Why Is My Cable Bill So High? 7 Fees Hiding in the Small Print
Money + Markets

Why Is My Cable Bill So High? 7 Fees Hiding in the Small Print

Why does it cost a small fortune for cable TV? Add in internet and phone and you’re probably shelling out over $100 a month for these services. In some areas, cable bills are pushing past $200 a month. 

It’s no wonder that cable providers are among the lowest-ranking companies when it comes to customer service, experience and trust, according to surveys from The Temkin Group. Customers feel like they’re getting bilked, especially after looking carefully at all the charges.

The biggest component of your bill, of course, is the service you receive. Of course, the more you get — extra channels, internet and phone — the more you pay. But multiple taxes and fees can add another 10 percent to the total. And you will likely see more fees and surcharges if your cable company also provides internet or phone services.

Related: Why You May Not Want to Cut Your Cable Subscription Just Yet

What are these charges? Here are some of the more common fees on cable bills.

Broadcast TV and sports programming surcharge: Cable providers impose this surcharge to compensate for the fees they pay for sports and broadcast programming, which they claim have been increasing dramatically in recent years. This fee varies by provider.

Federal Universal Service Fund: Telecommunications carriers pay into the fund to keep rates affordable for low-income customers and those in high-cost rural areas. The fund also supports telecommunication services for libraries, schools and rural health care providers. The carriers are allowed to recover those costs from their customers. Some states have their own universal service fund to serve these same customers and a surcharge for these funds may appear as a separate line item on your bill. In the first quarter 2017, telecom companies must pay 16.7 percent of their interstate end-user revenues to the Universal Service Fund.

E-911 fee: This surcharge helps to fund local 911 emergency telephone systems. Everyone will still be provided with the 911 emergency service even if they don’t pay this fee. This fee typically adds up to $2 per landline, depending on the state.

FCC regulatory recovery fee: This charge allows telecommunication companies to recover costs they incur to comply with federal regulatory requirements. The fee last year from the Federal Communications Commission is $1 per cable subscriber.

Related: The Internet Security Mistake That Just About Everyone Makes

Public Utility Commission (PUC) recovery fee: This charge allows the cable companies to recover costs associated with state regulatory requirements and help fund the regulator’s operations.

Franchise fee: In certain states, cable franchises are managed by state-level public utility commissions that require cable companies to pay a fee. Often, cable companies can recover these fees from customers. The fee typically is 5 percent of gross revenue from each customer.

Public access fee: This fee funds public access channels in a subscriber’s particular area. Cable providers can pass this charge onto customers. This fee can also be called Public, Educational and Government (PEG) capital fee and it varies by state.