I haven’t watched TV now for four weeks and I’m loving it.
And I owe it all to Comcast.
Two months ago I paid closer attention to my bill than usual. That’s when I noticed $8 tagged onto my bill under “other charges and credits.” One was $5 for a broadcast TV fee. The other was $3 for a regional sports fee.
So I called Comcast. It was explained to me the broadcast fee was to recover additional charges they were paying for under FCC regulations. So I asked why they didn’t simply collapse that into the price of the digital starter TV charge taking it from $70.99 to $75.99. They didn’t know.
Then I asked about the regional sports fee. It irked me because I don’t even watch sports on TV. It didn’t matter, I was told, as all Comcast customers paid it.
It got me to thinking. I watch TV only one time a week — Saturday nights — for an hour or so. Yet I’m paying not just $70.99 a month for the privilege but $78.99 thanks to fees that Comcast has added on as a surcharge to my bill.
And to be clear, I wasn’t irked that Comcast netted $8.78 billion in profit after taxes in 2016. That said I was a bit perturbed that Comcast wasn’t a bit more honest and simply upped their digital starter package price if they had additional costs and wanted to keep their profit margin instead of adding on fees as if they weren’t a regular cost of doing business.
I didn’t, however, do anything about it until I visited a Verizon store to get a new iPhone 8. During the conversation the sales representative made a pitch about TV service from Dish TV for $52 a month that happened to be the same thing that Comcast was charging me $70.99 for — or actually $78.99 after tossing in the bogus fees that are a breakout of the cost of the service.
That really started to get me to reassess my entire relationship with Comcast and the fact I don’t have what one would call heavy TV watching habits.
I was forced into the digital starter package to begin with years ago by Comcast because they dropped what was once called “basic service” for $19.99 a month that offered only standard broadcast channels plus a few shopping channels. Why I even had Comcast TV goes back farther. Years ago Comcast told me I had to take TV from them in order to get Internet. In other words, Comcast has a history of forcing people to buy things they don’t want in order to get a specific service.
Add to the fact the only things I really watched with any regularity are “Major Crimes” as well as “Madame Secretary” via OnDemand, and reruns of “Law & Order” and it got me to question why I was spending $78.99 with Comcast.
So I asked to go with the least expensive TV service that Comcast had and I was told that was it. Then when I said I wanted to drop the TV service the words that I wasn’t in the mood to hear were uttered — “let me see what I can do.”
Before they got a chance to see what they could do, I interrupted and said I hope they weren’t going to tell me I could get “basic” service as I was just told a month prior that wasn’t available in my area adding if for some magical reason it was now available, I’d drop Internet with Comcast and go with Verizon.
It wasn’t my objective, but I ended up getting Internet cheaper by almost $20 a month.
Most folks might think this was a good deal. I can’t argue that. But I don’t appreciate having my chain yanked.
Long story short, I’m getting along fine without TV and my Comcast bill has gone from $157.55 a month to less than $65 a month
I know I didn’t hurt Comcast and that wasn’t my intent. Besides when you clear a cool $8.78 billion a year after taxes the money I send their way is like a speck of dust.
Also, I really am not mad at Comcast although I don’t appreciate their marketing/pricing techniques that could make the folks who wrote the 1040 instructions for the IRS a tad jealous with how they can take a simplistic subject and muddy the waters.
Besides, how can I be mad at somebody who has made me see the folly of cable and/or pay TV? It’s my fault that I pay for stuff I never use especially when it came to the $3 regional sports fee. After all, I was the one stupid enough to keep my service and not notice when it was added to my monthly billing statements.
It also made me realize that the average 60 minutes a week — sometimes twice that — I spent watching TV was just a way to be brain dead. I’ve replaced it with more reading that I get a lot more out of given I’ve almost memorized some “Law & Order” episodes after watching them 17 times or so.
The days I “had to watch TV” haven’t been around since I was always disappointed when my mother wanted to watch “Bonanza” on a Sunday night and I wanted to watch “I Dream of Jeannie.”
If anyone owes anything it’s me to Comcast. Not as much as saving me money as it is from saving me from a habit that stopped being “essential” a long time ago.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.