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Frontier Starts Retiring Copper in Spencerport, N.Y. and League City, Tex.

Phillip Dampier September 25, 2017 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Frontier, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

Frontier Communications has started notifying the Federal Communications Commission of small-scale retirements of its existing copper wire facilities in favor of all-fiber optic replacements.

The company has begun copper wire retirement with certain customers in the hamlet of Adams Basin in Spencerport, N.Y. and League City, Tex. near Houston, in both cases due to roadwork.

“Frontier Communications announces that it is retiring copper feeder plant as part of a Highway Improvement plan impacting its Spencerport, New York Central Office,” Frontier wrote in its notification to the FCC. “The copper loops will be replaced with fiber to the home and impact a portion of the Spencerport Central Office service area. After the planned copper retirement, there will no longer be copper loop feeder facilities providing connectivity between Frontier’s Spencerport, NY Central Office and the customer premises locations listed below. Frontier is planning to replace the existing copper loops with fiber drops as part of this project. After the planned network changes are implemented, Frontier will (1) no longer offer services over copper facilities; and (2) cease maintaining the copper facilities. Following the transition to fiber, customers can anticipate receiving services from Frontier that are equivalent to or better than those they received over copper facilities, and at that same prices.”

The retirement will not impact the entire community of Spencerport, but rather customers near the hamlet of Adams Basin, named for the Adams-Ryan House, an inn opened in 1825 that provided rest and refreshments for those journeying the original Erie Canal.

Affected Customers:

  • 3486-5206 Brockport-Spencerport Rd.
  • 439-550 Washington St.
  • 2-31 Dresser Rd.
  • 40-100 Hubbell Rd.
  • 545-848 Gallup Rd.
  • 5-211 Campbell Rd.
  • 4436-4452 Canal Rd.

In League City, Tex. Frontier will retire its copper network in areas around a road expansion project widening Calder and Butler Roads and Turner St. Affected customers will receive FiOS fiber to the home service instead. The handful of impacted customers are located at:

  • 2502-3000 Butler Rd.
  • 1313-1325 Turner St.
  • 1201-1217 Weyer St.

Frontier’s very conservative fiber expansion effort was discussed by Perley McBride, chief financial officer at the phone company, during the recent Goldman Sachs Communacopia 2017 conference.

McBride predicted Frontier would expand fiber to the home service to 50,000-100,000 customers over the next two years, mostly in new housing developments.

“Anywhere there are ‘greenfield’ or subdivision builds, that’s always fiber-to-the home,” McBride said. “We will do about 50,000 of those this year and another 50,000 to 100,000 next year. We do see instances where overlaying fiber on top of fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-node has made some sense. I think the beauty of the fiber-to-the-home network is that it is low-cost. If you need to then move into the next generation of speed, it’s not a very capital-intensive change you have to make.”

It also seems likely Frontier will replace copper wiring infrastructure in areas where infrastructure projects are underway, particularly those that will require utilities to relocate their current infrastructure, such as in road construction or expansion projects. In the past, Frontier would have moved poles and either reused existing copper wiring or replaced it with new copper wiring. As seen in New York and Texas, fiber will likely now be used instead.

But such upgrades are incremental at best, and upgrading 100,000 customers to fiber optics is a small percentage of the nearly five million residential customers Frontier serves across the country.

Charter’s SpectrumU on Campus Gets Little Interest from Students

Phillip Dampier September 25, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

Charter Communications has been quietly testing a streaming video lineup of services on selected college campuses in its service area — so quiet very few students know or care about the service.

In Rochester, N.Y., Charter this year introduced SpectrumU at two suburban colleges – St. John Fisher and Nazareth College. The 50+ channel service at St. John Fisher includes five local network stations, but not the low-powered MyNetworkTV or secondary CW affiliate that are found on the traditional local cable lineup. According to Nazareth’s channel list, SpectrumU at the college comes from Spectrum Enterprise’s Fiber Connect service and lists six network affiliates on the lineup imported from Buffalo, a city 70 miles away. The service is accessible around each campus on the schools’ Wi-Fi networks.

Charter wants participating colleges to set aside a 1Gbps connection to manage Wi-Fi streaming for every 5,000 students on campus. Stop the Cap! found anecdotal evidence Charter may be dramatically overestimating how many students actually use the service. A recent visit to both campuses and guest participation in online college forums found almost zero interest in SpectrumU at either college. Students, it seems, have mostly moved on from linear, live television and do much of their viewing on-demand from other streaming services and apps.

Charter Communications kept publicity and expectations low for the service, setting the monthly subscription price for SpectrumU at $0.00. No password or authentication is required to use the service, and logging into the campus network is simple at schools like Nazareth, where the Wi-Fi password GoldenFlyers was easy to come by on and off campus. While driving around, we could easily access SpectrumU from Wi-Fi on streets surrounding St. John Fisher, although Nazareth’s wireless network was tougher to reach on a tree-lined campus set further back from the main road.

Television services at St. John Fisher College, located near Rochester, N.Y.

Charter dictates the terms and availability of the service, which requires participating schools to subscribe to Charter Spectrum’s Enterprise Fiber Connect service, which supports campus internet and video services. Schools must offer:

  • Charter Clear QAM or fiber video services
  • Charter fiber internet services (preferred)
  • 1Gbps dedicated bandwidth per 5,000 students (~500 concurrent users) recommended
  • Wi-Fi network utilizes WPA or WPA2 encryption
  • Public IP addresses/ranges for whitelisting
  • PAT IPs are supported
  • IP requirements: IPv4: /24 – IPv6: /48
  • AP’s consistent with current fifth generation Wi-Fi technology, 802.11ac (no older than fourth generation 802.11n)

SpectrumU is designed to work exclusively over Wi-Fi, and only with portable smartphones and tablets:

  • iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 8 or above
  • All major Android smartphones and tablets running Android 4.2 or above
  • Kindle Fire Phone, all Kindle Fire models except for the 1st generation model

There is no support for streaming set-top boxes like Roku or Apple TV and SpectrumU works differently from the QAM cable TV service available in many dorm rooms. Casting isn’t supported either. The Android version of the app only attracted 69 mixed reviews as of the date of this article.

Charter seems convinced SpectrumU will soon replace traditional internet video streaming, telling campus managers that the service will have “minimal impact if the school’s internet service is robust today, as SpectrumU usage will replace usage of other streaming apps.”

Students doubt it.

“I have never heard of SpectrumU and don’t care,” said Cody, a student we ran into in the parking lot at Nazareth. “I have Amazon Prime and Netflix and I’m good with that.”

Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y., are also an early adopter of SpectrumU.

Zephyr, a freshman at St. John Fisher who lives on campus said she doesn’t know anything about the service either, although a roommate in her friend’s dorm room brought their QAM-equipped television to school and can watch the campus TV lineup on it.

“Her boyfriend is a Buffalo Bills fan so he watches the games on her TV, but we really don’t watch it ourselves,” she told us. “Everyone has their own phone or tablet and most people are sharing  passwords from home to watch HBO, Hulu, or Amazon stuff.”

Dylan’s password trading brings him access to Hulu, Amazon, Netflix, CBS, and Sling TV. Even with SpectrumU available for free with no password required, he doesn’t care, preferring to watch on-demand content on his tablet or the PlayStation he brought to school.

“I don’t know anyone who watches Spectrum TV and their company sucks anyway,” said Dylan. “I hate ads and I pretty much only binge watch stuff now, so this is useless for me.”

A few students told us they did bring televisions to campus to watch live television, but many just use an antenna. Nazareth and St. John Fisher are only a short distance from Pinnacle Hill, the location for most Rochester television transmitters, and reception is easy.

“Televisions are what our parents watch,” Serena at Nazareth told us. “I don’t know anyone my age with cable.”

Stop the Cap! tested the Android version of the app at both colleges. It reminds us of Spectrum’s streaming TV app, only less capable. The app does not support DVR-type recording, pause and rewind, or on-demand services — things college students would probably look for the most. We experienced occasional buffering watching CNN in a parking lot, but note Wi-Fi signal strength was not ideal. We also found, despite warnings in student handbooks, a number of student-run hotspots and wireless access points. At one dorm at St. John Fisher, we found over 60 Wi-Fi signals competing with the college’s own wireless network.

Cable companies believe by offering cable services to college students, they will get hooked on those services and subscribe after they leave college. But evidence suggests those under 30 are increasingly unlikely to pay for a cable television subscription and are dubbed “cable-nevers” for having no interest in subscription television. They are, however, avid users of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

Spectrum: No, You Aren’t Getting Automatic Credit for Hurricane Outages

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

Charter’s Spectrum customers will be waiting a long time for service credit if their cable service has been out as a result of the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

The cable company, while trying to fend off increasing criticism for its mysterious service restoration effort, is also in no mood to compensate customers for weeks-long outages, unless they specifically ask.

The Orlando Sentinel has joined the story the Miami Herald started writing a week earlier. Customers are not impressed with Charter’s response to Hurricane Irma and they want a refund and some answers.

The cable company, which dominates the central Florida cities of Orlando and Tampa that used to be Bright House Networks’ territory, is being blasted for “vague repair timelines” and a bad attitude.

The Sentinel:

Bob Rader went without service for a week after the storm ripped through the region early Sept. 11. Adding to the 80-year-old’s frustrations are the tough time he has had getting answers from the company, he said.

“At first, they made me feel optimistic because they seemed to know there were people in my neighborhood without service,” he said. “Then, every other time, I got wrapped into a maze of telephone button punching.”

Spectrum representatives have made it clear the only way customers are going to get credit for service lost during Irma is if they contact the company and ask for it, which is easier said than done.

Jenny Paterson told Stop the Cap! she has tried to call more than a dozen times, but the hold times are so severe, she is afraid her cell phone battery will die before she gets to talk to anyone.

“I am not using my minutes up waiting on hold with them and they never call you back,” Paterson claims. “I’ve tried just about everything and the local cable store wants you to call in too.”

Customers claim seeing one of these trucks is a rarity in central Florida.

She has been without service for more than a week and “nobody knows nothing about anything,” in response to questions about when she’ll get her service back.

“The impact of this monster storm was felt across Florida and in some areas worse than others,” Charter spokesman Joe Durkin offered shortly after the storm.

“Obviously,” responds Paterson. “I could tell you that. But what Mr. Durkin and I share in common is the fact neither one of us have any idea when the company he works for might be by my neighborhood to take a look and fix things. We’re more likely to spot a UFO than a Spectrum truck around here.”

The Sentinel notes a lot of business customers who bought Spectrum’s “business class” service are now regretting it as outages cost them customers.

Bob Patterson, who runs a Sunoco gas station in College Park, estimates he has lost $10,000 because customers leave when they find out he can only accept cash. His credit card terminals, which depend on Spectrum’s internet service, are not working. He has made an effort to collect some credit card numbers from customers and manually process the transactions from his home at the end of the night, but that isn’t a good substitute for a difficult situation.

What infuriates Patterson, who is not related to Ms. Paterson, is that the cable company is rubbing salt in his wounds.

“It doesn’t work all week, then you call their number and it says the best way to reach them is on the Internet,” said Patterson. “But guess what? We don’t have any Internet.”

Oddly and without any explanation, the FCC stopped asking utilities to report their outage numbers related to Hurricane Irma on Sept. 18, despite the fact its last report on that same day indicated at least 893,409 customers were without cable or phone service because of Irma. With the FCC no longer releasing outage data, service providers have refused to pick up the slack, claiming outage details are “proprietary business information.”

UAE Leads With 93.7% of Homes on Fiber Internet; U.S. Lags at 13.1%

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

The United Arab Emirates now has the highest penetration of fiber optic broadband in the world, according to data from the FTTH Council Europe.

At least 93.7% of UAE homes are now hooked up to fiber-to-the-home internet service, and the country’s largest provider — Etisalat — promises it will spend millions more to further expand fiber connected home broadband and mobile services across the country.

In contrast, the United States has only wired 13.1% of its homes to fiber broadband, 11.8% in Canada. The countries with the highest percentage of fiber connections are the UAE, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan.

According to the World Bank, broadband internet is today seen as critical to the transition to knowledge-intensive economies across the world. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are accelerating their fiber broadband programs, believing the technology will prove transformational to remake or build their economies in a digital world. As many first world countries’ telecommunications networks are captive to large, for-profit corporate interests that have dragged out broadband expansion to protect profits, the developing world has a chance to leapfrog over countries in North America and Europe and launch new connected technology centers for the digital economy.

For the UAE, fiber optic broadband is a critical part of the country’s Vision 2021 strategy to invest vast sums in infrastructure and development programs to diversify the country’s economy away from its dependence on oil and gas reserves and guarantee future prosperity.

Charter/Spectrum Sweetens Deal for New Customers With $500 Contract Buyout Offer

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

Even as millions of Spectrum subscribers began paying higher rates for programming and equipment this month, Charter Communications has sweetened the deal for its new customers by offering free DVR service with their triple play bundle of TV Select, internet, and voice service for $89.97/mo during the first year. The cable company will also reimburse customers up to $500 to cover any early termination/contract buyout fees for canceling their satellite or telephone company video package.

Charter’s “Strategic Accounts” department is handling the promotion, and it will benefit customers where there is significant competition between Spectrum and AT&T and Verizon or satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish Networks. Spectrum does not cover early termination fees from cell phone companies, and you must have subscribed to a “comparable level of service,” which disqualifies competitors like Hulu, Netflix, DirecTV Now, and Amazon.

Like the rebates Time Warner Cable used to offer customers, there is a specific process to submit documentation to qualify for this rebate, and skipping a step means… no rebate and no recourse. In addition to this FAQ, Stop the Cap! has this advice:

  1. You must install and keep current a qualified Spectrum triple play package from the time you submit the rebate request until the day you receive a check.
  2. You cannot have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days, something we’ll explain below.
  3. Your account must not be past due.
  4. You must submit a copy of your provider’s final bill showing itemized early termination fees actually billed to your account. Bank/credit card statements showing charges are not eligible.
  5. You must complete the “Charter Contract Buyout Form” in full and submit it by e-mail or by mail to: Spectrum, 7800 Crescent Exec. Dr., Charlotte, NC 28217, ATTN: Strategic Accounts Dept. with your documentation. Try to make sure the names on both accounts match.
  6. Your rebate request must be received by Charter within 60 days of installation of a Charter triple play package or within two weeks of the date listed on the competing provider’s final bill, whichever is later.
  7. Charter will only reimburse you for the actual amount of the early termination fee, up to a maximum of $500. Cash the check within six months or lose it.

Charter insists customers who have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days cannot qualify for this rebate. This is an effort to close a loophole where an existing Spectrum customer cancels their regularly-priced cable service, switches to a competitor for a few weeks, and then promptly switches back to a Spectrum package at the new customer price, which also leaves Charter on the hook for paying the early termination fee charged by the other company. To avoid this, a customer would have to cancel Spectrum service, switch to a competitor for at least 31 days, and then switch back to Spectrum. That is likely to be a hassle for most people.

Customers who have participated in these rebate schemes in the past also warn that companies can reject a rebate if you do not have a “comparable” level of service with a competitor. In other words, if you signed up for a $20 basic video package and then head to Spectrum for a $90 triple play package, the company may not consider that “comparable.” “Comparable” can mean the dollar amount of the video package you have with a competitor or the combination of a satellite package with one provider and a broadband package with another. You can contact Charter directly and check if your existing package(s) qualify. If the representative says yes, write down the name of the person and keep it handy in case your rebate request is later rejected.

Charter says you won’t have long to wait for a rebate rejection or a check.

“When you submit your information to the Contract Buyout Team, your information goes through a verification process, which can take up to 5-7 business days. After approval, your check will arrive within 10 business days,” the company reports.

Other factors to consider:

  • Cable TV equipment is required and costs extra ($5.99/mo per HD box or DVR for new customers).
  • You will receive Spectrum’s base internet package, which is 60Mbps or 100Mbps in former TWC Maxx service areas. A $199 upgrade fee applies for faster speed.
  • Installation fees apply. You can avoid them with a self-install kit which can be mailed or picked up at a Spectrum retail store at no extra charge.
  • Fees and surcharges apply. The most important is the Broadcast TV Fee, which usually adds around $7.50 a month to your TV bill.
  • Rates reset to Charter’s regular price at the end of one year. There is no contract, so you can cancel anytime.

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  • John: In other words, old copper will remain indefinitely or until the company goes bankrupt. Got it, Our town's copper is only 42 years old, and digitial s...
  • Bill Henderson: I have seen SNET ,SBC , AT&T , and now Frontier which could be looked at The Good , The Bad , and The Ugly and back to The Good with Frontier. Fro...
  • Top: I sadly use Dish Network after dumping HughesNet some years ago, just to find out Dish took over HughesNet... Because there are so very few satellite...
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  • nbeacon: The valid complaints with Spectrum/TWC have visited me many times over. Then suddenly my bill went from $76 to $102 without any notice. This charge ...
  • LG: It is now Sept. 23rd, and the same is true. I am using a neighbor's satellite internet while my Comcast is still out. Many promises of "by 7pm if n...
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  • LG: Yes, I agree this "HD fee" is hysterical. It would be even funnier if people knew their picture is barely HD or not at all. There isn't enough bandw...
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  • Ed: I find it amazing that anyone expected Frontier to do anything differently...they have never been an invest and build company...they have always been ...
  • kim collins: i work for Frontier. And i have to say there is alot of people who still need their landlines because cell service is not available to them. Frontie...

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