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U.S. Broadband Growth Slowing – 2.1 Million New Connections in 2017 (2.7 Million in 2016)

Phillip Dampier March 13, 2018 Consumer News No Comments

Broadband growth is slowing in the United States as internet service providers have an increasingly hard time finding new subscribers who do not already have internet service in their homes and businesses.

In 2017, telecom companies attracted 2.1 million new customers, in contrast to 2.7 million in 2016.

Leichtman Research Group reports that among 14 ISPs which control 95% of the U.S. market, cable companies are about the only ones still growing, mostly at the expense of their phone company competitors. Cable companies now provide access for 61.2 million customers, representing almost two-thirds of the market. Phone companies continue to lose market share but still have 33.9 million internet customers.

Some statistics:

Cable Companies

  • Charter Communications was the marketplace leader in broadband net additions, picking up 1.3 million new internet access customers in 2017. Spectrum is the second largest broadband provider in the country, with 23.9 million customers.
  • Comcast retained its position as the country’s largest provider, picking up an additional 1.2 million internet access customers in 2017. It now serves 25.9 million broadband customers.
  • Altice, which operates as Cablevision/Optimum and Suddenlink, saw particularly weak growth in 2017, adding only 83,700 customers.
  • Mediacom added 47,000 new internet customers to its roster of 1.2 million current customers and WOW picked up 11,100 new broadband subscribers last year.

Phone Companies

  • Only AT&T added net new customers in 2017, picking up 114,000 new subscribers to add to its 15,719,000 current internet customers.
  • Verizon lost 79,000 customers and is down to just short of seven million subscribers.
  • CenturyLink lost 283,000 customers and is now down to 5,662,000 customers.
  • Frontier dropped 333,000 customers from its roster of 3.9 million current internet customers.
  • Windstream ended 2017 with 44,500 fewer internet customers, retaining just over one million subscribers.

Cable One Raking It In With Rate Hikes: 47% Margin Highest in the Cable Industry

Cable One, the Phoenix-based mid-sized cable operator serving some of the poorest communities in the country is charging some of the nation’s highest prices for broadband service, raking in an unprecedented 47% margin in the fourth quarter of 2017, the highest in the cable industry.

That growth has come courtesy of CEO Julie Laulis, who has doubled down on data caps — automatically enrolling customers in higher priced plans if they exceed data caps three times in any 12-month period, raised prices, and ended most new customer and customer retention promotions in favor of ‘take it or leave it‘ pricing, especially on broadband service. Laulis has also decided to devote most of Cable One’s marketing efforts on selling broadband service, while de-emphasizing cable television. As a result, customers dissatisfied with Cable One’s lineup are encouraged to leave quietly.

Because video programming is costly to provide and broadband is relatively cheap to offer, the more the company can extract from its internet customers, the higher the profits earned. In 2011, cable television represented 49.1% of Cable One’s $779 million in revenue, with residential and commercial broadband comprising 34%. Today, 57% of Cable One’s $960 million in revenue comes from selling internet service. Cable One not only de-emphasized its video business, it also raised prices on internet service to further enhance earnings.

New customers coming to Cable One can subscribe to an entry-level broadband plan of 100 Mbps with a 300 GB monthly data cap for $55 a month. There are no discounts or promotions on this plan. But Cable One also requires customers to lease ($10.50/mo.) or buy an added-cost cable modem, raising the price higher. To prevent customers from taking advantage of promotions on higher speed products, Cable One requires customers to disconnect from service for a full year before being considered a new customer once again.


Cable One has been able to raise prices and attach stingy usage caps to customers primarily because there are no good alternatives in the rural markets it prefers. One analyst said 77% of Cable One’s customers are in largely rural areas of Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma. But prices are clearly getting too high for some, because the company lost more video and phone customers that it gained in new broadband subscriptions during the fourth quarter of 2017.

The fact Cable One broadband is now considered by many subscribers to be “too expensive” is also reflected by the extremely anemic broadband growth at Cable One. In 2017, the company added just 1.5% to its residential broadband customer base, despite very limited competition from phone companies.

MoffettNathanson’s Craig Moffett has complained all winter that Cable One is sacrificing broadband subscriber growth in favor of profits from price increases.

“[Cable One has] the most limited broadband competition of any publicly traded operator, and they have the lowest starting penetration,” Moffett told his investors. “Should they not be growing broadband the fastest of anyone? If price elasticity is greater than anyone thinks, how long is the runway, not just for Cable One, but for any operator choosing a strategy of price increases rather than unit growth?”

Cable One is also squeezing its newest customers at its latest acquisition – NewWave, which now features pricing very similar to Cable One. It recently started to turn over past due NewWave customers to collections after going 40 days past due. Previously, it was 90 days before account holders were threatened with cancellation and collections.

For now, NewWave’s introductory offer remains: 100 Mbps High-Speed Internet is $39 for the first three months before these rates kick in:

100Mbps 150Mbps 200Mpbs 200Mpbs 200Mpbs
Monthly Price* $55 $80 $105 $130 $155
Download Speed Up To 100 150 200 200 200
Upload Speed Up To 3 5 10 10 10
Best for # of Household Devices 5 8 10 10 10
Data Plan 300GB 600GB 900GB 1200GB 1500GB
Household Needs Download files/music
Power surfing
Occasional gaming
Mulitple surfers
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Home Wifi Included* Included* Included* Included* Included*
Streaming Video HD Video Multiple HD Video Multiple HD Video Multiple HD Video
iTunes Downloads of 45 minute show 15.6 seconds 10.8 seconds 7.8 seconds 7.8 seconds 7.8 seconds

*Plans & pricing for new customers. Rates do not include optional modem fees of $10.50 per month. Rates subject to change. Taxes and fees not included.


Church of Scientology Launching New Cable TV Network Tonight

Phillip Dampier March 12, 2018 Consumer News, Online Video 1 Comment

The controversial Church of Scientology is going direct-to-home with its message to the masses with the launch of its new television network, Scientology TV, which begins regular programming tonight at 8pm EDT.

Although the Church was allegedly negotiating with Charter Communications to pick up the new network for its Spectrum TV subscribers, for now, it is confirmed the new network will launch on the DirecTV platform (channel 320), and for those owning Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices. An app version of the network is also available for iOS and Android.

A countdown timer is currently running on the network with its tag, “Curious?,” which is a question/theme regularly seen in Scientology advertisements.

Over the weekend, Scientology leader David Miscavige appeared at Flag Land Base, the Church of Scientology’s spiritual headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., to announce the imminent launch of the network. In Los Angeles, L. Ron Hubbard Way has been blocked off at the southern end for a celebration when the network goes live.

The launch of the new network was a surprise for many, despite the fact the Church acquired the multimillion dollar production studios of public TV station KCET in Los Angeles in 2011. The Church said it intended to use the studios for programming production and satellite distribution of HD content.

Although the network has promoted “full episodes of your favorite shows,” the initial schedule is limited to in-house produced Scientology programs that promote the Church’s agenda. “The Truth About Drugs” is a documentary complaining about psychiatric medications, something the Church opposes. Other shows include, “Inside Scientology,” “The Way to Happiness,” and the teachings of Church founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Whether the network also intends to air mainstream television programming to attract viewers to its Scientology message is unclear at press time.

Church critics contend Scientology TV is the Church’s response to a devastating series of exposé documentaries and ex-Church member Leah Remini’s popular A&E series “Scientology and the Aftermath.”

“Scientology TV will be little more than ‘mystery sandwich’ propaganda which we’re already quite used to from the church and its YouTube channel, the kind of stuff it’s been airing during Super Bowls the past five years, for example,” wrote Tony Ortega, who writes The Underground Bunkeran authoritative blog about the Church and its dissident ex-members. “Those slick ads are designed to make viewers curious about Scientology without actually telling them anything concrete about it. And we have grave doubts that Scientology TV, the cable channel, will itself go anywhere near explaining what really happens in the Church of Scientology.”

Ironically, at the same time Scientology TV is launching, the ID network will be airing a Vanity Fair Confidential special about the “strange disappearance” of Shelly Miscavige, the wife of the current head of Scientology.

Times of London: Sprint Parent SoftBank Lays Groundwork for Takeover of Charter/Spectrum

Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son

Japan’s SoftBank “has laid the groundwork” for a $100 billion bid to acquire Charter Communications, better known to its customers as Spectrum, and merge it with Sprint, the American wireless company it controls, according to a report this morning in the Times of London.

London financial district sources leaked information early Monday morning that SoftBank’s billionaire CEO Masayoshi Son has already quietly purchased nearly 5% of Charter Communications stock, a prerequisite for launching a takeover bid. By purchasing a solid stake in Charter, the company hopes to be to taken more seriously about its proposition to combine America’s second largest cable company with the country’s fourth largest wireless carrier.

This isn’t the first time SoftBank has expressed an interest in a merger with Charter. Late in 2017, Masayoshi approached both Charter and its largest shareholder, Dr. John Malone, about the prospect of a merger. Malone was reportedly lukewarm about the deal, while Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge and the rest of his management team opposed the deal. But apart from Malone and Rutledge, many of Charter’s top shareholders were in favor of a merger — particularly the Newhouse family, which sold its interests in Bright House Networks, a mid-sized cable operator, to Charter in 2016.

Masayoshi has been a strong advocate of consolidation in the wireless industry, and has repeatedly lobbied for permission to acquire T-Mobile USA to combine it with Sprint. But regulator concerns during the Obama Administration made such a deal impossible. By targeting the acquisition of a cable operator, SoftBank can argue the transaction will have no material impact on competition because Sprint and Charter Communications operate different businesses.

Democrats Propose $40 Billion in “Last Mile” Rural Broadband Funding

The Democrats are countering the Trump Administration’s economic proposals with plans of their own they broadly call “A Better Deal.”

Democrats in Washington are countering President Donald Trump’s lack of commitment to earmark funding for rural broadband with a $40 billion plan of their own that is part of a broader trillion-dollar infrastructure investment package released Wednesday.

The plan, “Returning the Republican Tax Giveaways for the Wealthy to the American People,” specifically targets funding for a new, last-mile focused, broadband expansion program that would target funding specifically to providing broadband service to the homes and businesses in the country that cannot get the service now.

“The electricity of 2017 is high-speed Internet,” according to the Democrats. “While the private sector has delivered high-speed internet to many, millions of Americans in less profitable rural and urban areas have been left out.”

Rural broadband is expected to become a campaign issue in the midterm elections, as Democrats push their new working and middle class recovery program they call “A Better Deal,” reminiscent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” program during the Depression of the 1930s.

The Democrats claim they will do a better job overcoming the digital divide by forcing providers to compete for public funding. In contrast, the Trump Administration’s general infrastructure program offered $200 billion for all types of infrastructure projects, with no funding earmarked for broadband. But most of that money can only be unlocked if a private company enters into a public-private partnership with the government and agrees to invest even more in private dollars than the federal government will offer in supplementary funding.

The Democrats also claim their broadband investment program will be open to public providers like municipalities, co-ops, and publicly owned utilities, not just private companies. The Republicans have generally opposed municipal broadband projects, although there are some exceptions in rural areas where local and state officials share the frustration of bypassed local residents.


“If you actually get out to Trump country and talk to folks, you will discover that they are angry and frustrated and pissed off that the companies won’t serve them (because it is too expensive to provide service) and won’t let them deploy their own networks,” wrote Harold Feld, senior vice president at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, in a Facebook post this week. “Traditionally, rural Republicans have been eager to use the tools of government to bring essential services to rural America. If this helps pressure rural Republicans to break with the anti-government mantra and return to traditional bipartisan approaches to bringing service to rural America, so much the better.”

Moderate Democrats in states with large rural populations are especially excited by the Democratic plan.

“The way we speak in plain-speaking West Virginia, this is a really good deal,” said Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.) at a news conference Thursday. “All of you who’ve come from urban areas, you take this for granted.”

The rural broadband funding is part of a much larger $1 trillion investment package paid for by reversing certain tax breaks. The corporate tax rate, which was slashed from 35 percent to 21 percent under the Republican plan, would be raised to 25 percent under the Democratic plan. Democrats are also seeking to restore estate taxes on couples earning over $11 million annually.

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