Have you noticed Comcast’s Christmas gift to itself?

It’s that time of year again.

No. I take that back.

A few weeks ago, it was that time of year again. Regular and long-time CohenConnect readers may recognize the Comcast graphic with Santa Claus. I came up with that two years and a week ago, on Dec. 20, 2017.

But I’ve been busy and had computer issues. The new one should be here on Jan. 7. That’ll solve a lot of problems, like constant errors and shutdowns.

Unfortunately, the situation with Comcast is the same.

A few weeks ago, I got my Comcast bill and noticed the back page. I hope those of you who also use Comcast took a good look, as well.

Yes, as of a week ago, the company has been charging more money again.

I underlined in red what affects me, but notice

  • Comcast’s push into the home security business
  • the Broadcast TV fee going up more than 50 percent!
  • the monthly TV Box rental fee almost doubling
  • the monthly Remote fee, which is needed for the box, more than doubling!

and while they’re at it,

  • raising the price for internet and Modem Rental. I wonder what the price would be without cable.

Don’t tell me there’s no extra profit in most of those categories, especially as the equipment I’m renting ages. That’s about as likely as the sky falling.

I use Comcast for cable and the internet, although I’m watching less and less TV lately, and months ago dropped cable in my home office for an antenna. Unbelievable!

It doesn’t save me much money: just about $10 monthly to rent the box and remote when taxes are added. That’s because the fee for local stations and local sports channels is only paid once per household. Still, it’s a little more money staying in my pocket and a little less going to Comcast, so that’s a step in the right direction.

One personal sticking point is not being able to pick up the ABC station by antenna, but they say they’re working on it. I don’t know why I get stations I didn’t know existed, but not Channel 6.

(Keep in mind, if I watch while having cable, then Comcast has to pay them, which raises my bill. But if I watch without cable, then neither Comcast, WPVI, or the station’s parent company ABC/Disney gets a penny from me. But I think they’d rather have me watching.)

I don’t know whether Comcast’s deals with the local TV stations and local sports channels all had to be renegotiated around the year’s end. That’s something I’ll never know.

What I do know is that Comcast owns NBC, and NBC owns plenty of channels on Comcast, especially here in Philadelphia which is the company’s headquarters.

For example, there is the NBC TV station and its subchannels, the Telemundo TV station and its subchannels, and NBC Sports Philadelphia, which carries games from several local sports teams. (Most local TV stations outside the big cities are owned by companies other than the networks.) Plus, there are MSNBC, CNBC, USA, Bravo and more, which are national.

TV stations are also profitable. Why else would NBC drop its longtime affiliate in San Francisco and buy an ABC affiliate turned independent down in San Jose, and reprogram it for the entire Bay Area?

Or drop its longtime affiliate in Boston and string together a bunch of low power stations around the region, and team up with its New England Cable News for local programming? And if you can’t pick up NBC over the air in New England’s largest TV market, you can pay to have Comcast cable as an alternative!

When Comcast bought NBCUniversal, the cable company (hardware) had to promise it would treat all TV stations and cable networks (content) the same, and not give preference to any of its own. Unfortunately, those conditions were time-based and many have run out.

These days, with retransmission consent, local stations charge the cable companies for the privilege of carrying them as part of their programming. The negotiations have not been pleasant and local TV stations around the country have been taken off cable and satellite companies due to price disagreements, which of course make customers angry with both parties blaming each other, and ultimately price increases are passed down to us customers.

But the reality is the networks affiliated with these local stations demand much of the retransmission money, saying people really watch those stations because they’re affiliated with the network.

(Yet, only NBC stuck with the entire Trump impeachment votes when the clock hit primetime. People in and out of the industry can say what they want — like everything was boring — but the votes were the culmination of everything that had happened until that point, they made history, and the CBS and ABC news divisions had to break into primetime programming. As for local Fox stations, they were worthless and the FCC should be discussing that.)

Anyway, what about a cable company that owns the stations? What would a negotiation look like in that now-common situation? Think about negotiating with yourself.

Here in Philadelphia, the ABC station has been kicking ass for generations. Its newscasts have had the highest share of viewers watching TV out of every TV station in the country! Does Comcast pay it more than it pays the NBC and Telemundo stations (which is really taking money out of one account and putting it into another)?

It’s like TV stations and networks buying programming that its parent company produces. Are the TV stations and networks putting the programs out there for the highest bidder?

Ask the casts and crews of Home Improvement and Bones. They sued! (Fox just settled with Bones in September and ABC finally settled with Home Improvement this past July, after six years!)

Small world: The cast of Bones included Philadelphia’s David Boreanaz, whose father Dave Roberts did weather on local ABC station Channel 6.

Supposedly, two summers ago, I get a very good deal from Comcast on cable and internet. I know the price is high but I need good internet, and didn’t want any TV extras. What do you think?

Comcast says it’s investing in technology and I know that’s the case, but I’m simply not interested.

It sent me a new box with a remote control and all the wiring but I didn’t know what it was supposed to do. I did an unsuccessful online chat with some “customer service” representative until we got cut off. This is most of it.

It turns out, tricky Comcast only emailed my part of the chat, but you can imagine the gist of it!

The end was Comcast’s survey and my comment. I finally just brought the equipment to the Comcast store. They told me I could do more dictating into the remote. I don’t need to do that! I reserve dictating to messages on my phone, so I returned the box with everything inside unopened.

I did ask about getting rid of the local TV channels and sports channels, but was told they were part of my cable package and to think of the price hikes as sales tax. And getting rid of them would affect my cable package price so I really wouldn’t be saving anything.

Most of what I watch is our local channels and cable news stations. I wish I could pay for those and not any of the others. In fact, with my phone and the computer while I’m not using the internet for work, I could see myself giving up cable completely!

I assume Google Chromecast could let me watch the internet on any TV set, plus I’ve had Roku for years and never opened the box! That comes with stuff.

Recently, Maine tried to give “consumers the ability to purchase unbundled channels and television programs,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. Unfortunately, last Friday, a federal judge “issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement,” saying it “likely violated the First Amendment rights of Comcast, ViacomCBS, Discovery and Disney.” I don’t think Byron Allen was consulted.

The law’s sponsor said consumers have been

“forced to purchase cable TV packages which include dozens of channels the consumer has no interest in watching,”

but the cable companies collecting money countered new rules would be unduly burdensome and lead to

“increased cable costs, reduced programming choice, consumer dissatisfaction, and the diversion of resources from enhanced cable offerings.”

So cable companies won that round, but luckily the fight isn’t over. The judge wrote that while cable operators can choose channels and programs for its services, they haven’t adequately explained why they should have discretion in “how to sell that programming.”

Again, personally, relief should be on its way since my building has been wiring to finally make Verizon FiOS a second option. Is it better than Comcast’s Xfinity? You probably know better than I do, and I’d love to see your opinions in the comments below. At least there will be competition, and that’s never a bad thing. In fact, I expect my neighbors and me to be offered introductory deals with Verizon and perhaps counteroffers with Comcast.

Then, hopefully these seemingly annual price hikes will stop.

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