Our Opinion: Spectrum demands more for providing less

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"I'd like a scoop of chocolate ice cream in a cone, please."

"We've discontinued chocolate. All we have is vanilla."

"Well, I want some ice cream, but I don't care for vanilla. Maybe I'll go somewhere else."

"We're the only ice cream store in town."

(Sigh.) "OK, I guess I'll have a scoop of vanilla, then."

"Vanilla costs extra."

That, in essence, is the attitude held toward Berkshire customers by Spectrum cable. Last year, the cable provider encrypted its signal on the pretext that too many people were stealing content without paying for it — necessitating a surcharge of as much as $11.75 extra per month in perpetuity for customers to rent converter boxes they could never ultimately own.

Now the company has just announced it is tacking on an additional $2.04 to monthly bills to cover the "rapidly rising cost" of carrying over-the-air broadcast channels, after hiking fees $1.10 for the same stated reason as recently as last November.

Customers can be forgiven for scratching their heads, assuming that broadcast programming content is what they pay their basic cable fees to receive. But as if the surcharges weren't egregious enough, Spectrum doesn't even give Berkshire County customers the content they want. Over the past two years, Spectrum has unilaterally dropped stations WWLP in Springfield and WCVB in Boston from its lineup, claiming that according to the FCC, Berkshire County lies within the Albany broadcast market area. Berkshire residents are effectively cut off from news and other programming in their own region and state, and have no choice but to watch local programming from New York, which might as well be Utah for all its relevance to local affairs.

While U.S. Sen. Edward Markey has been working at the federal level to force Spectrum to at least restore the Springfield signal, the broadcast signal fee hike is a particularly stinging slap in the face to Spectrum's long-suffering Berkshire County subscribers. The least the cable giant could do while picking its customers' pockets is to provide content they want to watch.




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