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AT&T Hits U-Verse Users With New Fees, Rate Hikes
New $2 U-Verse Fee to Begin February 1
by Karl Bode 12:47PM Friday Feb 15 2013 Tipped by Bill Neilson See Profile
On the heels of new rate hikes, AT&T is informing U-Verse users that they'll also be seeing several new fees on their broadband and TV bills. Several users have told me they received no advance notice of these fees whatsoever -- they simply appeared on user bills (AT&T tells me users were notified of the price hikes in November and December). Those new fees including a "Broadcast TV Surcharge" of $2 starting in February, and an expanding $3 "High Speed Internet Equipment Fee" for some users.

According to the AT&T U-Verse website, the fee "is to recover a portion of the amount local broadcasters charge AT&T to carry their channels." DirecTV recently started charging users a $3 "Regional Sports Fee" to offset the costs of local sports programming. AT&T's website makes no mention of whether this fee is to address sports programming, or programming hikes in general -- though it continues the long-standing industry tradition of craftily imposing below the line fees to jack up user bills while keeping the advertised price the same.

Another fee being complained about by users in our forums is a $3-$6 High Speed Internet Equipment Fee. The company has charged the fee for some time for users who don't own their hardware, but it still seems intermittently applied and inconsistently waived, resulting in users (including those who thought they bought their hardware) being surprised when it shows up.

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"If you are not currently paying a monthly high speed Internet equipment fee for the Wi-Fi-enabled Residential Gateway, a $2 monthly fee will begin with the January 27 billing statements," an AT&T notice informs users.

The AT&T website also outlines a slew of new price hikes to various TV channels and services that went into effect last month. You might (or might not) recall that when AT&T was lobbying state lawmakers to gut regulations and consumer protections governing local TV franchises, one of their core promises in exchange for greased regulatory wheels -- was that their entry into the TV market would dramatically lower TV prices. How's that working out?

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Santa Clara, CA

3 recommendations

reply to Kearnstd

Re: These fees should be illegal.

It's worse than you think!

Most of the "fees" have nothing whatever to do with actual government taxes. They are just pure profit added "below the line" to claim a lower "advertised price".

We separate the actual taxes on our bills because it's not fair to make people in one city pay the city broadband tax for another. But the telecom taxes account for only a tiny percentage of the bill -- less than 2-3% in most of our territory.

Our openness puts us at a marketing disadvantage when someone calls and demands we match price with one of the "biggies" -- because they compare their advertised price (without the extra profit) with our actual price (which includes all profit).

Bottom line: there is a huge push in our industry to price services deceptively, like the big guys, because otherwise you lose the business of low-information customers who make uninformed price comparisons.

It sucks, but there it is. Because the big guys get away with it on their customers, more and more small providers have to play the same game.