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Cable and Satellite TV Providers May Have to Show You Their Hidden Fees Up Front

The Biden administration is continuing its crackdown on "junk fees."

Corinne Reichert Senior Editor
Corinne Reichert (she/her) grew up in Sydney, Australia and moved to California in 2019. She holds degrees in law and communications, and currently writes news, analysis and features for CNET across the topics of electric vehicles, broadband networks, mobile devices, big tech, artificial intelligence, home technology and entertainment. In her spare time, she watches soccer games and F1 races, and goes to Disneyland as often as possible.
Expertise News | Mobile | Broadband | 5G | Home tech | Streaming services | Entertainment | AI | Policy | Business | Politics Credentials
  • I've been covering technology and mobile for 12 years, first as a telecommunications reporter and assistant editor at ZDNet in Australia, then as CNET's West Coast head of breaking news, and now in the Thought Leadership team.
Corinne Reichert
2 min read
US paper money and a sticky note with the word "cable"
Steve Dunning via Getty Images

TV providers might be forced to provide their total price for services on bills and in ads up front under a rule just proposed by the Federal Communications Commission, as part of the Biden administration's push against what it calls "junk fees."

"Today, the FCC proposed a rule that would require cable and satellite TV providers to give consumers honest pricing up front -- the latest action taken by my administration to crack down on junk fees, increase transparency and bring down costs for hardworking Americans," President Joe Biden tweeted Tuesday. 

The FCC said surprise fees can raise the amount of your bill significantly over what was originally advertised when you signed up. Things like a broadcast TV fee or a regional sports programming surcharge may be listed on your bill as taxes, surcharges and fees, the agency said. 

"This categorization can be potentially misleading and interpreted as a government-imposed tax or fee, instead of a company-imposed service fee increase," the proposed rule says. "This proposal would require cable operators and (satellite) providers to clearly and prominently display the total cost of video programming service."

The rule would help you avoid surprise fees, and also allow you to better compare TV services before you sign up for one. 

Read more: Best Cheap Internet and TV Bundles of 2023

"Consumers deserve to know exactly what they are paying for when they sign up for a cable or direct broadcast satellite subscription," FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement. 

The FCC is seeking comment on its proposed rule for the next 30 days.

The Biden administration has previously also taken aim at junk fees across hotel rooms, concert fees and banking, as well as a new set of rules that would see airlines disclose "surprise fees" up front.

If you're looking to move away from cable and satellite TV providers, here's CNET's list of the best live TV streaming service for cord cutters, the best internet providers for streaming and a comparison of Hulu Live, Sling TV, YouTube TV and more live TV providers. 

Read more: Ticketmaster and Airbnb Help White House Effort to End Hidden Fees