The Recap: FCC’s Plan to Kill Junk Fees, Disappearing Apps, and More




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dad and daughters watching tv

Cord cutting has taken its toll on cable companies, which we’ve seen every time Comcast or Charter Communications reports earnings and continued losses on the TV side. But what gets less attention are the small local cable TV companies, and things are even uglier. 

There have been a string of cable companies that have either shut their TV operations down or shut down completely. Between customers leaving and media companies asking for more money to carry their channels, it’s getting tough to be in the pay-TV business at all. 

Then there’s Comcast, which launched a pricey $60 plan that includes the major networks and a selection of other broadcast channels like PBS, Univision, and Telemundo. That’s probably not going to endear anyone to cable. 

As always, there was a lot going on in the world of cord cutting. But that’s why The Recap exists, to catch you up on the biggest stories and why you should care about them. 

Here’s what you need to know from this past week.

Cable TV Shutdown

Duo Broadband said this week that it would be shutting down both its traditional cable TV service and the streaming offering, citing “extreme price increases from programmers.” This means that customers of Duo, which serves the Kentucky area, will lose access to their cable channels. 

In Alaska, KPU said it would shut down its TV service in 2024. KPU served Ketchikan, which was the first town in Alaska to get cable TV. Customers will have until September of next year before the service goes down. 

In both cases, both providers will continue to offer cable and phone services, so streaming options like YouTubeTV and Fubo are still options. 

That’s better than Bailey Cable TV, which completely shut down without any warning at the end of November. Customers in Mississippi and Louisiana saw their service go dark, with only a recorded message playing that there would no longer be service before the line disconnected. 

Comcast’s Pricey Locals Plan

Then there’s cable giant Comcast, which has seen its share of challenges lately, but is also feeling the pressure from rising programming costs. 

Comcast Xfinity on Monday rolled out a new plan consisting of local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, as well The CW and other broadcast channels like Univision and Telemundo. The price for this modest package? Around $60 a month. 

That’s a whopper of a bill for so little channels, especially considering you can get them all for free with an antenna. 

Comcast notes there is a $25.50 Broadcast fee – although this can vary by market – on top of a $35-a-month plan. The company launched this plan in 2019, when it cost $30 a month. 

Just buy an antenna. 

Bye Bye Nickelodeon (App)

Nickelodeon’s app will soon shut down as Paramount begins sunsetting the apps for a few of its cable networks. This follows our reporting from last week that found Comedy Central, MTV, and the Paramount Network were also getting taken down.

This also comes as Paramount shuts down its Showtime Anytime app, as it prepares to merge the content with Paramount+. 

The apps going away signals an end to the “TV Anywhere” concept of giving access to content on mobile based on a cable account authentication. 

Paramount is likely pushing folks who want this content to subscriber to its paid streaming service instead. 

FCC’s Plan to Kill Junk Fees

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday voted to kick off a process that aims to ban “junk fees,” particularly early termination fees that are found on cable TV bills. 

The FCC says the rules will make the bills easier to understand, and reduce the instances of people getting surprised by how much their cable bills are. 

The cable companies weren’t happy with the move, saying it was a step towards rate regulations. The FCC still needs to go through the process of receiving public comment before finalizing this proposal into a rule.

T-Mobile Will Finally Get its Spectrum

T-Mobile spent $304 million in a spectrum auction last year with the intent to use the airwaves to expand its 5G coverage, potentially putting 5G home internet into more homes. But a tied-up Congress failed to renew the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to actually dole out that spectrum, the first time ever it hasn’t been able to do so. 

Congress actually got its act together to pass a bill giving the FCC temporary authority, which is good news for T-Mobile and its customers. The extra spectrum aligns with its existing network, and can offer a boost in speed, capacity, and reach. 

That’s the good news. The bad news is Congress still needs to give back full authority to the FCC or no new bands of radio airwaves can be doled out, slowing the progress of wireless upgrades down the line. 

DIRECTV-Tegna Fight Cools

After a bit of back and forth between DIRECTV and Tegna over the last two weeks, it’s gone radio silent. Don’t expect much movement until next year, which means the blackout will almost certainly drag on to January. 

Readers’ Note: This will be the last edition of The Recap this year, as I take a break to close out the year. I’ll be back in the New Year with more summaries of the week’s activity and a little tease for CES 2024. 

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