By Esme Murphy

EAGAN, Minn. (WCCO) — A notice from Comcast — also known as XFINITY — of a new fee is prompting outrage and confusion.

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Letters went out to cable TV consumers saying that anyone with a digital adapter box will now have to pay $1.99 a month.

Comcast consumers currently get the boxes at no charge. Adding to the confusion is some TVs do not even need the boxes – and one metro suburb is even asking federal regulators to step in.

Because of deregulation, the City of Eagan has no say on cable TV fees, but so many citizens wrote to complain on the city’s Facebook page that the council at Tuesday night’s meeting discussed the fee hike and a broad range of complaints against Comcast.

“It really ran the gamut, from concerns about losing stations, to concerns about being bait and switched, to having gotten boxes for free and worried that you had to pay for them in the future,” said Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire.

The frustration centered on letters sent out by Comcast. One sent to their “limited basic” subscribers warns that starting on March 14, “digital equipment is needed on all your TVs to receive channels,” and that a fee of $1.99 a month will be charged for each digital adapter.

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Only in the fine print at the bottom does the notice say that QAM Tuner TVs don’t need the adapter.

What the letter doesn’t say is that a QAM TV includes all TVs made after 2007, and many made before that year.

Comcast also sent out a notice to their customers who have been using digital adapter boxes for free saying that they will now be charged $1.99 a month for each of those boxes.

Comcast says the $1.99 a month charge is a service and not an equipment fee. Michael Bradley, an attorney representing 20 local communities, is investigating to see if that violates Comcast’s rate filings with the Federal Communications Commission.

Eagan is writing the FCC and the entire Minnesota Congressional Delegation to complain — asking them to step in.

“These customers feel they are constantly dealing with rate increases, and they don’t understand the rate increases,” McGuire said.

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Comcast gave WCCO a lengthy written response apologizing for any confusion. It also explains how customers will be affected by the switch to an all-digital signal.

Esme Murphy