Comcast paying more city and county taxes, fees
Despite a national trend of TV watchers leaving cable companies for other options, Spokane’s Comcast Corp. franchise is paying more taxes and fees to Spokane County and the city of Spokane.
The nation’s largest cable company paid $888,900 last year to the county and $5.4 million to the city, based on fees and taxes it collects and distributes to the two governments.
Comcast’s franchise payments to the city last year were 3 percent higher than in 2009; the company’s payments to Spokane County were 6 percent higher, according to the two governments. The company doesn’t provide specific subscriber numbers for the Spokane area.
The upward trend reflects a nationwide pattern, according to cable industry reports.
Comcast Corp.’s most recent earnings report noted its cable subscribers are now paying 9 percent more on average than they did a year ago. That’s a difference between $124 per month last year and $138 per month this year for all programming, Comcast reported.
Some of that increase is due to annual rate increases. The rest is from cable viewers adding more TV channels to their subscriptions.
If Spokane cable subscribers are following the national trend, the average city customer in 2011 is paying $18 more annually to Comcast in fees and utility taxes than the year before, according to numbers provided by the city of Spokane’s finance office. That money goes into the city’s general fund. A Spokane County cable TV subscriber is paying $8.40 more per year in taxes and fees than in 2010.
The difference is due to the city collecting both a 5 percent franchise fee and a 6 percent utility tax on cable TV revenue collected by Comcast, while the county only charges a 5 percent franchise fee.
Comcast’s phone and Internet service revenue totals are not included in those taxes.
Comcast, like other national cable companies, is seeing a nationwide drop in TV customers. They are opting for less-pricey options, including over-the-air TV or online viewing. At the same time, Comcast said it’s offsetting that loss by gains in Internet customers. Its broadband revenue in the second quarter this year was 10 percent higher than a year ago.
Spokane City spokeswoman Marlene Feist said the franchise fee of 5 percent is the maximum amount a municipality can collect. “You can think of it as a rental fee for Comcast using the city’s right of way” for its cable system equipment, she said.