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When Fiber Competition Arrives, Time Warner Cable Slashes Prices As Customers Call to Cancel

Phillip Dampier February 7, 2015 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Greenlight Networks (NY), TWC (see Charter) 10 Comments

david-and-goliathThe day had finally arrived. After months watching construction crews work their way towards the house she and her boyfriend rent in Rochester, N.Y., Brenda Ververs called Time Warner Cable to cancel service. She thought it would take five minutes to dispense with a barely-tolerated relationship she has maintained with the cable company for nearly 20 years. Instead, she got a retention offer too good to dismiss out of hand.

Greenlight Networks, an East Rochester-based fiber overbuilder has been slowly expanding its footprint into a handful of neighborhoods in Rochester and its suburbs, providing 100/20Mbps service for $50 or 1,000/100Mbps for $250 a month. But only a fraction of area residents have heard of the company and even fewer qualify to sign up for their service.

“When the neighbors first saw their construction crews and we found out it was a company called Greenlight, we thought they were there to install red light traffic enforcement cameras,” Ververs said.

Greenlight uses a similar approach to Google Fiber, informally recruiting “fiberhoods” of potential customers. Once enough interest is shown, the company schedules fiber construction in the neighborhood.

But the process remains largely a mystery to many, because unlike Google, Greenlight does not update its website with neighborhood rankings or a detailed service map.

Time Warner Cable, Greenlight’s chief competitor, is well-aware of its fiber competition but considers it too minor to warrant any attention, at least until customers like Ververs call to cancel service.

Time Warner Cable’s national customer retention centers often confuse Greenlight Networks in Rochester, N.Y. with Greenlight, the larger municipally owned fiber to the home network in Wilson, N.C.

“They thought I was moving to North Carolina and was canceling service to start a new account down there, but they finally found Rochester’s Greenlight Networks in their system and went into a script about how Time Warner Cable was an established company and Greenlight was basically a fly-by-night operation that could fail any day,” said Ververs.

Other customers have told Stop the Cap! Time Warner alternates between recognizing Greenlight as a legitimate competitor worth their respect and one that cannot be trusted with your business. But the customer retention effort eventually ends up in the same place — offering customers drastic rate cuts to stay with the cable company.

Not what competition fans want to see: Greenlight's "Expansion Plans" web page is blank.

Not what competition fans want to see: Greenlight’s “Expansion Plans” web page is blank.

“They asked me why I would consider switching to Greenlight for $50 for 100Mbps broadband-only service when for $69 they will give me 50/5Mbps service, cable television, and phone service for two years,” Ververs said. “They emphasized it was less than $20 more for all three services from Time Warner vs. $50 for Internet-only service from Greenlight. They even promised a free upgrade to 100Mbps when it arrives in Rochester sometime this year.”

Some departing customers are also being offered modem fee waivers and free extras, like premium movie channels and expanded international free long distance calling.

Greenlight does not charge modem or franchise fees or hidden surcharges like regulatory recovery fees.

Behind the scenes, Time Warner Cable is also making an effort to lock up the most likely places a fiber overbuilder would want to expand service – multi-dwelling units that are less expensive to wire than single family homes.

Cable operators aggressively recruit apartment managers and neighborhood associations to sign contracts that include discounted service for every home, apartment or condo in a complex, usually offered as “included in the rent or neighborhood association fee.” Many contracts of this type give the cable company exclusive access to existing wiring, discouraging would-be competitors by requiring them to pay considerably higher construction costs to independently wire multi-dwelling units.

Readers also tell us Time Warner is offering departing customers the service improvement many wish they had all along, including a commitment to check and rewire customer homes for free if service quality is among the reasons a customer plans to cancel service. Some customers are also offered specialized customer service contact numbers normally available only to premium-class Signature Home customers. Still others are being given substantial bill credits or rebates if they agree to stay with the cable company.

Ververs hates Time Warner Cable service and the constant rate increases, but the $69 retention offer, apparently only available to customers in competitive areas, has kept them from making a final decision to switch to Greenlight.

“Greenlight doesn’t offer a video or telephone package — just broadband, and we cannot ignore the fact we used to pay Time Warner $160 and can now get three services and free HBO for almost $100 less than we were paying, less than $20 a month more than we would pay Greenlight, and Time Warner plans to match Greenlight’s 100Mbps speeds this year,” said Ververs.

Downtown Rochester, N.Y.

Downtown Rochester, N.Y.

But broadband-only customers are less impressed with Time Warner’s retention efforts in a community than has yet to see cable broadband speeds increase beyond 50Mbps.

Stop the Cap! reader Joseph Corriea writes his friend just signed up for Greenlight in the Highland Park area of Rochester and Time Warner immediately countered with an offer of Extreme Internet (30/5Mbps) for $39 a month. The deal breaker may have been the modem fee Time Warner didn’t offer to waive. Corriea’s friend left Time Warner for Greenlight and is happy with their flat $50 a month bill with no hidden gotcha fees.

Corriea wonders exactly how much bandwidth Time Warner Cable is withholding from barely competitive markets like Rochester.

The answer is plenty. Frontier Communications continues to lose an already meager broadband market share in areas of western New York wired for cable. The majority of its DSL customers only qualify for slowband speeds of 12Mbps or less and although the company recently claimed to have spent $9 million on upgrades in the area, many wonder where the money went.

“Frontier is a joke, they have always been a joke, and the only people doing business with them don’t know any better,” said Riga resident David Sobcek. “DSL is a dinosaur and although they claim faster speeds are available, it is very hit or miss to qualify for them and when the weather is bad, it’s a miss even if you did qualify. They locked my speed at a fraction of what they were selling and gave me nothing but excuses. Time Warner Cable has a monopoly for 99% of this area.”

Western New York is not on Time Warner Cable’s Maxx upgrade list for 2015, which boosts speeds up to 300Mbps. Google has intentionally avoided fiber projects in the northeastern United States because Verizon (and its limited deployment of FiOS fiber) dominates the region, and Frontier Communications has no plans to upgrade cities like Rochester to fiber to the neighborhood service similar to AT&T U-verse.

For the foreseeable future, that leaves Rochester with David vs. Goliath competition – a multi-billion dollar cable company vs. a fiber upstart. But with Time Warner Cable carrying more customer dissatisfaction baggage than American Airlines, nobody should count Greenlight Networks out, especially when the biggest complaint about Greenlight is why it is taking so long to expand their service area.

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. Sadly, Google Fiber remains a mystery to far too many people here in Austin, TX. I am seeing so many people stating that they’ll wait until their neighbors get Fiber to see how well it works before they’ll consider ordering it. They DO NOT GET IT that they’ll have to wait a year or more before that *might* happen. They can’t do the simple math that shows you’re getting around 30x as much service for the same price, plus no capping, no throttling, no overage fees. They are absolutely convinced that Google will begin taking regular orders and doing new installations everywhere from now on. I’ve tried to explain it to them. Blank looks in response.

    Google, you FAILED to get this point across to potential customers.

    Secondly, Google Fiber needs to offer a slower service for, say, $40/mo with a 2 year commitment. Yes, I know this will butt heads with the monopoly telcos and their service plans in the $40 range, but face it; 5Mbps is too little to do anything, and $70 for the next package is too much for many people to consider. Most people will be on wifi anyway, so they’ll see 50-100-200Mbps. The 5Mbps or 1000Mbps binary choice suggests to folks that you don’t understand their needs, or, that yes you are just a toy for wealthy geeks. Whichever bigwig that made this decision needs to be overruled. He’s wrong! It hobbles Google Fiber adoption more than the competition’s propaganda or customer’s ignorance does.

    I’m not saying Google Fiber isn’t a big success, or isn’t going to be a big success everywhere else, but I’m saying it’s going to be far slower than necessary, and seething with confusion and contradictory information. People will certainly blame Google for that.

  2. NewJediOrder says:

    So if Time Warner Cable will take as little as 70 a month in competitive markets for a tripple play bundle and still presumably make a pretty decent profit, then what this tells me is that they are overcharging most of their customers.

    • jdhdbsb says:

      They make a 97% profit off Highspeed internet alone. Their TV and phone service is more than likely up their to.

    • That is the understatement of the year. 🙂

      The TV portion of the bundle is the only thing costing them any real money and they are upset because for years they pocketed most of that as profit. Now that TV and cable networks smell money and want a piece of the action, the gnashing of teeth and TV surcharges have begun. If they charged a reasonable rate to begin with, they might have an argument against the content producers. But they didn’t and they don’t.

  3. me says:

    “Greenlight was basically a fly-by-night operation that could fail any day”

    Lets say they DO fail 1-2 years after you get them. For that 1-2 years you would have faster internet for cheaper. Then lets say it is awful TW would probably offer some sort of ‘perk’ package anyway to drop your existing carrier…

    Just because they may fail does not mean I could not use them.

    • Let’s say Greenlight and a hundred other fly-by-night companies install a few million customers with fiber to the home, and then go out of business after a few years. That’s still deployed fiber. Another company comes along with a fresh start, leapfrogging the stressful years of advertising, fighting propaganda, and deploying all-new infrastructure, and offers service for even less. I’d go back to fiber again and again.

    • It is unlikely any company that has customers BEGGING them for service is a fly by night operation hanging by a fiber. As I noted, when the bashing doesn’t work, they just cut prices and try a monetary incentive. So even TWC doesn’t believe their own script.

    • Tim Barnes says:

      I cut the cord from Time Warner for TV a long time ago Over the air for me with Hulu and Netflix to supplement. Now with Greenlight I am paying less a month for 5 times the speeds.

      Right now My area of Irondequoit is huge for Fiber internet and it took about a month to setup install from the time I signed up on the website. So much better than Time Warner.

      My guess is unless Time Warner changes their business stucture then Greenlight will take over Rochester in about 5 years

  4. BrowncoatKal says:

    I am having Greenlight installed tomorrow. I haven’t even alerted Time Warner to this. I live very close to their main office, so as soon as Greenlight is up and running, I am taking the TW modem to the office and returning it cancelling my service. I wonder if they will try and give me any deal, or if the fact that I will already have Greenlight up and running will make them just begrudgingly take the equipment back. I don’t have home phone (cell is all I need), and my wife and I are very happy with our DirecTV service, so TW won’t have any bundle offers I’ll even consider.
    Also @PhillipDampier, FYI since this article was written, Greenilght has reduced their price of their 1,000/100Mbps service from $250/Month to only $100/Month. That’s fantastic. Their three tiered pricing is great:
    100/20Mbps – $50/Month
    500/50Mbps – $75/Month
    1,000/100Mbps – $100/Month
    I don’t see how TW can even compete on something like this. Even offering a lower monthly bill, which they do all the time to folks who threaten to leave, only lasts for a year or two before they hike it back up. And they cannot match the speeds.

  5. Ariel says:

    I SAY GO WITH OTHER SMALL LOCAL COMPANIES BECAUSE THEY PAY TAXES WHEREAS TIME WARNER DOES NOT.PAY ANY – NOR DOES VERIZON. EVEN IF YOU PAY $20 MORE, ITS BETTER FOR THE OVERALL TAXES OF THE AREA/ STATE ETC IF EVERYONE SUPPORTED THIS SMALL LOCAL COMPANY – WHO ISN’T CORRUPT AND ROTTEN TO THE CORE. AND WHO DOESN’T USE CLAIMS OF BEING INTERNATIONAL AS A WAY TO HIDE INCOME; AFTER ACCEPTING STATE AID!! HOW RIDICULOUS IS THIS!!!!! I SO HOME TRUMP GETS ELECTED BECAUSE HE WILL MAKE EVERY COMPANY LIKE THIS PAY ITS SHARE OF TAXES – ENDING THIS BS AS WELL AS THE BS OF AWARDING DOD FEDERAL CONTRACTS IN BILLIONS OF DOLLARS TO ISRAEL CORPORATIONS AT A TIME WHEN OUR DEFENSE CORPORATIONS NEED THE BUSINESS AND ARE LAYING OFF US WORKERS. WE DON’T NEED TO FIGHT ISRAELS 2000 YR WAR FOR THEM OR TO FUND THEIR ECONOMY AT THE LOSS OF OUR OWN. IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL FOR DUAL CITIZENS FROM ISRAEL TO HAVE SO MANY WHITE HOW AND HIGH RANKING JOBS – SUCH AS DHS (almost every one of their contracts has gone to Israel!! GARBAGE!!!)

    Time Warner is one of the most corrupt companies I have ever dealt with. The failure of State and Federal Agencies to address the corrupt ways of TW show too much how money buys this company a free ride to steal from US citizens. It’s why we need to get rid of every politician who votes in favor of corrupt FREE TRADE DEALS and who gives money to these corrupt companies who then pay zero taxes.
    Anyhow, my experience is that I am promised one rate by their rep, I set up my bank to pay that rate; only to be told I am being charged $30-$50 more than what was claimed would be my special rate going forward. I’m not some idiot who got confused either. ; I am someone who very specifically asked about ALL ADDITIONAL COSTS and taxes SO I WOULD KNOW THE FINAL MONTHLY BILLING RATE TOTAL. This TOTAL NEVER MATCHED. WHAT THE LIARS REPRESENTED. .
    Then to top off the fraud and stealing – In 2013 amid the fact that TW was eliminating many non-digital channels and switching them in a way that they could not be viewed without a TW Box at $10 per month per box, TW was forced by NYS to offer an alternative option that guaranteed they received all channels. June 2013, they posted an online advertisement for these free boxes, It wasn’t posted as temporarily free but free with no other tied agreements or similar with no other criteria. I called to confirm what I read and to find out if there was any specific ties to their ad which would invoke later charges As is usual, I reached one of their liar foreign Philippine reps who won’t even give you their real first name, but expect you to share your confidential information. I usually do not give any private or confidential information to foriegn reps; I usually demand a US speaking rep who I can track down – when they try to steal my identity. But in this case, I simply confirmed there would be no charges and ordered 3 boxes – one for each TV. When they arrived, they were useless cheap pieces of junk. The only reason I didn’t toss them in the trash is that I never got around it it. .Last year, I was having trouble with my connectivity. I’ve had service since 1997 when there was no flavor -in terms of internet speeds. I was suddenly having issues in that service slowed and was non-functional most of the time. I could not watch any Netflix or other related shows without experiencing massive pauses for spooling of data. After hours of dealing with people who claimed to know nothing – one tech rep finally admitted they didn’t have enough service in my area and were spread too thin. He claimed to have boosted the delivery speed I was supposed to get to ensure I could function without these problems. That worked for a while until some grunt at TW changed it back again. This happened several times – with my fighting this criminal company.
    Then last year, I am told I am being charged for the FREE Boxes. To this, I flip out… I never would have agreed to taking them if they weren’t free. To me the comparison was as if I received a free drink and 2 years later the company adds it to my bill. It couldn’t be more corrupt,
    Last Sept. a rep credited me as much as he claimed he could and said he fixed the issue. Then in early November, I come to learn I am still being charged. I was also being charged for a modem – though TW rep never showed up to replace their busted modem and I had since been limping by with a junk modem. In fact, last year TW prevented the use of separate modems and wireless. I’ve since come to learn that TW done this on purpose – to control and drive sales of these devices and to cut out competitors they don’t want. This couldn’t be any more illegal – but does NYS Attorney General do anything about it? No – cause he has pocketed their money for his campaign. Anyhow, I called in Nov fought on the phone for 2 hours and was told they wouldn’t take the charges off or re-credit my bill until they received the FREE equipment back. The woman claimed someone would pick it up by Nov 19th. (Meanwhile, adds on TV constant about how TW is improving how they treat customers – while treating me like garbage). I suggest that instead of spending millions on ads, that perhaps they cut out this sort of BS. She claims she will credit me the amounts from Sept ONLY AFTER THEY GET THE EQUIP. SO… I CONFIRM i WILL PLACE EVERY PIECE OF JUNK BROKEN TW EQUIPMENT ON MY PORCH – THEY GUARANTEE will PICKUP between Nov-16th to NOV 19TH. and promise to leave a receipt. NO ONE SHOWED UP TO TAKE THE EQUIPMENT UNTIL NOVEMBER 26TH.. AND THEY LEFT NO RECEIPT. AS OF JANUARY, I WAS STILL BEING BILLING FOR ALL THIS CRAP – NO ONE TOOK RESPONSIBILITY AND NO ONE DID ANY OF WHAT WAS PROMISED.
    i HAVE SINCE SENT A CHAT MESSAGE CLAIMING i WILL NOT PAY FOR THIS EQUIPMENT AND SUGGESTED THAT IF THEY FAIL TO FIX THIS MATTER, IT WILL BE BEYOND ANY CONVERSATION. AGAIN, THEY TRIED TO SUGGEST i WAS USING THEIIR MODEM – THOUGH THEIR LAST REP LONG SINCE FIGURED OUT i WAS NOT USING THEIR MODEM. The real problem is that I had an emergency project that could not be delayed by lack of internet service for the 2 weeks they claimed it would take to get a tech there and I knew that by policy TW blocked modems from personal use. So, I asked the techie to enter the modem as if it was a TW modem. Sure enough, then it worked. I haven’t shared this part with TW because I didn’t want to give them an excuse to justify blocking its use. Also, this proves the claim that they are blocking equipment for no other reason than the fact they are trying to monopolize what people can buy and use – which is illegal but something none of the state corrupt law enforcers are addressing. I’m happy to have proven exactly how this broken system works…,Now I am witness to it.
    the same started all over again EVERY FEW MONTHS SERVICE TANKED AND REQUIRED i LOSE HALF A DAY ON THE PHONE TALKING TO IDIOTS. In the meantime, I had set up to go into my bank each month to trigger paying the agreed new rate. Then every 4 – 6 months I would be told I owed some ridiculous about of money that made no sense amid claims I did not pay a month in these. I had a lot going on and took their word for it. In reality, I would find, I wasn’t being charged $50 more than agreed.

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