Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Consumer Reports Wants to See Your Internet Bill

Geoffrey A. Fowler, Washington Post:

I recently moved and needed to sign up for Internet and TV service. I chose a package that Comcast advertised would cost $90 per month.

When the first bill arrived, it totaled — surprise! — $127.72. That’s 42 percent more.

As I’ve learned, jacking up prices for service is perfectly legal. It’s also maddeningly common.

[…]

Comcast tells me this is exactly what its customers want. It said it disclosed its copious additional fees to me in various fine-print communications — though only after I entered my credit card number. “We conduct extensive consumer research and host focus groups and incorporate our findings into the way we present information to our customers, all in an effort to help ensure they have a positive experience and can easily understand the details of their service,” said Jennifer Khoury, Comcast’s chief communications officer.

There is nothing American consumers love more than ISPs and hidden fees, with the exception of pretty much anything else. Still, this is not solely a Comcast problem, nor is it only an American problem: one Canadian ISP’s website currently promises “TOTAL TV PLANS FOR $50/MO.” without making it clear that “Total TV” is a brand and not reflective of the bundle pricing, and the $50 per month rate only applies to the first month’s bill, after which it is $150 per month.

Russell Brandom, the Verge:

You don’t always get what you pay for in internet access. Most places only have one option, so you’re stuck picking the good plan or the bad plan from a single carrier, and if the expensive “broadband” plan turns out to be closer to dial-up speeds, there isn’t much you can do. And that’s without getting into the big swaths of the country that don’t even have a broadband option on the table.

So we’re joining with Consumer Reports to take a close look at the problem, collecting as many internet bills as we can to get a sense of which telecoms are holding up their end of the bargain — and which ones are falling short. The idea is to get a bird’s-eye view of the speeds people are actually getting, and what they’re paying for those speeds.

Consumer Reports promises that it will de-identify bills submitted to it. If you are American and would like to participate, you can complete the survey. I would happily participate if a similar study were offered in Canada.