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The FCC’s proposal on modem fees is a step backward for our customers

September 21, 2016

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At Charter we view things a little differently than our competitors. In recent years, we’ve not only made our products better and faster, we’ve made them a better value by eliminating many common fees – including modem fees – as part of our national pricing and packaging. We’re the only major broadband provider that doesn’t charge this fee, because we view modems as part of providing a superior broadband service, and it makes us a stronger competitor by allowing us to offer better deals to our subscribers.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently unveiled a proposal to “unlock the box,” with the stated goal of expanding the opportunity for third-party manufacturers to enter the market for cable set-top boxes. Deep within this proposal is a provision that has the potential to affect millions of consumers, requiring all internet providers to charge a modem rental fee and include it as a distinct line item in their customers’ bills, even if that company (like Charter) doesn’t currently charge a modem fee.

This bears repeating – even if Charter doesn’t currently charge a modem fee and does not want to charge a modem fee, the FCC would require us to do so.

The FCC is right to be concerned about some companies sneaking in certain charges into their customers’ bills. If transparency is the ultimate goal of the FCC’s provision, we would be more than happy to specifically note on our customers’ bills that our modems are free.

It doesn’t stand to reason that customers will benefit from forcing companies to start charging for modems they currently give away for free.

Instead, these policymakers should encourage our competitors to keep up and look for other ways to reduce fees for their consumers. The cable industry enjoys robust competition, and this is one way that we can all work harder to earn and keep our subscribers.

While we agree companies should be open and honest about what customers are paying for each month, and are willing to look for ways to be more transparent about our modems being free, we cannot support a proposal that would force us to create a new modem fee on every customer bill.