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FCC's Online media complaint form against Comcast

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by buscuitboy, Jun 5, 2012.

  1. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
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    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    GMAB. I just started looking through the damn thing. In this area, the FCC regulations that implement the law are just as relevant.

    What additional programming costs? They pay per subscriber, not per "outlet".

    I put "outlet" in quotes because that's not what the charge is really for. Think about it. Some Comcast systems still have a few analog channels. You have a TiVo 2 attached, happily using those channels since you only have an analog TV. Then you decide to replace everything with a new HDTV and a new TiVo and install a CableCARD in the TiVo. *poof*, the same physical outlet is magically transformed into a digital outlet for which Comcast can now charge you an additional fee.
     
  2. MichaelK

    MichaelK New Member

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    Jan 10, 2002
    NJ
    just started poking around- and while i can't find anything besides - "an operator may recover additional programming costs" , i found an early attempt (in 1995-1996) ate a class action lawsuit about additional outlet fees based on the 1992 law.

    http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-3rd-circuit/1343569.html

    as the peanut gallery would assume the plantiff's lost. Premise was that first they didn't have the right to sue. Second that the local authority had to decide to regulate the fees and it wasn't up to the cable company to do anything in particular. (Not sure if the same premise(s) apply under the 1996 law.)
     
  3. MichaelK

    MichaelK New Member

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    Jan 10, 2002
    NJ
    You have access to the contracts that comcast has with HBO et al?

    Assuming that there are no addtional fees and that you are right- these charges are illegal- the large cable companies (all of them) have all been breaking the law to the tune of Millions of dollars each month for 15+ years and YOU are the genius that discovered it and will fix this. Thank you so much for correcting this. I can't wait to get my rebate check.

    I think the real answer is someone needs to read the entire section and see the scope- but it seems possible that the fee's are only regulated for basic cable and since the digital tier is above basic cable then they can charge more. Again, i dont have time at the moment to read the whole thing but just looking at it as a whole i find it hard to believe the FCC, a million class action lawyers, and thousands of congress critters (since 1996) have all missed this. Common sense just seems to point out that it can't be a GROSS violation. (i think there are some fringe messes- like the bills and rate sheets and all are truthfully NOT always clear)

    Sarcasm aside. Why not put in a complaint to the FCC that very directly takes issue with additional outlet fees and then see what the FCC says? maybe they will say "wow, thanks for pointing it out to us. We'll get right on this clear violation of the law". My opinion, (and I'm on the internet so it's not worht much- lol) is that they will tell you that there is no violation and thanks for taking the time to write.
     
  4. MichaelK

    MichaelK New Member

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    Jan 10, 2002
    NJ
    actually i think the bottom line is in fact that nothing beyond the basic tier is regulated for pricing.
    law is for regulation of rates is here:
    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE...9-title47-chap5-subchapV-A-partIII-sec543.htm

    enabling regulations are here:
    http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/tex...ode=47:4.0.1.1.4&idno=47#47:4.0.1.1.4.14.3.14
    see subpart P for rate regulation - nothing beyond basic tier regulations that i see. (and even then there are limits to the regs)

    Subpart N has cablecard rules

    i see nothing in there about maximum pricing.

    § 76.1205(b)(5) talks about being transparent about pricing for cablecard but notice there's not even a rule about how much cable cards should cost (i do recall commissioners warning that if pricing was 'unreasonable' they would regulate a maximum cost)
     
  5. jadziedzic

    jadziedzic Member

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    Apr 20, 2009
    In my experience the FCC does not directly respond to these complaints; the complaints are sent to the provider (Comcast) who investigates the issue and responds to the FCC. I don't know if it always happens this way, but after I filed a complaint specifically about additional outlet fees a Comcast representative called me and personally discussed the complaint, offered their explanation, etc. I must say that the Comcast representative was very polite and really did seem to make an effort to be sure they understood my concern. Obviously they didn't agree with my viewpoint, but that wasn't at all surprising.

    That call was followed up by a letter from Comcast to the FCC Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, with a copy also sent to me. I won't quote the entire letter here, but here's the pertinent part:

    "I contacted Mr. Dziedzic to discuss his concerns. I provided an explanation regarding additional digital outlet charges. We discussed the fact that any customer who has digital service active to an outlet beyond the first and regardless of the end equipment used, is assessed a monthly digital access/additional outlet fee for each of those outlets." (My emphasis on "digital service".)

    It seems pretty clear (to me) that if Comcast is violating some law then the FCC is fully aware of it, and chooses to do nothing. The alternative is that Comcast is NOT violating some law - and that's the more likely explanation. It's not like Comcast is going out of their way to avoid sharing their interpretation of the law with the FCC ...
     
  6. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
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    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    No, but neither do you so my assumption is at least as valid as yours. Has Comcast ever claimed that they are paying additional fees per outlet? Prior to digital cable, there was flat out no way for them to know how many devices were connected to the cable at any particular location. Sometimes they didn't even scramble premium channels but instead used filters to control access. Even now, all they know is how many of their boxes and/or CableCARDs you have. They have no idea how many clear QAM capable devices you have installed, including TiVo 3's and 4's with no CableCARD. Thus the request for a waiver so that they can encrypt everything, forcing you to get CableCARDs or one of their boxes and incur the associated ADO fees. As a bonus, if you don't have a TiVo or other similar device and you want to continue to watch in HD, you'll need one of their HD boxes so that they can now add an "HD Technology" fee to your bill. BTW, since the ADO fee applies even if you have no premium channels, HBO is not a valid example.

    15+ years? What year is it where you are? It's 2012 where I am and Comcast for one only instituted this charge a couple of years ago. As recently as 2004, I had 1 cable box, 4 TiVos and 3 TVs(1 with 2 dual tuners) spread about the house at 3 different wall outlets. Beyond the normal price for the particular tier I had, do you kinow how many additional fees I was paying - zero, zilch, nada, none. And this was in a house where the splitter was outside and had a Comcast or AT&T installed amp (don't remember if the swap happened prior to its installation). In 2008, I was in a different location and was down to two TiVos and purchased a THD and had a CableCARD installed. They added a $1.50/mo fee to my account. It stayed like that until February last year when I added a Premiere and had a CableCARD installed in it. Suddenly I was hit with 2 "Additional outlet fees" (their box counts as my primary). I got no customer owned equipment credits until I called up and requested them. Well, it started out as a request but fairly quickly turned into a demand when they did not want to give them to me.

    As noted above, the additional outlet fee is a fairly recent phenomena. Even today, not all of the cable companies have them and none of them, not even Comcast, have been charging for outlets all that long.

    Based on the experience documented above by jadziedzic, I suspect the FCC would more likely just forward the complaint to Comcast for them to deal with as they see fit.

    Being from the future and all, are you here to warn us not to waste our time in a futile effort? That the ADO fees are still in place and that they have been further augmented by technology that allows them to determine how many people are watching each screen and charging per viewer? That this has made HBO ecstatic as now it really is like having a box office in every home? That filling up your TiVo and jumping into a kiddie pool with works as a time travel mechanism? I guess it's good news in one regard - at least we now know that the world doesn't end this year.:rolleyes:

    Have the debating rules changed in the future? Currently, it isn't the responsibility for one party in a debate to examine a set of arcane and complex documents full of mostly irrelevant information, looking for the few nuggets that support the other sides position. In other words, it's not my homework.

    See, I can be as sarcastic as you.

    Seriously though, I do plan to at least try to examine the referenced material, if only so I have all my ducks in a row if and when I do decide to argue with Comcast again, file a complaint with the FCC, or even *shudder* contact *shudder* my *ack* congresscritter.:eek: Or, if I find what you say I'll find, I'll give it up and catch up on my TV viewing. Rather ironic that I'm spending so much time on this and am not actually watching much TV. Part of the problem is that I am not a very good typist and only a mediocre at best and very slow writer.
     
  7. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
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    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    Where, at any point have I said that there was a maximum price?

    And that is precisely the point - they aren't transparent. Comcast says that the rental cost for the first CableCARD in a device is $0/mo. Nowhere in their information about CableCARDs is it stated or even implied that there is an ADO fee incurred unless it is for your "Primary Outlet"

    If Comcast's CableCARD pricing is transparent to you, then you must be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound 'cause you sure as heck have x-ray vision.
     
  8. MichaelK

    MichaelK New Member

    7,308
    0
    Jan 10, 2002
    NJ
    acting like a grown up this morning- sorry for being silly yesterday- got into the heat of the moment.

    I've agreed with you all along on the above point. Basically comcast has cobbled together a pile of desperate (sp?) systems and the net result is a confusing mess. I do think they could do better to be more clear and consistent. But i dont think at all charging an additional outlet fee on digital cable is illegal. Nor do i think they charge it only on TiVo's (and other 3rd party devices). I just think their bills are totally unclear and so it makes this confusion that pisses people off.

    ***although honestly I suspect their inconsistency and confusion and messed up systems benefits plenty of consumers. I moved to cable from sat when the S3 came out. Originally my local provider was a small independent company. Comcast purchased them ~2007 and since then my bill has changed over and again with comcast trying to make our system match their policies. I've also thrown monkey wrenches at them using S3's (2 cards), S2's (analog) , DTA's, and premiers (1 card) . Currently I have an S3 and 2 premiers on my account. Somehow they are not currently charging me any additional outlet fees (although they have in the past), my 4 cablecards are each a dollar, but they credit me 2.50 for each card (not each device since the S3 uses 2). Net result is that I pay for my package and then actually get a credit for having multiple devices on the account.

    In short it's a mess.
     
  9. lessd

    lessd Active Member

    7,695
    5
    Jan 23, 2005
    CT
    Without any notice Comcast just lowered my 4 cable cards cost from $1.50/card to $1.15/card, I have never paid any A/O charge, but the A/O line is on my bill at $0. I do have an old Cable box from Comcast I don't use but I don't want to wake a sleeping dog by returning that box. I am in the Hartford CT area
     
  10. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

    3,501
    18
    Sep 19, 2006
    In the ATL
    This inconsistency with A/O and card fees in different areas is exactly why the FCC should get involved, IMO. Fat chance.
     
  11. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

    3,501
    18
    Sep 19, 2006
    In the ATL
    These disparate systems are the problem, and Comcast has had years to get it fixed but nothing happens.

    There's no logical reason I can see that a few areas get hit with the bogus 'HD tech fee' with Cablecards, nor why some areas get cards for free, some pay a small charge, and some pay full outlets, other than that Comcast doesn't care about going with a single billing system and set of policies.
     
  12. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
    2
    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    Whether or not the ADO fee is legal has always been a side issue. The cost isn't the issue either. It's about the CableCARD regulations and whether or not they are in compliance. They quote one price for CableCARD rental when in reality the true cost is something else. Why it is like that is only relevant to the extent of understanding the difficulty in getting it resolved.

    I've been saying for a while now that one of Comcast's problems is that it isn't one tightly integrated corporation. It is a loose confederation of individual fiefdoms. However, this should not resolve them of any responsibility to comply with FCC regulations.
     
  13. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
    2
    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    Any new posts I make on the subject of the general legality of the ADO fee will be here. Unless I receive specific authorization from the poster, I will neither quote nor directly refer to any existing posts made in this thread. I will attempt to keep even indirect references to a minimum.

    If any new posts on the subject are made in this thread, I shall feel free to respond to them in the other thread.

    I am not trying dictate the the terms of the discussion in this thread, I am simply doing what I can to return it to its originally intended purpose and use the other, already existing thread (created 04-03-2012, 02:38 PM) for the discussion of the ADO fee in general.
     
  14. pdhenry

    pdhenry Safety Pin

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    Feb 27, 2005
    PA
    Except that the OP in that thread is just trying to get the $2.50 COE discount. She doesn't seem to have a problem with the AO fee (post #48 in that thread, for example).
     
  15. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
    2
    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    Hmm, yeah, looks like she ended up settling for that. And even though the initial post is seeking a total removal of the ADO fee, it was only in relation to a TiVo w/CableCARD.

    I'd rather have the two discussions separate and the other thread's title alone seems to make it a better fit for the general ADO fee discussion. Plus I've already received a couple of responses to my latest post. Unless someone strenuously objects over there ( I will ask), I will continue with my semi-hijack in lieu of starting a new thread.
     
  16. MichaelK

    MichaelK New Member

    7,308
    0
    Jan 10, 2002
    NJ
    OK so ADO fee is a side issue.

    What exactly is the issue you have if with then and the regs ? The inconsistency?

    Since there's plenty of examples of then not charging as much as their own policies would allow I, in my humble opinion, chalk the inconsistancy to incompetence and nothing nefarious.
    If the FCC were to 'crack down' on that the end game would be what? Ensuring everyone pays the ADO fees and the corporate charge rates for the cablecards?

    As an aside I can chime in that my cobbled up system gets more and more consistant to the party line each year with the annual rate change... at least on paper...
     
  17. lpwcomp

    lpwcomp Active Member

    8,075
    2
    May 6, 2002
    John's...
    Yes the regs and whether Comcast is in compliance. You yourself said that the monthly cost to use a CableCARD must be transparent. It isn't.
     
  18. Stormspace

    Stormspace Electrocuted by TiVo

    5,171
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    Apr 13, 2004
    Hartsville, SC
    Dish based systems can only handle a limited number of streams simultaneously to a residence. Whether this is a technological limitation or other, it in effect forces the customer to purchase additional equipment to connect outlets beyond what the original equipment supports. Cable is different.

    From the FCC.gov website

    I'm not a fan of the AO fee and think that it is a scam perpetrated on us by the cable companies because they control the feed of digital information, not because it costs them more to deliver the AO to you.
     
  19. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

    3,501
    18
    Sep 19, 2006
    In the ATL
    I don't have a problem with the fee if it covers the box rental, but in Comcast's case it's clearly more of a money grab. It certainly has nothing to do with what they pay the providers for programming, which is a per-subscriber cost.
     
  20. morac

    morac Cat God

    8,934
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    Mar 14, 2003
    NJ
    While I do think that Comcast uses the AO fee as a work around for the cableCARD laws, I don't think they are violating the rules as written.

    Comcast is definitely using the AO fee a work around is because of the pricing restructuring that's been going on the past few years. Originally Comcast charged a per box fee without an outlet fee. This charge was around $4 per SD box, $9 per HD box, $16 per DVR and about 80 cents per remote. At some point Comcast switched to an outlet service fees which included the SD, HD or DVR box and remote equipment rental fees. The later were originally priced at about $2, $5 and $9 respectively. Every year or so Comcast lowers the rental fee for the HD/DVR box and remote. Currently according to my latest bill the rental fee for any Comcast box (SD, HD or DVR) is $2.15 and the remote is 20 cents. So the total equipment charge is $2.35 per box regardless of what that box is. I doubt a SD converter costs Comcast the same as a HD converter costs the same as a DVR, but they charge the same rental price for them. The customer owned device credit is based off of Comcast's equipment rental fees so the current credit in my area is $2.50 per customer owned box (I'm not sure where the extra 15 cents comes from).

    At this point in my area the service fees per outlet are $9.25 for HD and $16.25 for DVR Service. Both of those require a HD Technology Fee of $9.25 according to my latest bill which I'll attach. So basically Comcast moved the fees from equipment rental to service. The net price for someone renting boxes from Comcast is the same, but the price goes up for anyone who has their own box. That's basically equivalent of Disney lowering their food pass rates and raising their park entrance fees.

    There's nothing in the regulations that says Comcast can't set their service fees to whatever they want, only that they have to show the equipment rental charges on their rate sheet (they are) and they can't charge customers extra for using their own devices as opposed to equivalent Comcast rented boxes (they aren't). The DTA is not the same as a CableCARD since the DTA only gets a limited subset of channels. If Comcast ever deploys a HD DTA (which they want to do but are currently prohibited from doing so by the FCC), then that argument might change depending on how much Comcast charges for it.

    Personally, I'm not paying any outlet fees. There weren't any when I originally signed up in my area and they never added any to my account. One additional outlet fee was added to my account about two years ago because of an automatic audit, but I managed to get it removed because of the wording of the price sheet which at the time called the charge a Additional Digital Converter Outlet Fee. I told them I had no digital converters and they removed the fee. Even now I think I could argue away the fees since my bill states the Digital Additional Outlet Service fee requires an HD Technology Fee and that fee requires a digital converter according to the rate sheet.

    [​IMG]
     

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