PHILADELPHIA -- There is a little-known tradition that impacts households across the country at the beginning of each year. Some of the biggest cable and satellite companies often hike prices on TV and internet fees.
In many instances, customers do not realize it. But this year there is a change that some local customers are not only noticing, but complaining about.
The Action News Troubleshooters have heard from several consumers who are angry and alarmed about a change in Comcast's data usage plan.
"With people working from home, people taking classes from home," said Mike Finnell of Philadelphia's Mount Airy section. "This is an unprecedented time and now is not the time to be raising prices on your users."
The Troubleshooters have received complaints from several consumers about a Comcast Xfinity notice which said in part: "As part of this new Data Usage Plan, you'll be charged $10, plus tax, up to a maximum of $100 per month for each additional 50GB of data used over 1.2TB in a month."
"I think it's profiteering honestly," said Finnell. "I think it's a way to gouge their customer base and get more money out of people at the worst possible time."
Comcast said "1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data" and the vast majority of customers will never come close to hitting it, stating the average household with two people working from home plus kids in virtual school and nighttime streaming will use about 500 gigabytes a month.
But many consumers are still outraged.
"Now is not the time to be raising prices on your users, when they really depend on your service," said Finnell.
"It's becoming an annual thing for companies to raise prices on TV and internet service. They blame the increases on rising programming costs and faster broadband speeds," said Consumer Reports Tech Editor Jim Willcox.
The good news is Comcast told the Troubleshooters the rollout of the new data threshold has been delayed. While emails sent to customers in the Northeast region indicated bills could be impacted as early as March, now there will be no change until at least August.
But cable subscribers: be aware.
"Broadcast TV fees are going up by as much as $4.50 a month. And there's a $2 bump to get regional sports networks," said Willcox.
The company is encouraging customers to look at their bills now to learn how they are using their cable and data.
One bright spot for consumers is a new law now in effect that requires cable and satellite TV companies to disclose the total monthly price of your bill when you sign up. That includes all charges, fees, and estimated taxes.
The law also bans those companies from charging you rental fees for equipment like a router you provide yourself.
For those who are frustrated by these price hikes, you can always contact your internet or cable provider to see if there is a way to lower your bill. If you are considering cutting cable and switching to streaming, check out Consumer Reports' streaming service guide.
Usage Based Billing:
"1.2 terabytes is a massive amount of data that enables consumers to video conference for 3,500 hours, watch 1,200 hours of distance learning videos, stream 500 hours of high-definition video content a month, or play more than 34,000 hours of online games. Our data plan is structured in a way that the very small percentage of our customers who use more than 1.2 terabytes of monthly data and generate the greatest demand for network development and capacity pay more for their increased usage. For those superusers, we have unlimited data options available."
"We are providing customers in our Northeast markets with additional time to become familiar with the new 1.2TB data plan. Customers in these markets will now have at least six months to understand their data usage, and the earliest a customer may see charges is August 2021. Over the next few days, we will be updating our materials and communicating to our customers in the Northeast of this change."
Tips for managing usage:
- Start tracking your usage via the Xfinity My Account app, online portal, or on your monthly bill
- Close apps like Hulu and Netflix when you are not using them
- Do not share your network password with neighbors and friends
- Do not inadvertently share your network by having an unsecured password like password