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Cable service is available in most Massachusetts communities through one or more providers, and may be offered as a stand-alone service or as part of a bundled package. The term “bundled package” refers to a specially-priced combination of services that may include telephone service (wireless or landline), television (cable or satellite television), internet or a home security system. Bundled packages often include a contract agreement that will require you to maintain your services for a fixed period of time, usually 12-24 months.

The cost of cable service alone can be broken down into three main categories: (1) programming, promotions and pricing; (2) equipment and installation; and (3) taxes, fees and surcharges.

Programming, Promotions, and Pricing:

Cable-TV-smallCable providers offer different programming packages that include various channel combinations. The price of a cable package generally increases as the number of channels and premium channels, such as movie networks, sports, and international channels, included in the package increase.  Each cable provider offers a basic, low-cost cable service package that typically includes local broadcast channels along with local public, educational, and government access channels.

  • Be aware of introductory rates and promotional offers. Be sure to review the terms of a promotion, including how long the promotion will last, any changes of price that may occur during the promotional period, and the cost of service after the promotion expires. Ask about receiving notice prior to the conclusion of the promotional period to help you plan for increases in your monthly bill.
  • Ask about bundled package pricing, and how making any changes to the number of services in the bundle will affect your monthly cost of service.
  • Request the channel line-up for the programming packages you are considering and ask about the capabilities and limitations of any video on demand programming that is included with the package you are considering.
  • If the cable provider makes any guarantees, such as a customer satisfaction guarantee, be sure to ask for details about how the guarantee works and how you would be credited.
  • Prior to signing any contract, ask for the total monthly cost (including all taxes, fees, equipment rental costs, installation charges and surcharges) that you will be responsible for paying both during and after any promotional period.

If you are a senior citizen, you might be eligible to receive a discount on your cable television service as part of your municipality’s agreement with your cable provider. Contact your city or town for additional information.

The Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) regulates the telecommunications and cable industries in Massachusetts. As part of its responsibilities, the DTC’s Consumer Division works to resolve disputes that arise between consumers and their telephone or cable service provider. The Division offers a series of outreach programs to help educate consumers about these industries, and empower them to make smart decisions when evaluating their needs for purchasing these services. For more information or for help with a complaint about your cable provider, contact the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable.

Next up: How Do You Connect? Part 2

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education.

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