Federal law allows local U.S. broadcast television stations (i.e. affiliates of networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc.) to negotiate with cable and satellite providers in order to obtain "consent" to carry their broadcast signals (Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992).
These local TV signals were historically made available to us at no cost or low cost. However, the increase in retransmission fees required by local broadcast TV stations, on top of the increase in fees required by network corporations, have necessitated that we pass these costs on to customers.
While the broadcasters offer their signals for free over the air, we as a TV provider cannot offer these signals to our customers without their permission. We need to pay fees to the broadcasters to get that permission.