Your internet provider may have an unappealing anniversary present waiting for you: a rate hike to celebrate your first year of service.
Expiring promotional rates persist in broadband even though their potential appeal to new subscribers is often erased by the annoyance of seeing the new-customer pricing vanish.
Analyst Roger Entner, founder of Recon Analytics, put it bluntly: “Everybody hates exploding prices.”
Some of the internet service providers that use this pricing tactic often struggle with clearly disclosing these rates. Consider the customer experience for those looking to get internet from one of the three biggest broadband providers.
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At Comcast, the cheapest internet-only rates for a Washington address were a $29.99 monthly figure for the first 12 months of a 100 Mbps no-contract plan, then $34.99 for the first 24 months of a 200 Mbps plan with a one-year contract.
A “Pricing & Other Info” link below the first plan revealed that its $29.99 rate would soar to $80.95 after that year, but the same link below the second plan did not surface the same pricing info. Instead, I should have clicked a “View Details” link that provided a comprehensive summary of the plan, including its nonpromotional $95.95 rate.
At Spectrum, which is owned by Charter Communications, internet-only plans for a Manhattan, New York, address began with a $49.99 internet-only rate for 200 Mbps service for the first 12 months. A “Pricing Info” link below it said, “Standard rates apply after yr 1” without specifying them. Only after clicking the “Choose” button did the site reveal the advertised rate includes a $25 discount that expires after year one.
At AT&T, internet-only rates at a Dallas address started at $35 a month for the first 12 months for 300 Mbps fiber. An “Offer details” link didn’t cite the subsequent rate but did note AT&T’s mandatory $10 modem-rental fee. I had to click the “Add” button to sign up, acknowledge the hardware fee and reach a review-cart screen to see that the listed offer “Includes $20 off for 12 months.”
Publicists at all three said that they inform new subscribers what they’ll pay now and later before they commit to sign up – a last-screen disclosure practice similar to what people may experience with pesky hotel resort fees.
Other internet options
Other large internet providers show there are other ways to do this.
At Verizon, the $39.99 rate for 200 Mbps Fios fiber-optic service is the price, period, courtesy of the company’s move in January 2020 to “no surprises” pricing.
Entner, a Fios user, complained that Verizon does not lower the rates long-standing Fios customers pay to match those new ones get. As a Fios subscriber since 2010, I can confirm this happens.
Cox offers promotional rates – spokesman Todd Smith emailed that “there is often a cost in switching providers, and we continue to offer new customers promotional rates to help mitigate those costs and/or to give them an opportunity to enjoy enhanced services at initially lower rates” – but is more upfront about them.
A “Plan Details” link below each plan yields a “Pricing details” list showing the rate you’d pay for each of the first 24 months and afterward. For a 150 Mbps plan at a Fairfax, Virginia, address, the starting $44.99 rate would hit $64.99 after two years.
In all of these exploding-price scenarios, customers who call and complain or threaten to leave may be able to keep their promotional discounts. Entner said the providers playing this game know most people won’t do that.
Rob Pegoraro is a tech writer based out of Washington. To submit a tech question, email Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @robpegoraro. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Comcast, AT&T, Spectrum internet, more may not disclose price hike