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Happy Holidays from Comcast: Your Bill is Going Up!

Phillip Dampier November 27, 2018 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 2 Comments

Comcast’s Cyber Monday promotions failed to include in its advertised prices up to $31.25 in monthly surcharges.

Comcast will use two mandatory surcharges to hike cable TV customers’ rates on Jan. 1, including those on promotional or fixed contract pricing, while also raising the optional modem rental fee to a record $13 a month — a new industry high.

  • Broadcast TV Surcharge (varies per market) will increase to $10.00 a month.
  • Regional Sports Network Fee (varies per market) will increase to $8.25 a month.
  • Most customers will see an increase of about $3.75 a month for cable television.
  • The modem rental fee, shown on the bill as “Internet/Voice Equipment Rental” will increase $2, to $13 a month.

Cord Cutters News first reported the rate increases. Ars Technica noted Comcast raised the broadcast TV fee from $6.50 to $8 and the sports fee from $4.50 to $6.50 about one year ago, making these two mandatory surcharges a lucrative source for extra revenue. Comcast does not waive these fees (or future increases) for its cable TV customers, even those on new customer promotions. The company boosted modem rental fees $1 a month in 2017. Now it wants an extra $2, but customers can easily avoid that fee by buying their own cable modem, which will quickly pay for itself.

Comcast typically raises rates in different cities over the course of a year, so only some customers will experience the rate increase on Jan. 1, but by the end of 2019, all Comcast customers will see a higher bill.

The use of surcharges to implement hidden rate increases is controversial. Comcast and other cable companies can and do advertise their services without including increasingly steep surcharges and fees, which can dramatically raise the bill far beyond what companies advertise.

A typical Comcast customer offered a 2018 Cyber Monday bundle of television and internet, advertised for as little as $49.99 a month, would pay an additional $31.25 a month in surcharges, not including an additional outlet service fee if a customer wants to watch on one more than television set.

VIDEO: Dividing Lines – Dialed Back to Dial-Up in Rural America

From the producers of Dividing Lines:

The online world is no longer a distinct world. It is an extension of our social, economic, and political lives. Internet access, however, is still a luxury good. Millions of Americans have been priced out of, or entirely excluded from, the reach of modern internet networks. Maria Smith, an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard Law School, created Dividing Lines to highlight these stark divides, uncover the complex web of political and economic forces behind them, and challenge audiences to imagine a future in which quality internet access is as ubiquitous as electricity.

This is the first part of a series being deployed by organizations and community leaders across the country, from San Francisco to Nashville to Washington, D.C., in an effort to educate stakeholders and catalyze policymaking that elevates the interests of the people over the interests of a handful of corporations.

The fight for rural broadband in Tennessee pits a publicly owned electric utility against Comcast and AT&T and their allies in the state legislature. (5:25)

Comcast Passes 30 Million Customers, Still Growing Broadband Subscribers

Comcast has passed 30 million customer relationships, mostly from adding new broadband customers that continue to disconnect from phone company DSL service.

In the last quarter, Comcast added 363,000 new broadband customers, a number the company calls its best third quarter subscriber add in 10 years, growing revenue by almost 10%.

High-speed residential and business internet service are among Comcast’s highest-margin businesses. Combining fast growth with sky-high profitability, Comcast boasted its broadband revenue is now the largest contributor to the cable company’s continued overall growth, reaching $4.3 billion this quarter, an increase of 9.6%.

“We have added over 1.2 million net new residential broadband customers in the last 12 months, including 334,000 net additions in the third quarter,” said Michael J. Cavanagh, Comcast’s chief financial officer. “Our offering is resonating with customers, as our consistent innovation and investment in our network has enabled us to stay ahead of customer expectations for not just high speeds, but also wall-to-wall Wi-Fi coverage and the ability to manage the increasing number of devices attached to their home networks.”

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts praised Comcast’s achievement of rolling out gigabit download speed to more customers than any other telecommunications company in the country.

“Our 1 gigabit internet is now available to nearly all of the 58 million homes and businesses passed in our footprint,” Roberts said. “This is the fastest deployment of gigabit speeds to the most locations in the country by anybody.”

Roberts claims Comcast will continue to build many of its future products and services around its broadband platform.

“We are investing to harness the capacity and capabilities of our network and deliver innovative differentiated experiences, which we believe gives us a long runway for further growth,” Roberts told investors on a morning conference call. “We are competing really well in residential broadband by offering customers the fastest speeds, most reliable Wi-Fi coverage in the home, and industry-leading Wi-Fi management and controls. We’ve branded our holistic broadband product as xFi, and continue to add new features, and we’re rolling out our xFi gateways and pods to further enhance the service.”

Comcast’s growing reliance on broadband products comes at the same time it faces additional cable television cord-cutting activity.

Cavanagh blamed online video streaming competitors like Sling TV and DirecTV Now for poaching its “low value” subscribers, admitting Comcast lost at least 95,000 net residential video customers in the last three months.

Cisco Introduces Full-Duplex Ready Technology for Cable Broadband; Same Upload/Download Speeds

Cisco is helping cable operators get ready to finally end the wide speed disparity between upload and download speeds offered by most cable operators.

As cable operators continue to upgrade their cable systems to support DOCSIS 3.1 technology that makes it much easier to offer gigabit broadband speeds, Cisco is introducing the industry’s first “Full Duplex-Ready” GS7000 FDXi neighborhood node. It is an intelligent, remotely programmable piece of equipment that divides up broadband service to a number of households in a neighborhood. But unlike previous models, this one can offer customers the same upload and download speeds. Since the earliest days of cable modem technology, most bandwidth has been reserved for downloading, giving customers only a fraction of available speed for uploading content.

Cisco promises cable operators can provision its newest offering to deliver Full Duplex service in as little as two minutes. The equipment is expected to undergo field trials as early as this fall with sales widely expected to begin in early 2019.

Comcast reports it is already testing its own new network configuration combining Distributed Access Architecture with Full Duplex.

With remote surveillance cameras, video teleconferencing and virtual reality applications beginning to use significant amounts of upload bandwidth, cable operators expect an upswing in upstream traffic on their networks.

Comcast’s Robert Howald told attendees at a pre-SCTE Cable-Tec Expo event that the cable operator “wants to go symmetrical,” which means offering customers the same upload and download speeds. To manage this, Comcast needs to eliminate a large percentage of copper coaxial cable from its network and replace it with fiber, something the company has gradually been doing over the past few years. Comcast may be positioned to bring Full Duplex online earlier than many other cable operators because of its ongoing effort to push fiber optics closer to its customers.

Other cable operators, particularly smaller ones, may have a long way to go to be Full Duplex ready at high internet speeds. Some, like Altice’s Cablevision, have chosen to scrap traditional hybrid fiber-coax technology entirely, going all-fiber straight to the home. Other operators are hoping customers are not quite ready to demand identical upload and download speeds, and believe faster download speeds will satisfy customers for at least the next 5-10 years. If they are wrong, competitors offering fiber service could steal a lot of their business sooner than they think.

Comcast Invades Europe With Sky Satellite Takeover; Analysts Predict Big Rate Hikes are Coming

Comcast kicks the door open to the European television market.

Europe is about to get a taste of Comcast, the cable company most Americans abhor, after the Philadelphia-based cable giant won control of Sky, Europe’s largest satellite TV provider.

Comcast, criticized in some circles for overbidding, easily eclipsed 21st Century Fox’s bid to win control of the television provider that is a household name in the United Kingdom.

Sky customers are being groomed to think highly of the deal by Comcast’s PR department, promised a healthy increase in original programming, expansion into more European markets beyond the UK and Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy, and a richer selection of American and European programming owned or controlled by Comcast, which also owns NBCUniversal.

Analysts expect European customers will soon get the bitter taste of what their American counterparts have endured for decades — frequent and steep rate hikes widely expected from Sky’s new owner.

Comzilla

Comcast sees the American television market as saturated, but Europe is wide open for more television services. Comcast believes Sky is not meeting its value potential, giving the company plenty of room for hike rates as new programming and channels are introduced, especially on the European continent. British viewers already benefit from the consolidation of English language global media brands, bringing most American network fare to British and Irish audiences. But there is plenty of room to grow in Italy and Germany, where state public broadcasters are hardly meeting their audience potential and pay television networks are still lacking.

Sky currently has 27 million subscribers across Europe. Just 5.2 million of those subscribers are in Germany, a country with nearly 83 million people. Most are attracted to Sky’s ad-free movie service and sports networks. Sky has traditionally lacked the deep pockets necessary to compete effectively with global streaming providers like Netflix, which have scooped up a considerable amount of foreign language content.

These days, Sky is typically a co-partner in original programming ventures, but it rarely comes away with key ownership rights. Comcast’s ownership of NBCUniversal is expected to dramatically change that, with NBC and Universal Studios capable of aggressively entering the original programming business on behalf of Sky, keeping rights in-house.

European regulators will be watching how the Comcast-owned venture develops. Many countries already have concerns about the American “invasion” of entertainment programming, often a mainstay on the lineups of European networks. Comcast’s involvement will only escalate the amount of American content seen on European televisions, either in its original English, subtitled, or dubbed.

Currently, UK customers subscribing to the full Sky HD package, including the Sky Q set-top box, pay up to $119 a month. In Germany, the smaller “full package” costs $82 a month after promotional pricing expires. Comcast is likely to raise prices significantly over the next few years, possibly reaching $150 a month in the UK and $100 in Germany. In contrast, Netflix is building a giant market share in Europe keeping pricing low. A 4-screen subscription to Netflix currently costs $13 a month in the UK, with Netflix’s new Ultra subscription priced at $19.96 in Germany.

Despite potential price increases, few believe Sky will lose many subscribers, at least as long as it continues to hold the rights to must-have sports programming, notably the English Premier League soccer matches in the UK and Bundesliga matches in Germany, which Sky Deutschland shares with public broadcaster ZDF and Eurosport.

 

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  • Dylan: Look at their prices. Absolutely ludicrous compared to many companies, especially Charter Spectrum. I pay $60 a month for 100/10 with unlimited data. ...
  • Paul Houle: For a long time communities have been frustrated in that they don't have any power to negotiate with cable companies. This town refused to enter into...
  • Ian S Littman: To be fair, you aren't wrong. Spectrum likely knows it won't have any competition for years in Lamar, so they'll quickly get take rates of >70% (re...
  • Ian S Littman: Are you in an area that can even get Spectrum service? Because in areas where they actually have to compete, they're actually pretty decent now. Yes,...
  • Ian S Littman: A more odd entry in that list is Chattanooga. The entire area has FTTH via EPB. Yet apparently folks can't swing the $57/mo starting price for 100 Mbp...
  • Ian S Littman: The issue here is that the NY PSC's threats have no teeth because, well, who will take over the cable systems if Spectrum is forced to sell? Either Al...
  • Bill Callahan: Phil, National Digital Inclusion Alliance just published interactive Census tract maps for the entire US based on the same ACS data. Two datapoints a...
  • Carl Moore: The idiots that run the cable companies must be also using drugs...a lot of people are cutting their cable services because of the higher rate and inc...
  • EJ: This will require a New Deal approach. Municipals need the ability to either be granted money or loaned money for broadband expansion. Until this is d...
  • Bob: I also got $1 increase for my 100/10 internet from Spectrum. A rep said it's for the speed increase that's coming in 2019. I complained that I was pro...
  • EJ: It makes sense to focus on wireless considering the government contract they have. The strange thing is they referenced fixed wireless in this article...
  • nick: Interesting how they conveniently leave out (Spectrum TV Choice) streaming service which is also $30/mo ($25/mo for the first 2 years)....

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