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Huge Spectrum Outage in Central Florida Causes Crowds to Swell at Area Cable Stores

Phillip Dampier September 10, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Video 4 Comments

Downdetector shows a major service outage for Spectrum customers in Central Florida.

A widespread service outage affecting Spectrum customers in central Florida that began Sunday caused a crowd of 100-150 customers to turn out at a Spectrum office on Semoran Boulevard in Orlando this morning to switch cable boxes or cancel service.

Customers lost television service Sunday evening and the outage continues in many areas, leaving thousands without service for more than 14 hours. Orange County Public Schools spent this morning without internet service, also provided by Spectrum. The school district e-mailed parents:

“OCPS families, we want to make you aware that throughout our community the internet and networks are down throughout due to issues with Spectrum. This outage is impacting many of our schools. At this time, Spectrum cannot provide a timeframe for restoration of service. We want to make you aware that contacting schools may be limited due to the outages. We also want to assure you our digital classrooms are always prepared to adjust to such circumstances as they can use blended methods for learning so instruction can continue regardless of problems with the internet. Thank you for your support. We will update you as we get new information.”

Many customers are angry about what they perceive as a deterioration in service after Charter Communications acquired Bright House Networks.

“It seems like since Spectrum has taken over from Bright House, every time the wind blows, the cable and the boxes go out and you have to come down here and stand in a line to change a box. It’s a waste,” Spectrum customer George Roberts told WFTV.

Communities affected include: Orlando and surrounding suburbs, Cape Canaveral, Sanford, Daytona Beach, Sky Lake, Palm Coast, and beyond.

“The storms last night caused damage to operations impacting customers in the Central Florida region,” said Spectrum spokesperson Joe Durkin. “I won’t speculate on completion but as Spectrum engineers are working to restore full video services to our customers and as time goes on – some areas are coming back. We confirm there’s no internet outage at all that could still be affecting Orange County Public Schools.”

Spectrum, like most cable operators, will not issue a service outage credit unless customers specifically request one. The best way to do that is to login to Spectrum’s website and use online chat or call your local cable office and ask for a service outage credit.

WFTV in Orlando reports angry crowds gathered at a Orlando Spectrum cable store to switch boxes or cancel service because of a service outage impacting Central Florida. (2:08)

 

Consumer Alert: Spectrum Double-Charging Some Customers in Western N.Y.

Phillip Dampier August 28, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Video 2 Comments

Spectrum customers in western New York are reporting overdraft charges and missing funds from their checking accounts that trace back to double-charging by Charter Communications for cable service.

WIVB-TV Buffalo reports Olean resident Michelle La Voie was stunned when an unauthorized debit showed up in her credit union checking account, which appeared to be a double-bill from Spectrum.

The second charge, a duplicate of the $161 payment she made manually, appeared as a “pending charge” on her electronic statement — a charge she did not authorize and a hold on her checking account funds her credit union could not release unless Charter canceled the transaction.

When La Voie called Spectrum’s billing department, she was told it was a computer glitch.

“They informed me that it was a known issue, that payments that had been made on the 19th and the 20th [of August] there was a computer glitch, and there were people being double-charged,” La Voie told WIVB News.

The “glitch” is in fact an “authorization hold” — one that we are experiencing with our August Spectrum bill payment here at Stop the Cap! 

If a customer pays using a debit or credit card, a vendor like Spectrum can place a temporary “hold” on funds. Often, this hold is the full amount of the transaction, which will temporarily make those funds unavailable for withdrawal until either the company and your bank or credit card “settles” the transaction and transfers the funds, or the hold expires, usually after 5-8 days.

In this case, Spectrum or its credit card processor failed to clear the hold after the transaction was settled, meaning affected customers have twice the amount of their cable bill unavailable in their account until the pending charge expires in about a week.

Customers can check to see if this glitch is affecting their account by logging on and looking for something like this:

Pending Charges

Aug 19 2018  TWC * TIME WARNER CABLE   $151.40

Activity Since Last Statement

Aug 28 2018  TWC * TIME WARNER CABLE  $151.40

The presence of both the “pending charge” and the “settled” charge found under current account activity is unusual, because the pending charge should have been canceled at the same time funds were transferred to pay Charter Communications (d/b/a Time Warner Cable). Instead, $151.40 was withdrawn and sent to Charter while an additional $151.40 is remains unavailable for withdrawal because of the authorization hold not being removed. By September 1st, that pending charge will likely expire. But until then, Spectrum has effectively kept $151.40 of your money hostage.

This can become a problem for customers who keep a low balance in their checking account and expect those funds to be immediately available to pay bills or make a cash withdrawal. Because of the extended hold, customers could unintentionally overdraw their checking account, leading to overdraft fees or an automatic draw from a line of credit, if one is attached to your checking account. La Voie had enough money in her account to avoid an overdraft, but she was concerned about those who don’t.

“I asked are you planning to tell customers this so that they can make sure that they are not overdrawn, or having payments declined?  They said no, we don’t have any plans to notify customers,” La Voie said.

In fact, one of her co-workers did incur overdraft fees because of this problem. Her credit union removed the overdraft fees as a courtesy, but not all banks are likely to be that understanding.

Customers can protect themselves by considering using autopay with a credit card, where authorization holds only affect your available credit line, not money in your checking account. For most credit card transactions, the temporary hold has no material impact, and few even notice the hold. But authorization holds can temporarily put a credit card into an overlimit condition if a customer keeps their card nearly “maxed out,” and exceeding your credit limit will damage your credit score and risk your good standing with the credit card issuer.

WIVB in Buffalo reports some customers in western New York are being “double-billed” for Spectrum cable service. (2:06)

Charter Requests, Gets Granted, Delay in Submitting Plans to Exit N.Y.

New York regulators have given Charter Communications two additional weeks to submit its plan to discontinue service in the state after the Commission voted 4-0 in July to de-certify its merger with Time Warner Cable.

Charter’s additional request for an extension of the deadline to ask for a re-hearing of the Commission’s decision to evict Charter from New York remains under consideration.

“Good cause exists to extend both deadlines,” Charter’s attorneys argued. “Granting a short extension would allow time for discussions between Charter and the [PSC] before the initiation by Charter of additional Commission or court proceedings.”

The Commission agreed to a delay for the exit plan, acknowledging the PSC’s staff and commissioners may need additional time to consider Charter’s plan and take action to modify it, if necessary. Charter now has until Oct. 9, 2018 to submit its plan. The delay also gives Charter time to pursue alternative judicial and administrative appeals, most likely in the form of a lawsuit against the state.

If Charter loses its appeal, it will likely have to sell its New York operations in all but a few small communities in New York where it operated cable systems before the merger deal was announced.

The Commission published both Charter’s Aug. 17 request and the Commission’s agreement at the same time on its website Monday morning. Today’s decision also marks a change in tenor for the Commission, which had been increasingly hostile towards Charter in the weeks before deciding to evict the company.

Updated 8/21: Corrected article to reflect the fact Charter’s extension request for a re-hearing is pending and no decision has been made yet.

GOP Rival for Governor of New York Backs Charter Spectrum; Calls Cuomo “Putin on the Hudson”

Molinaro

Charter Communications has found itself an ally in Marc Molinaro, Republican candidate for New York’s governor, who attacked Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday for ordering the removal of Spectrum from New York State.

“We’ve got a megalomaniac on our hands, a veritable ‘Putin on the Hudson,'” Molinaro charged, defending the cable company for being attacked by the governor and “his surrogates” for political purposes.

Cuomo “put his thumb on the scale of a major PSC decision,” said Molinaro. “I think Andrew Cuomo got furious with NY1 News and effectively pulled the plug on an entire cable system as punishment to NY1, and as a warning to others he can affect who dare to ask him tough questions.”

Molinaro has repeatedly claimed the Public Service Commission is in the back pocket of the governor’s office.

Cuomo vs. NY1 – Spectrum’s 24-hour news channel in New York City

Molinaro’s campaign has been critical of an ongoing spat between the governor and reporters from NY1, Spectrum’s 24-hour news channel in New York City.

Earlier this month, Cuomo bristled at a question about improper campaign contributions from Crystal Run Healthcare, a health insurance provider in Middletown. NY1 reporter Zack Fink asked if the governor was considering returning those contributions and launching an internal investigation.

Gov. Cuomo

GOV. CUOMO: […] If the ongoing investigation finds any fraud, then as we’ve always done, we will return the donations. That’s standard operating procedure. We’re doing it in this case; we’ve always done it.

But speaking of fraud, Charter Spectrum has been executing fraud on the people of this state. They were given a franchise for a very specific set of conditions. It is a very valuable franchise. Many companies could have been given the franchise. Charter Spectrum said that they would increase cable access to the poor and rural communities around the state. That was the condition of them getting the franchise. I promised this state 100% high-speed broadband. Why? Because high-speed broadband is going to be the great equalizer, the great democratizer.

Whether you’re a business, an individual, you’re going to need high-speed broadband to be competitive. Charter Spectrum defrauded this state. They are defrauding consumers. Charter Spectrum is running ads that say we are ahead of schedule and at no cost to the taxpayer. The Public Service Commission said they’re behind schedule, not on schedule, and certainly not ahead of schedule. And to say it is no cost to the taxpayers is also a fraud, because that’s the condition upon which the taxpayers gave you the franchise. So you are defrauding the people of this state. That’s a fraud.

Fink

ZACK FINK (NY1): You said the PSC is looking into new operators. Is it the PSC’s place to do that or is it the market’s?

GOV. CUOMO: Are you speaking on behalf of Charter Spectrum or yourself?

ZACK FINK (NY1): No, I’m just asking a question. You brought it up so I’m curious. You said Friday that the PSC was looking at potential new operators.

GOV. CUOMO: Well, the Public Service Commission is saying that Charter Spectrum violated their franchise agreement. If you violate your franchise agreement, then you lose the franchise agreement and then they would have to find another operator without disruption to any of the consumers or the good workers of Charter Spectrum.

Viewers of NY1, a Spectrum News channel, never saw this exchange, which was widely covered elsewhere by the New York media. Viewers also didn’t see an on-the-record call-in by the governor made later than day to NY1’s newsroom to discuss the exchange. News of the call leaked after nobody at NY1 would publicly discuss it or why the news channel refused to air it.

Cuomo’s opponents on both his left and right criticized the governor over his treatment of the NY1 reporter.

“I’ll come right out and say it. It looks to me like Andrew Cuomo is trying to send a chilling message to the news media, ’don’t mess with me’, and I hope the inspector general can prove me wrong,” Molinaro said in a statement.

This week, Molinaro turned up the heat by claiming the governor was “acting more like a third-world dictator trying to intimidate the news media into dropping stories than an elected democratic leader who respects the First Amendment and has nothing to fear from it.”

Cynthia Nixon, running for the Democratic nomination to the left of Cuomo politically, claimed his chastising of NY1 reporters was out of line, resembling how Donald Trump treats the press.

“Cuomo can’t hold himself up as New York’s answer to Donald Trump, and simultaneously threaten members of the press for doing their job,” Nixon said, asking the governor to apologize.

Cuomo’s spokesman Rich Azzopardi claimed the ongoing criticism of Charter is nothing new for Gov. Cuomo.

“The governor answered his question and made the same statement that he has made to Charter Spectrum reporters and reporters statewide numerous times over the past few months, communicating the facts of the state’s two-year dispute with Charter for failing to serve the citizens of the state,” Azzopardi said.

Cuomo has made offhand remarks about Charter since the company replaced Time Warner Cable in 2016. He criticized NY1 and other Spectrum News stations around the state for not covering the IBEW strike against the cable company or a lawsuit filed by the state attorney general over the cable company’s failure to deliver on advertised broadband speeds.

“They virtually blacked it out,” Cuomo said of Spectrum News during a press event held on the day the PSC voted to drop Charter as a provider in New York.

Azzopardi also denied Molinaro’s accusation that the governor was involved in the PSC’s decision to force Charter to leave New York and dismissed the Republican opponent for spreading unproven “conspiracy theories.”

Cuomo is widely expected to be re-elected, with both Nixon and Molinaro running significantly behind the governor in polls. The primary is on Sept. 13.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo discusses Charter’s broken promises to New York State during a visit to Rochester, N.Y.  (Courtesy: Democrat & Chronicle) (2:28)

Charter Spectrum Refuses to Air Political Ad Slamming Spectrum for High Rates

Brindisi’s ad has been “censored” by Charter Spectrum.

A Democratic candidate running for Congress in central New York cannot get his 30-second ad slamming New York’s biggest cable company on Spectrum’s cable channels.

Anthony Brindisi slammed Charter Communications for “censoring” his campaign by refusing to air his latest ad which claims Spectrum has almost doubled its rates since taking over for Time Warner Cable and has broken its promises to the state. Brindisi also accused his Republican opponent — incumbent Rep. Claudia Tenney — of siding with the cable company, and “voted to give the company a $9 billion tax cut while they were raising our rates.”

The fact that Brindisi opens his ad claiming, “if you’re watching this ad on Spectrum cable, you’re getting ripped off,” may have been partly responsible for Charter’s refusal to air his ad.

“The ad did not meet our criteria,” said Maureen Huff, a spokesperson for Charter Spectrum.

Rep. Tenney

But the ad is not factually inaccurate, just hyperbolic. Many Spectrum customers complained about steep rate increases switching between their original Time Warner Cable plans and new plans offered by Spectrum. Some customers needed to upgrade to higher tier cable TV packages to keep channels they would otherwise lose and the company’s ongoing digital conversion convinced many customers they needed to rent set-top boxes for every television in their home, at a substantial cost.

Brindisi’s claim that “Claudia Tenney’s campaign is bankrolled by Spectrum,” is slightly misplaced, although Charter Communications has spent $5,000 on contributions to her campaign in 2017. In fact, Comcast is her third largest contributor, spending $12,900 on her campaign so far during the 2017-2018 election cycle. The Koch Brothers, a cable industry ally, comes in fourth.

Brindisi hoped to air his ads in the Utica and Binghamton markets through Spectrum, but will have to spend more buying time on over the air channels. He says he doesn’t like Spectrum’s stranglehold on local views aired on cable channels.

“It’s a scary precedent for them to be setting just because I’ve been a vocal critic of the company,” Brindisi told the New York Times. “I don’t think I should be precluded from informing the public about their practices here in New York State and letting people know that, at the same time they are raising your cable rates, they are a big beneficiary of the tax bill and a major supporter of my opponent.”

Watch the 30-second advertisement Charter Spectrum refused to allow on its cable channels. Anthony Brindisi is a Democratic candidate for Congress in central New York (30 seconds)

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  • john doe: The market is kind of saturated. Whoever wanted internet have already subscribed to Comcast/Charter. Beside this Verizon strategy is doomed to failure...
  • Coin: While its possible the connections are being throttled, I think its more likely that the cell network is overwhelmed. I live in a hurricane prone are...
  • Dylan: Just isn’t that nice? I would drop them quickly if they told me that my plan was too “low” and I needed to upgrade and pay more for better service. Wh...
  • Dan: Nice job Verizon first throttle first responders then hurricane victims. Fcc step in oh wait. Ajuit pia is worse than useless he is anti consumer....
  • LG: I didn't hear these speeches, and really don't know if what he said was incendiary or hateful, but I do know the left-wing media cannot be trusted to ...
  • Dylan: 20gigs? Abysmal. I would use that in a couple of hours. Even 50. I’m certainly fortunate to have unlimited internet with Spectrum....
  • EJ: I wonder if they are going to extend service based on demand. That system is used by many telecommunication companies that are coming into a new area ...
  • Phillip Dampier: Just to clarify, I think they are throwing in a free or discounted dish, which isn't such a big deal if you can find a promotion that does the same. I...
  • EJ: Well I guess I should of scrolled down first lol. Question answered by the Verizon article. Good job Phillip. Note to self scroll down a few articles ...
  • EJ: My question is what exactly is HughNet doing with the money? They already offer free installation in most areas so what is this money going towards? A...
  • Mark Wilkinson: This is a nightmare. Life was good until Verizon sold us to Frontier. Our service has been cut off twice for non-payment of an "non-returned equipme...
  • Don: I don't even have Greenlight available yet at my address. I am in Gates and Greenlight is taking orders for my address so I look up to see what would ...

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