For a decade we've talked about how the broadband and cable industry has perfected the use of utterly bogus fees to jack up subscriber bills -- a dash of financial creativity it adopted from the banking and airline industries. Countless cable and broadband companies tack on a myriad of completely bogus fees below the line, letting them advertise one rate -- then sock you with a higher rate once your bill actually arrives. These companies will then brag repeatedly about how they haven't raised rates yet this year, when that's almost never actually the case.Unfortunately, under current FCC management, I expect that the resulting regulation will render this meaningless.
But something quietly shifted just before the holidays. After a longstanding campaign by Consumer Reports, The Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019 passed the House and the Senate last week buried inside a giant appropriations bill that now awaits President Trump’s signature.
The bill bans ISPs from charging you extra to rent hardware you already own (something ISPs like Frontier have been doing without penalty for a few years). It also forces cable TV providers to send an itemized list of any fees and other surcharges to new customers within 24 hours of signing up for service, and allows users shocked by the higher price to cancel service without penalty.
The bill's not perfect. Because of the act itself it largely only applies to cable TV, not broadband service where the problem is just as bad. And cable TV providers can still falsely advertise a lower rate, thanks to what appears to be some last minute lobbying magic on the part of the cable TV sector:
The trick now will be enforcement by a government and FCC that has routinely shown it's entirely cool with industry repeatedly ripping consumers off with bullsh%$ fees to the tune of around $28 billion annually:
I honestly that Pai may be the most venal and corrupt member of the Trump administration, though that concept truly buggers the mind.