The cable industry is a dying dinosaur, but one that still reigns supreme in many American households. The industry has the one thing that keeps it relevant to most Internet happy consumers: a high speed Internet connection. In my case a fast 10Mbps connection that makes for a great online experience. And if you don't have Verizon Fios or AT&T U-verse as potential substitutes, you'll be stuck with a bevvy of junk fees that seem to creep onto your bill. Here are 4 fees that you should keep an eye out for:
Photo Credit: National Science Foundation, Zina Deretsky
Cable Modem Fees:
As we've discussed before, cable modem fees are outrageous for many cable operators. In my case, I was paying $3 a month to rent a cable modem. Not terrible, but when they raised it to $5 (a 60% increase) that was too much for me. When I chatted with my cable company's customer service the first time they told me that because I was in California, they wouldn't let me buy my own modem. After calling them directly, I got a different story where the women told me exactly what type of modem to buy. I know that some people think that $60 a year is no big deal, but when you can snag a decent modem for $35, what they charge isn't justifiable on something that lasts for years.
Change of Service Fee:
This is a new one that I have never seen before, or perhaps I just never noticed it. It's not much, $1.99, but its a bit offensive that in order to make a change to your service you have to pay a fee. If Netflix charged a fee to change it's plan, the whole Internet would be in an uproar, but cable companies routinely add these junk charges for something that core to having customers. I can understand the notion that a person has to make the change and that costs something, but that is how the cable companies have set it up. They make you call so they can talk you out of downgrading or cancelling.
Higher Speed Fee:
This is another new one that I just identified on my bill. There's now a $10 fee for getting higher speed Internet. Now that would be fine if I requested higher speed, but I already had really fast Internet and doubling that speed for $120 more a year really isn't worth it for me. I'd rather have Netflix streaming for the same amount or heck, just take the wife out for a nice dinner, maybe two in this economy.
I've seen the franchise fee for years and honestly, I never knew what it was for. Depending on the size of your bill, this can be quite a bit of money. What is a 'franchise fee'? Well it's the cost that municipalities charge the cable company to use their public right of way real estate. So if a city charges your cable company $1 million to rent the public right of way for it's cable lines, they have the right to split up that charge amongst all users. But it's entirely optional for your cable company to charge you this amount of money. They could just absorb that expense as part of the cost of doing business just like almost any for profit organization does. In fact, the very ability for them to just pass it on to you likely means they don't care what the charge is. Because they list it at the end of the bill it really looks more like a tax, which it definitely is not.
What's more disingenuous is the fact that when they compare their prices to satellite, these charges are not included. Satellite doesn't charge a special fee for the cost of putting their stuff up in space or the spectrum they've purchased, that's the cost of doing business.
This nickel and dime approach can cost the average cable subscriber about $350 a year. Likely, a call to the cable company will eliminate or at least reduce for the next 6 or 12 months some of these fees, but should our time really be spent calling cable companies every few months just to keep them honest?
Tip: Thanks to our readers, I used this tip. You can make your service as close to Internet Only by getting the Basic Basic service (usually unadvertised) and dump your cable box. Often this service can be as cheap as $15 a month.
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