. With Cable your paying for a service where you have to watch shows when they decide to broadcast and also with adverts in them. Compared to watching everything on demand add free and can even watch on the go.

    Just like print media has declined as people move away to online services I expect the same will happen with TV watching over the next few years.

    The main thing that is keeping people going back to the cable/satellite is the sports packages where you want to watch them in real time, but with virtually no sport going on at the moment that maybe making people rethink that. And I have no doubt that more online streaming services will start to win the rights to show sporting events exclusively.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Cable and satellite TV are looking less and less like good deals when you compare them against having a Netflix, Disney+ or Amazon Prime Video subscription.

      Maybe at the moment, but you do realise that the aim of those companies is to get rid of the "or" by not licensing their content to their competitors?

      1. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Maybe at the moment, but you do realise that the aim of those companies is to get rid of the "or" by not licensing their content to their competitors?

        So I don't get Disney's crap content. No loss.

  4. herman Silver badge

    All over the world - at least all 5 countries where I have lived - the cable companies offer a nice package, then proceed to gradually change the channel line-up untill you have only the unwatchable channels left and need to subscribe again to a new more expensive package to get back what you lost. So they are all sleeze balls.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I excommunicated Crapca$t cable TV service from my home 12+ years ago and installed a high gain OTA antenna in my attic. I was finally able to excommunicate Crapca$t internet service 3+ year ago when ATT ran fiber in my neighborhood. I conservatively estimate I have saved 100$/mo*12mo/yr*12yr=$14,400.

    P.S. Micro$oft was excommunicated 15+ year ago.

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Competition

    to which the only real answer of course, is – if you are able to

    And this, from what I understand of the US market, is very often not the case with cable or phone companies guaranteed monopoly access in many states towns thanks to successful lobbying of state lawmakers.

    1. Jim Mitchell

      Re: Competition

      My residence is very fortunate to have two providers available. I switch every couple of years to get the best deal. While I've managed to keep the list price pretty flat for fifteen years, I'm still getting screwed on "fees", "taxes", and "surcharges". I'm expecting to see a "corporate income tax" line item on my bill one day.

      If you are not as lucky and only have one coax/copper/fiber provider available, you are at their mercy.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Competition

        My residence is very fortunate to have two providers available.

        That's so weird! Here, in "socialist" Europe there are a plethora of providers due to open access policies. Note, this doesn't mean that capitalism is dead as it still allows sports channels to earn lots of money through subscription, it just makes rent-seeking for the cable owners a little more difficult.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Competition

          Yes, a level playing field of access to the infrastructure means we have a freer market, and truer capitalism, not the corrupt monopolies America has to deal with.

          Which one of the top 50 ISPs should I choose next? https://www.ispreview.co.uk/review/top50.php

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Competition

      I thought that it was legal for consumers to buy a cable box and then subscribe to your cable provider of choice. However that was in the analogue days and when I asked Bombast about this the rep I spoke to knew nothing about it. Will make more enquiries about this.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Competition

        And to answer my own question yes it's fine to supply your own box

  7. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Unhappy

    "bundles" are subsidizing unpopular channels

    One of the unfortunate side-effects of cable "bundle deals" is the subsidizing of unpopular channels. And yet, their cable revenue doesn't seem to reflect actual audience. Examples like CNN and MSNBC come to mind. On my cable, at least HALF of the channels are things I never watch, would never WANT to watch, and would just as soon NOT pay for having. And the ones I _DO_ watch are CRAMMED with ads. If we were to make ALL channels 'premium' content, and then tell the cable providers which ones we wanted (and ONLY pay for THOSE), it's a fair bet that MOST people wouldn't pay NEARLY as much for the service as they're paying NOW.

    1. Jim Mitchell

      Re: "bundles" are subsidizing unpopular channels

      As I understand it, cable channels come in two flavors, those the cable company pays to carry, and those the channel pays the cable company to carry. Those unpopular channels might actually be subsidizing the popular ones!

      Also, if you value your time, a DVR is a great investment. If you fast forward thru an ad that actually looked interesting (rare, but possible), you can rewind and watch it at your leisure.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "bundles" are subsidizing unpopular channels

        Here in the UK, there is basically only Virgin Media and Sky when it comes to "traditional" cable and satellite TV. AFAIK, both include a PVR type STB from even the basic subscription.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "bundles" are subsidizing unpopular channels

          You've forgotten freesat.

          As many of the comments here are saying they went to FTA, and got big aerials, it's worth noting that we have a FTA service via satellite, a one of box and dish, for less than a one off £100 and you're good to go.

          There are quite a few decent channels on there, and none with the apalling ad-break-every-5-seconds you get in the US with free channels https://www.freesat.co.uk/whats/full-channel-list/

  8. whoseyourdaddy

    Did you know...

    In the US, cable companies pay fees to rebroadcast local affiliates because we don't want rabbit ears or they don't work. They pay fees to local sports because they have to maximize their customer base.

    The article could use a bit of clarification: are cable companies carrying all possible channels of Viacom programming or is Viacom forcing them to carry all possible variations? Who watches the dozen flavors of Viacom-MTV for music videos anymore? (who is post-puberty and has a job.)

    Disney commands the lions share of licensing fees paid by cable companies.. Because they own ESPN.

    We can't wonder why cable TV fights un-bundling. It would wipe the content providers out.

    And, there are content providers who are suing cable companies because they aren't included and presumably, collecting licensing revenue.

    Google Byron Adams Comcast Racial bias lawsuit supreme court

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Must Carry?

      I have heard of the "requirement" that cable companies carry any locally receivable channels, and of course pay those channels for the privilege. What bothers me is the increasing pace of local broadcasters shutting down the transmitters (repeaters) they used to use for "A bit outside city limits" folks. How miserable can they make OTA before one _has_ to buy a cable plan? And of course the "basic package" will include "Standard Definition" (480i in the U.S. case), down-sampled from the HD it was broadcast in. And there must be some convoluted rule about what, _exactly_ they must carry, as I do get, OTA, some sub-channels of local stations that my son does not get in his extended lineup on cable.

      I assume that eventually, the major networks (or owners, like Sinclair) will operate a 10W transmitter within a few blocks of the local FCC office to qualify. Meanwhile, the physical-disk Netflix subscription is looking better.

  9. IGnatius T Foobar ! Bronze badge

    Forced bundles

    Another problem is that they make it very difficult to get "only" Internet. With most cable and fiber providers, the cost of buying only Internet service from them is often *higher* than the cost of an Internet/TV/phone bundle. So you have to allow that sewer main to empty into your living room (that's what television is, really) and take that POTS line that no one ever uses anymore. I know people who take the bundle because it's the cheapest but don't bother renting a set top box because they don't watch television.

    If you're lucky enough to have two providers on your street (say, a legacy cable and a legacy telco) then they at least have to compete with each other for your business. Hopefully in the not too distant future the competition from fixed wireless will get stiff enough to tame them down a bit.

    1. SorryThatForumUserNameIsAlreadyTaken

      Re: Forced bundles

      That's exactly it... After they monopolized and raised prices here, I called to cancel line items from my bill that I didn't actually use... My bill went up...

    2. Jacmac

      Re: Forced bundles

      Haven't run into that myself. My wife used to switch between the two major providers every 2-3 years if one wouldn't give a big discount at the end of a contract. Eventually, we just decided to get Internet only and watch a lot of Netflix. Our bill was $150 -200 a month for years, now it's been less than $100 and that's with Netflix. I'd say that the major drawback is that we no longer ever watch local TV, so we really don't know what is going on in our area from day to day. Also, commercials are always new to us if we are visiting someone with cable and see any.

  10. SorryThatForumUserNameIsAlreadyTaken

    US Charter Customer

    Yeah, when Charter monopolized internet in my city (greater area is in the top 25 in US for population, city alone is in top 100) and promised not to raise anyone's bills, my bills went from around $170/mo to $310/mo... Don't worry, I canceled my plan. Oh, right, they are the only ISP now providing internet speeds over 6mbps here because they bought everyone else that offered high speed internet... #merica

    And Republicans emptied our courts for years while Obama was in office and have been filling every spot they could since trump took over with going highly conservative judges, so no hope for this lawsuit or any others during my generation anymore...

    At least I can go see a doctor for all this stress without risking bankruptcy... oh, wait, nevermind... #merica

  11. TechBearMike

    Photo lulz

    Why does Karen have two jellyfish coming out of her head???

  12. sketharaman

    What Is Cable TV?

    By now I thought "Cord Cutters" would have killed Cable TV?

  13. jaffy2

    Network Enhancement Fee

    $3.50 a month on top of $50 month Internet service. Just a greedy grab for extra funds. I really need to drop them for TV but no other option for fast internet until the magical 5G....

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