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Comcast hikes bills 3.8 percent for 2017, with higher fees for sports

Comcast Corp., the Philadelphia area's largest cable-TV operator, will increase TV and internet bills 3.8 percent as sports-related costs continue to weigh heavily on consumers.

Typical customers pay Comcast about $148 a month, including phone service if they are Triple Play customers, so the rate increase could amount to $6 a month, based on publicly available data.

The changes are effective Jan. 1, 2017, and notifications have begun to appear in customer bills. The increase in percentage terms is nearly identical to the one a year ago.

DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite-TV operator, now owned by AT&T Inc., has said it will raise its subscriber bills by $2 to $6 a month on Jan. 22, according to the trade publication FierceCable.

As part of the annual increase, Comcast will boost the monthly fee for regional sports networks, such as Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, to $5 a month from $3.

The Philadelphia-based cable-TV giant also will raise the broadcast-TV fee to $7 a month from $5. This is the per-monthly charge for NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox.

Broadcast-TV operators began charging cable- and satellite-TV systems for distributing their networks, which are available free with antennas, about eight years ago. Pay-TV operators such as Comcast and DirecTV recoup these so-called retransmission fees through customer bills.

Through these fees, the broadcast-TV networks have been transforming themselves into dual-stream businesses based on advertising and subscriber fees that now amount to billions of dollars a year.

Separately, Comcast will boost the adapter fee for additional TV outlets in a home to $5.99 from $3.99. Comcast began charging for these adapters in early 2013, then at $1.99 per adapter.

Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Bilotta said in a statement: "We continue to make investments in our network and technology to give customers more for their money – like faster internet service and more WiFi hotspots, more video across viewing screens, better technology like X1 and a better customer experience.

"Unfortunately, the costs we are charged to carry popular networks continue to increase significantly - especially broadcast television and sports programming, which are the largest drivers of increases in price adjustments.  On average, nationally, the customer bill will increase by 3.8% in 2017, less than half the projected increase in our programming costs."