Sens. McCaskill and Portman query Roberts and Rutledge, continue toothless cable fees investigation

Tom Rutledge
Charter Communications Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge

Seven months and one shocking election after the cable industry sent a collection of lower-ranking executives to answer a Senate subcommittee hearing on suspect cable billing, the Democratic senators behind that meeting are continuing their quixotic quest.

Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Rob Portman (R-OH) sent letters just before the holidays to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and Charter Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, asking the executives to produce “reproductions of order confirmations, online bills and paper bills in which its customers were charged broadcast TV charges and regional sports network fees.”

RELATED: Comcast, Charter, others under fire at Senate hearing; reports blast cable, satellite customer service

Last June, Portman and McCaskill, who head the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, summoned executives from the top cable companies to Congress and asked them to explain these fees. 

Comcast sent Tom Karinshak, senior VP of customer service, while Charter sent Kathleen “Kip” Mayo, executive VP for customer operations—not necessarily chopped liver, but not the top level of the executive masthead that would indicate that the leading MSOs are shaking with fear over the committee investigation. 

Since that hearing, Portman and McCaskill have seen Republicans not only bolster their majorities in the House and Senate, but sweep into the White House as well. Will the Democratic senators continue investigating cable bills while the GOP works to dismantle the Affordable Care Act?

In any event, Portman and McCaskill seem to want to let Roberts and Rutledge know they haven’t forgotten the fight they started. 

“As you are aware, no federal, state or local government levies the “broadcast TV surcharge or “regional sports network fee,” which are charged entirely at the discretion of” Charter and Comcast, the letters said. 

RELATED: Comcast faces class-action suit over broadcast and RSN add-on fees

Then again, class-action suits filed against both Charter and Comcast over these fees might carry weight. 

Comcast, for example, was sued in San Francisco in October over the surcharges. Charter was sued in San Diego just a few weeks later over the same issues.