Auditing Mom’s Cable Bill

I’m continuing my saga this week in trying to save my Mom some money on her cable bill. This week’s video digs into the rest of her bill to see what other charges Comcast is hitting us with.

In an update to last week’s video about rental fees, I found that her bill was even worse than I initially thought. A $10 “Premium DVR” charge was not immediately reversible because Comcast oversold my mother on two DVR boxes. Because she had two DVR boxes the second box triggered the charge. It wasn’t enough that they were already charging her $10 for each box. So this one box alone was costing her $20 monthly and she never even used it!

What’s even crazier is that although Comcast did not swap out any of her equipment, they steadily increased the cost year over year as equipment fees sit outside the contract rate.

What a world they live in where old equipment appreciates in value!

But they did finally send us some boxes to send their boxes back. Very inefficiently, mind you, as everything could have fit into a single box. But they make so much money shipping costs are not a concern.

Comcast’s boxes on their way back to where they came from

Unfortunately it looks like the boxes were the low hanging fruit in this effort to bring cost down. The rest of Comcast’s bill is a rat’s nest of interlocking services. Pull one out and the cost goes up!

In addition to cable box fees Mom was being hit with the “Broadcast TV Fee” and the “Regional Sports Fee” which also sit outside her contracted rate. The Broadcast TV fee is largely unavoidable and comes as a result of local broadcasters charging Comcast to carry their networks. This makes broadcasters more money than advertising these days. I may eventually put an antenna up on her roof as over the air TV signals remain free.

The “Regional Sports Fee” is a similar fee that regional sports networks charge Comcast to carry their networks. Mom has this on her bill even though she doesn’t watch sports. Why? It’s because of the cable package that she signed up for requires her to subscribe to these sports channels to get the other ones she wants. In the video you’ll see that we can’t get her news channels without sports which brings that fee along.

The best price I could get her requires another yearlong commitment from Comcast. While the service fee is locked in for that year, they have zero risk in this relationship because most of their costs are put into those other fees outside of the contracted rate.

But Comcast is not the only game in town any longer. Frontier’s fiber optic service recently came to her neighborhood and another ISP may soon follow. Replicating her current Comcast services with a Frontier and YouTube TV combo will save her at least $550 a year.

It’s shameful how Comcast abuses their monopolistic position and swindles senior citizens selling them services they don’t need or use. Comcast will need to pivot quickly as consumers now have choices. If traffic on my YouTube channel is any indication those consumers are eager to exercise their market power.

Xfinity / Comcast Rips off My Mom!

Check your cable bills! I checked my Mom’s bill the other day and what I found is the subject of my latest video.

The worst part is that the cable boxes she’s paying for are old digital to analog adapters that she’s had for the better part of the decade. Techs even came out at some point and hooked these things up, with RF connections, to her HD televisions!

Initially these adapters were around $3 a piece but Comcast has slowly increased the monthly cost on them over the years. When she changed her plan a few years ago they sent her an additional HD box for one of her televisions but never suggested or offered to take the older boxes off the plan.

A Comcast Digital adapter my mother was being charged $10 a month for

Comcast’s customer service was not very helpful. They work extremely hard to direct everyone to the website first – in fact this weekend I couldn’t even talk to an agent unless I went back to their website to request a call. When I did they sent me back to the website and use their equipment return page to initiate things. The problem is that only the two HD boxes showed up – not the other three adapters!

To rectify things I ended up using their Twitter support and got the ball rolling there. They sent us some return boxes and labels and I’ll be getting those back to Comcast this week. My hope is that they’ll take everything off the bill as those three adapters are still not showing up on her online account.

Thankfully Comcast offers customers a simple option for avoiding box rental fees by using a “partner device.” The best and most affordable option at the moment are Roku devices. Apple TVs also work pretty well too. I set up Mom up with a few Rokus are on her TVs this weekend.

I was able to save my mother $720 a year by removing the boxes and another DVR service add-on they slipped in that she didn’t need or use. All of this stuff sits outside of the contract she was on for service so Comcast can raise those rates whenever they want.

If you have loved ones that are a little challenged when it comes to technology definitely give their bill a close look. My video also provides a checklist of what you need to have ready to help.

It’s so frustrating that monopolies behave in this way. It’s especially unfortunate that because I’ve found Comcast’s network to be reliable and consistent in its performance. If they focused on making customers happy vs. ripping them off perhaps they’d be better positioned now that their business is getting significantly more competitive.