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Charter Tells N.Y. Regulators It Will Prioritize Upgrades for Central N.Y. Region This Year

Just days before the finalizing of the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, customers in Central New York were a week away from the completion of Time Warner Cable’s Maxx upgrade program targeting Syracuse and other communities in the region. But once Charter took over, all upgrades were put on hold, leaving some customers with Maxx speeds of 300Mbps while others languished with top speeds of 50Mbps.

Good news for those customers, at least. In a communication with the New York State Public Service Commission, Charter told regulators it intends to focus its efforts on completing those upgrades over the course of 2017. In fact, it will likely be the only region of New York targeted for speed upgrades of up to 300Mbps this year. For other upstate cities including Buffalo, Rochester, and Binghamton, Charter has upgraded its top speed to 100Mbps for those willing to pay approximately $105 a month and a one-time upgrade fee of $199.

Sometime this year, those New York communities still not able to buy 300Mbps will commence a full transition to all digital and encrypted cable television service, a prerequisite for the faster broadband speeds. Charter has a deadline of 2019 to introduce up to 300Mbps service across all areas it services in New York State. The company seems to hint it will achieve that well before the deadline, which likely means sometime in 2018.

In February, the cable company also reported it had completed building out new service to an additional 2,860 homes across 49 counties and approximately 250 municipalities. But the company is committed to expanding service to approximately 145,000 New York households, which means it has a long way to go. This week, Charter formally applied for an extension of the deadline, blaming utility pole owners for taking too long to “make-ready” utility poles for cable service and admitting it will fall short of regulator expectations.

The areas where Charter has most recently managed to complete expanded service areas include:

  • Albany County for approximately 281 passings, including the Village of Menands, Towns of Colonie, Bethlehem, and New Scotland, and the City of Albany.
  • Erie County for approximately 336 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Amherst, Boston, Orchard Park, Derby, and the City of Buffalo.
  • Kings County for approximately 285 passings in Brooklyn.
  • New York County for approximately 553 passings in the City of New York.
  • Saratoga County for approximately 373 passings, including the Towns of Milton, Northumberland, Stillwater, Clifton Park, Ballston Lake, Halfmoon, and Wilton, and the City of Saratoga Springs.
  • Sullivan County for approximately 84 passings, including the Towns of Fallsburg, Liberty, Victor, Thompson, and the Village of Woodridge.
  • Ulster County for approximately 143 passings, including the Towns of Rochester, Ulster, and Saugerties, and the City of Kingston.
  • Wayne County for approximately 78 passings, including the Towns of Macedon, Walworth, Newark, and Williamson.

WOW Goes Public; At High Risk of Acquisition as Cable Industry Consolidates

Phillip Dampier May 16, 2017 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, WOW! 1 Comment

WideOpenWest, better known to subscribers as WOW!, has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to become a publicly traded company as it seeks to raise funding and make itself an attractive proposition for investors and potential buyers.

The company will initially remain under the control of Avista Capital Partners (44%), which has been an investor in WOW! from the beginning, joined by Crestview Partners (29%), which invested $125 million in the cable company in 2015.

WOW! is currently the sixth largest cable operator in the United States and an attractive takeover target for cable operators like Altice USA, Charter Communications or Comcast. In fact, WOW! provides direct cable competition for Charter and Comcast in the midwest and southeastern United States. Should either of those operators acquire WOW!, that competition will cease. The most likely buyer, however, is Altice USA, which is expected to offer its own IPO to raise funds specifically to acquire American cable companies. Altice currently owns Cablevision and Suddenlink.

WOW! has 772,300 subscribers, but is available to up to three million homes.

The cable company has also ditched its traditional logo and adopted a new one:

Old Logo

Old Logo

New Logo

WOW! is known for high quality customer service and aggressive service plans. Here is their current broadband offer:

Zoom’s Motorola MB8600 DOCSIS 3.1 Modem Arrives This Month: $159.99

Zoom’s Motorola MB8600

Zoom Telephonics will introduce its first full-featured DOCSIS 3.1 modem for broadband consumers later this month at a price of $159.99.

The Motorola MB8600 includes four GigE LAN ports with support for bonding to allow for delivered speeds of up to 4Gbps and includes Broadcom’s Full-Band Capture (FBC) digital tuning, which supports future IPTV applications.

Zoom licensed the Motorola brand name for broadband-related equipment and is hoping to grab more market share in a field dominated by more familiar brands including Arris, Ubee, and Netgear.

The unit is backwards-compatible with DOCSIS 3.0 and includes support for up to 32×8 DOCSIS 3 channels, which some cable operators are using to provide gigabit speeds.

The full feature set:

  • DOCSIS 3.1 with fallback to 32×8 DOCSIS 3.0
  • Full-band Capture Digital Tuning enhances speed and saves energy
  • Works with any router, Windows or Mac computer, HDTV, or game station that has an Ethernet port
  • This DOCSIS 3.1 modem supports Active Queue Management (AQM), which significantly reduces Internet latency.
  • 4 GigE Ethernet ports with support for port bonding
  • Vertical case saves space and enhances cooling
  • High resistance to lightning and to power surges
  • Future proof, including DOCSIS 3.1, DOCSIS 3.0
  • 2 year warranty
  • IPv6 next generation Internet addressing support
  • Multi Processor Technology with ARM based Application Processor

The box comes pre-branded with Comcast’s XFINITY logo, which means it is a sure bet Comcast will support this modem. Consumers should verify if other cable operators will approve use of this modem before buying. It will be available for retail online sale by Walmart, Amazon.com, Target, Best Buy and MicroCenter as early as late May.

Former Time Warner Cable Customers in Non-Maxx Areas Get Minor Speed Upgrades

An email from Charter/Spectrum announcing minor speed upgrades. (Image courtesy: pspfreak)

Former Time Warner Cable customers that never received Maxx upgrades are now getting a minor consolation prize from Charter Communications: a minor broadband speed boost at no additional charge.

Customers eventually receive an email message from Charter/Spectrum advising them of the upgrade. For Standard Internet customers, the email reads:

Dear Valued Customer,

We just made your fast Internet speeds even faster. And the best part is, you don’t have to do a thing.

We know that today there is more to see, learn, play, share and do online than ever before. That means more streaming video, more music and movie downloads, more photo sharing and more gaming. You have more devices in your home than ever before, from laptops to game consoles, e-readers to smartphones, which means you need more speed so everyone can do what they need to, and all at the same time if they want to. That’s why we have increased your Internet speeds from 15Mbps to 20Mbps.

This speed increase for our customers is just our way of saying thanks. Enjoy your faster speeds!

Customers in western New York were upgraded over the past weekend, while some others have quietly been getting upgrades over the last two weeks. At press time, we have confirmed two tiers have been upgraded, but others may have as well. Customers need to disconnect the power cable from their modem for 10 seconds and plug it back in to get the new speeds:

  • Time Warner Cable Standard Internet: Was 15Mbps, now 20Mbps. (Speeds are overprovisioned and may report somewhat faster during speed tests).
  • Time Warner Cable Ultimate Internet: Was 50Mbps, now 60Mbps. (Speeds are overprovisioned and generally report 70/6Mbps during speed tests).

Stop the Cap! reader Howard in Albany, N.Y. reported his area was upgraded over the weekend, and we can confirm customers in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region in western New York are now also getting the higher speeds.

Legacy Time Warner Cable customers can report their experiences in the comment section. We’d be particularly interested in knowing if these upgrades also happened for Turbo and Extreme customers.

Charter Sending Techs to Customer Homes (Late) With No ID and No Idea

We’ve heard from several Los Angeles-area readers that Charter/Spectrum has dispatched third-party contractors to customer homes on service calls in plain clothing with no identification of any kind verifying who they are, and in several cases the “technicians” could not explain why they were there.

“This truck pulled up to my door and a man rang my bell to say he was from Spectrum and was there to replace a cable box,” said Stop the Cap! reader Wanda. “We had no idea who he was, he wasn’t in a cable company uniform, and he could not show me any identification showing who he was. We later learned he was some sort of contractor hired by Spectrum to handle service calls, but we did not let him in. I used to have Comcast back in Chicago and one of their technicians raped and murdered someone so I don’t open the door until I’m comfortable, and I wasn’t.”

One thing that hasn’t changed after Charter took over from Time Warner Cable for customer Todd Collins: his Charter technician arrived two hours late, also without a uniform, a truck with a Spectrum logo, or an ID badge. At least Collins knew why Charter was there — to install cable service in the new addition on his home.

“It was amazing to watch because it was a comedy of errors from start to finish,” Collins explained. “He brought the wrong paperwork, didn’t know what he was there to do, and had to make four phone calls to find someone at Charter to help. Two additional cable trucks eventually stopped by, so at least we knew we were dealing with Charter, and between the three technicians the work was grudgingly completed. We still don’t know how much Charter intends to charge us for this service and they admit they don’t know either.”

Charter also continues to attract complaints from customers about inconsistent information about its pricing and packages. One exasperated customer took to YouTube to declare Charter/Spectrum “thieves” for charging their notorious $199 upgrade charge when customers want broadband faster than the base 60 or 100Mbps package. In the video, the customer was originally quoted $100 to install and upgrade to 300Mbps Ultra service (Los Angeles was a Time Warner Cable Maxx city) which increased to $200 just a few weeks later. For that, the customer was told a technician would take up to two hours and install new lines and equipment. When the technician finally arrived (late), he spent about 15 minutes unwrapping and plugging in a replacement cable modem/router combo, and then left.

“I feel like I was just robbed $200,” the video blogger said.

“Our Ultra Internet unfortunately is $199,” a Charter representative said. “That’s just the installation charge. [The] activation fee is part of overall Ultra pricing and it covers higher network costs.”

Requests to reverse the fee, considering the 15-minutes spent plugging in a cable modem the customer could have accomplished himself were rejected. But because the cable technician was late, the customer got a one-time $20 service credit.

Stop the Cap! readers have had more success getting back the unnecessary and unconscionable $199 upgrade fee (or whatever else Charter calls it this week) by filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

An exasperated Spectrum customer in Los Angeles documents his displeasure with Charter’s prices, packages, and uniform-less technician. (7:32)

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Recent Comments:

  • Me: well well well..cutting all their services..getting antenna..all else is on my cell...
  • Matthew H Mosher: Sure, but it's pretty easy to crap on NY when my wife a d I pays these ridiculous tax rates so that MY KIDS can't get broadband. Meanwhile it runs fib...
  • Lee: It would be interesting to see the age cohort distribution of stock owners this analyst champions. I suspect the majority are not in the 20 to 30 rang...
  • Josh: Ugh. If I used Comcast for TV I'd be using it with my TiVo...never with their box. And I always figured the "Xfinity" thing was just to trick people...
  • Josh: LOL! Sounds like basically "we're a huge corporation, so you should do this for us for free". At least hopefully they'll pay now... Of course this ...
  • FredH: Like cable company CEOs need to be told to raise prices by some a-hole Wall Street analyst....
  • Roger W: Go ahead. Raise it to $90. I dare you. I guarantee you it will be the last day I subscribe to cable service. That'll be your loss....
  • FredH: Charter/Spectrum is rapidly catching Comcast in the "race to the bottom"....
  • Phillip Dampier: Yeah, because Charter is hurting so much it cannot afford to extend service itself so it wants welfare to do it. Keep in mind most techs have no clue...
  • Matthew H Mosher: Guaranteed. "BROADBAND FOR ALL (that matter)"...
  • Matthew H Mosher: I spoke with a Time Warner/Spectrum tech today, a very nice guy by the way. (Some background - I am the only house on my road without cable) I had s...
  • Matthew H Mosher: Give me a minute while I pick my jaw up off the floor....

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