Comcast readies another round of rate hikes

Comcast will give its TV subscribers an early lump of coal for Christmas: yet another rate increase. Starting Dec. 18, the Philadelphia cable giant’s Broadcast TV Fee will leap from $10 a month to $14.95.

At the same time, its Basic TV package—essentially, local network channels plus public, educational and government channels with entry-level DVR service—will go from $30 to $35 a month.

Cord Cutters News flagged these increases in a post Sunday, linking to a PDF of rates for some Georgia subscribers showing these higher charges.

That nearly 50% jump in the broadcast fee—an unavoidable surcharge on Comcast’s TV service, but one that’s routinely left out of Comcast’s advertising—follows earlier increases to a line item that first began appearing on Comcast bills in January 2015.

Then, it debuted at $3.25 a month before more than doubling to $7.75 in January 2018—so starting a week before Christmas, it will have increased by 460% in just under five years.

Comcast released a statement blaming rising retransmission fees charged by broadcasters.

“Rising programming costs - most notably for broadcast TV and sports - continue to be the biggest factors driving price increases for all content distributors and their customers,” the statement read. “While we absorb some of the increased programming costs, they have a significant impact on the cost of our services.”

The company has been as bruised by cord cutting as most, reporting a loss of 238,000 video subscribers in its third quarter that drove its video base down to 21.4 million. But its broadband business has kept on growing, increasing by 379,000 in Q3 to reach 28.2 million.

A recent study by the market-research firm OpenVault suggested that Comcast and other cable operators can outright profit from cord cutting by using data caps to boost sales of faster packaging.

RELATED: Cord cutter broadband usage surges to more than half a terabyte of data per month

The Q3 edition of that Hoboken, N.J., firm’s Broadband Industry Report found that cord cutters averaged 520.8 gigabytes a month, while 12% of cord cutters consumed more than a terabyte a month. That happens to be the threshold at which Comcast’s data cap starts to kick in.

“OpenVault absolutely endorses setting usage quotas per speed tier,” spokeswoman Kristen Nihamin wrote in an email. “It's a proven method of aligning growing demands on the network with growing revenues and ensuring abusers of the network do not negatively impact other subscribers.”

As of Nov. 25, the ISP-research site BroadbandNow lists 195 providers that impose some sort of cap.

Comcast has yet to couple faster speeds with an escape from its data cap—instead, it charges $50 a month extra for an unlimited-data option. But it will still make more money from its broadband customers: Starting Dec. 18, Comcast’s fee to rent its modem will increase from $13 a month to $14.