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US Government Cracks Down on Cable TV 'Junk Fees'

Consumer advocates raised concern that between 24% and 33% of cable bills consist of hidden fees.
Cover Image Source: Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)| Photo by Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images
Cover Image Source: Jessica Rosenworcel, Chairwoman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)| Photo by Kevin Dietsch | Getty Images

The US government has taken decisive steps to address consumer concerns, ranging from transparency in cable TV pricing to enhancing cybersecurity measures and bridging the digital divide. In a series of announcements made during its monthly open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled plans to mandate cable and satellite TV providers to disclose comprehensive pricing inclusive of all extra charges, commonly referred to as "junk fees." 


The FCC's crackdown on "junk fees" comes in response to consumer advocates' concerns, who have highlighted that between 24% and 33% of consumers' cable bills consist of hidden fees. By requiring providers to present "all-in" prices in billing and marketing materials, the FCC seeks to facilitate easier comparison shopping among different providers, streamlining the process for consumers.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel emphasized the importance of transparency, stating, "No one likes surprises on their bill. The advertised price for service should be the price you pay when your bill arrives. It shouldn’t include a bunch of unexpected junk fees that are separate from the top-line price you were told when you signed up."

The new rule aims to address the practice of cable companies advertising low base rates to attract customers before imposing additional fees, as highlighted in a report submitted by Consumer Reports.

Unsplash | Photo by Carlos Muza
Image Source: Unsplash | Photo by Carlos Muza

While the cable industry has expressed reservations about the necessity of "all-in" pricing, arguing that current practices are transparent, the FCC's decision underscores its commitment to protecting consumer interests and promoting fairness in the marketplace.

"Our members clearly disclose the specific amounts of the fees that will apply and the total amount customers will pay for service, thereby ensuring that customers are not ‘surprised by unexpected fees," said NCTA, a trade association representing some of the nation’s largest cable companies, in a filing to the FCC.

Pexels | Journalism
Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Pixabay

Besides addressing cable TV pricing, the FCC also tackled other pressing consumer issues during its meeting. The agency finalized a new cybersecurity product label designed to identify hack-resistant tech gadgets, providing consumers with assurance about the security of their connected devices.

"It was four years ago this week that so many of us were told to go home. The pandemic exposed our digital divide in living color," said Rosenworcel, referring to the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020.

This initiative, resembling the Energy Star certification program, aims to incentivize electronics manufacturers to adhere to rigorous cybersecurity standards, thereby enhancing consumer trust and safety.

Illustration Computer Keybords, Digital Future | Getty Images | Photo by Viennaslide
Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Viennaslide

Furthermore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved new standards for defining high-speed internet, reflecting technological advancements and the increasing necessity of faster speeds in daily life. The previous threshold set in 2015 required a minimum download speed of 25 megabits per second and a minimum upload speed of 3 megabits per second.

Thursday's revisions elevate the standard to 100 Mbps for downloads and 20 Mbps for uploads.

Many users experienced downtime like this on Reddit.|Getty Images|Photo by Leon Neal
Image Source: Internet Downtime | Getty Images | Photo by Leon Neal

These changes have significant implications for federal funding allocation, particularly in efforts to expand internet access to underserved areas. Additionally, the FCC's approval of a product label for hack-resistant appliances marks a milestone in consumer cybersecurity. The label, reminiscent of the Energy Star certification, aims to guide consumers in selecting secure connected devices. With participation from major electronics manufacturers and retailers, this initiative seeks to bolster baseline cybersecurity standards and promote competition in the market.