What You Need to Know About Your Cable Bill

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Last updated: 06/29/2020
What You Need to Know About Your Cable Bill

Back Package

When you signed up for your service, you chose a basic cable television package. Your cable company has channels lumped into sections. A basic package may have 20-50 channels; other packages may have over 100 channels. Depending on whether you watch more movies, sports or reality shows, there may be a different package for each of those as well. Perhaps you chose basic channels and a sports package so you can watch hockey games. Each package has a set price. There should be a section on the bill that shows the package name and this charge.

Premium Services

Above the basic cable package are the option to purchase premium services. Premium movie channels are charged per month. A sports package can be an additional charge. Pay-per-view events are charged per occasion. This is another section of the bill and an additional charge. If you have cable on multiple television sets in your home, you may see a separate charge for the additional locations.

Bundled Services

Bundled services are when you buy a package from the cable provider that includes multiple services. If you bundle internet, cable television and home telephone service, the provider may offer you a discount well below what it would cost to purchase them separately. Some cable packages include a Netflix or Hulu subscription as well. There may be a section on your bill that shows the price of each service and then a discount for each based on the bundled price. Features of each of the services may be detailed in each section.


When you have cable services installed in your home, often you rent or purchase a cable modem or router. This equipment takes the line that comes into your home and converts the signal into something you can watch on your television or computer. The router allows you to watch more than one device at the same time and, if you have internet and home telephone service from the same provider, the router allows all of those services to function. If you record shows to watch at your convenience, you may have a DVR rental as well.

Taxes and Surcharges

While the Internet Tax Freedom Act bars federal, state and local governments from taxing internet services unless they did so before 1998, there are still taxes on other services on your bill. Cable television, equipment costs and home telephone services may all be taxed. You may see federal, state and local and county taxes. 

The Federal and States Universal service charges are added on. The purpose of these is to provide telecommunication services to rural communities, schools and libraries and everyone pays them. Cable companies have taxes, regulatory and legal costs they incur as a part of their doing business. They often pass this onto you in the form of administrative, regulatory or gross surcharge fees.  

Special Fees

Cable companies are allowed to pass on certain charges to their customers. One is called the Broadcast TV fee. Local networks such as CBS and ABC charge cable companies to broadcast their channels. This charge is passed onto you. You may also see a Rights of Way Use Fee, which is a charge established and collected by the state where you live. The cable lines that come into your house are laid in a network, either buried or traveling along with telephone lines in public areas. The state charges the fee which allows the cable company to install these lines.

Another fee you might see is the Regional Sports Surcharge fee. The cable companies pay regional sports networks to carry certain games. Even if you don’t watch sports, you may be charged this fee. Other charges might be listed here and, depending on your package plan, may be defrayed. There should be a section that explains each fee on your invoice.

Other Charges

Partial month charges may apply if you added, removed or changed any services during the month. These should be prorated depending on how many days of the month you had the service. Your last payment and any late fees or penalties should be outlined clearly and a summary of what you owe, along with the due date of the invoice.

Check it Over

Make sure you check your cable bill each month. If you cancelled a service, make sure you get credit for the times you didn’t use it. If you returned equipment, make sure you are not still being charged for it. If you do not watch all of those channels, perhaps you can switch to a cheaper plan. Make sure you are receiving all of the discounts you qualify for. Understand each fee and charge. Don’t be afraid to call your provider to ask about anything you don’t understand. Cable television is a great option, but be a smart consumer and understand what you are paying for.
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