One of the most misleading practices in the broadband industry is the tactic of adding sneaky, below the line fees to artificially keep the advertised rate the same. It’s effectively a form of false advertising, in that consumers sign up for one rate, then wind up paying significantly more after an ISP saddles their bills with various nonsensical fees. Many of these fees, like the “regulatory recovery fee” or broadcast TV fee are simply the cost of doing business, and are not government mandated despite being designed to sound like it.
Given that regulators have turned a blind eye to this practice for fifteen years (longer if you’re talking about POTS), many companies don’t even try very hard when trying to make up such fees.
Case in point is CenturyLink, who for a few years now has been charging its customers something called an “Internet cost recovery fee.” This is the explanation for the fee CenturyLink provides over at the CenturyLink website:
This fee helps defray costs associated with building and maintaining CenturyLink’s High-Speed Internet broadband network, as well as the costs of expanding network capacity to support the continued increase in customers’ average broadband consumption.
The problem is…that’s what the rest of your bill is for. Again, all CenturyLink is doing is using a misleading fee to artificially keep advertised rates low. Were regulators doing their jobs this wouldn’t be allowed. But since they’re not, CenturyLink is notifying users that it plans to double the fee to $4 starting this month. Not only do such fees let ISPs falsely advertise a lower rate, it lets them falsely claim that they haven’t technically hiked their broadband prices in “x” years.
Such fees also aren’t included when calculating international broadband price comparisons, meaning that rankings that suggest that Americans pay more for broadband than most developed countries — are actually probably low-balling the estimate.