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Charter Spectrum Raising Broadband Prices $5; $64.99/Mo for Entry-Level 60Mbps Plan

Customers in Florida and Texas received this notice with his latest cable bill. (Image courtesy: Nucleartx)

The “consumer benefits” of Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks just keep on coming as the company has begun hiking the cost of its broadband plans by $5 a month:

Important Billing Update: At Spectrum, we continue to enhance our services, offer more of the best entertainment choices and deliver the best value. We are committed to offering you products and services we are sure you will enjoy.

Effective with your next billing statement, pricing will be adjusted for:

  • Internet Service from $59.99 to $64.99.

If you are currently on a discounted rate, you will not realize an increase until the end of your promotional period.

The rate increase means Charter/Spectrum’s nationally available, entry-level broadband plan will now cost customers $64.99 a month. The company is also hiking rates on its Ultra tier (300Mbps in former Time Warner Cable Maxx markets, 100Mbps in most other markets) by $5 to $104.99.

Customers signed up to Spectrum’s base 60Mbps internet plan may be able to threaten their way to a lower price by contacting customer service and informing them you plan to switch to Earthlink, which is offering lower-speed plans as low as $29.99 a month for six months. Charter Spectrum has given many complaining customers a 12-month retention plan priced at $39.99 or $44.95 a month for 60Mbps.

Earthlink Customers Benefit from Time Warner Cable Maxx Broadband Upgrades

earthlink_logoEarthlink customers in New York, Los Angeles and Austin are receiving letters from Time Warner Cable advising them they qualify for the same speeds Time Warner Cable broadband customers are receiving as part of the TWC Maxx upgrade program.

Standard Earthlink customers in these cities will get speed upgrades from 15/1Mbps to 50/5Mbps at no extra charge. Turbo speed customers will see speeds rise from 20/2Mbps to 100/10Mbps, also at no additional cost.

twcmaxStop the Cap! reader Iris was immediately suspicious about the tone of Time Warner’s letter, which has the potential of confusing customers that own their own cable modems. The letter suggests customer-owned equipment might not be compatible with the speed upgrades. Customers are given a phone number to verify their eligibility, and some who have contacted Time Warner Cable report back they have been given a brief sales pitch to ditch their own modem in favor of one from Time Warner Cable, which costs $5.99 a month forever.

Time Warner could have simply enclosed its list of approved modems, which would answer customer concerns without having to make a phone call. But that wouldn’t give the company a chance to score extra revenue convincing customers to toss their old equipment in the trash while paying an unnecessary monthly modem fee for the rest of their lives.

For the record, your old modem probably will continue to work even if it isn’t capable of delivering the fastest speeds. If 50/5Mbps is fast enough for current Earthlink Turbo customers, they might want to consider downgrading service until they can budget to buy a new modem capable of taking full advantage of the faster 100/10Mbps speeds now on offer.

For your convenience, here is the latest Time Warner Cable Approved Modem List for TWC Maxx upgrade areas:

approved modems

 

Sprint Will Shut Down Clear/4G WiMAX Network by 2015; TD-LTE Upgrade for Most Cell Sites

wimaxSprint has begun decommissioning its increasingly obsolete 4G WiMAX network with definitive plans to shut off the service completely by the end of 2015.

While most Sprint customers with smartphones have long since moved away from WiMAX, Sprint has resold access to the 2.5GHz network for some prepaid Boost, Sprint, and Virgin Mobile customers as well as third parties including FreedomPop and Earthlink.

WiMAX was the first 4G network in the United States, launching first in Baltimore in the fall of 2008. Sprint customers were offered the HTC Evo 4G smartphone to access WiMAX’s faster speeds. Separately, Clearwire marketed access to WiMAX as a wireless home and business broadband solution. WiMAX was often promoted as a longer distance alternative to Wi-Fi, and was initially capable of 30-40Mbps speeds.

clear-logoIn practice, WiMAX in the United States never achieved great success. Sprint and Clearwire’s network was never built out sufficiently to provide nationwide coverage, and because it relied on very high frequencies, even customers inside claimed service areas often dealt with reception problems, especially indoors. Clearwire’s home broadband replacement often required reception equipment be placed near a window, preferably one without a thermal coating that could block or degrade the signal.

As soon as Sprint and Clearwire added a significant number of customers to the network, speeds deteriorated. Neither company invested enough in upgrades to keep up with demand. Instead, Clearwire’s home broadband customers, originally promised unlimited service, were routinely speed throttled for “excessive use.”

The same year WiMAX was introduced in Baltimore, Network World was already warning the technology was in trouble. By 2011, the magazine had officially declared WiMAX dead.

“There was way too much hype surrounding WiMAX (like the White Spaces today, it was marketed as ‘Wi-Fi on steroids’ and a replacement for Wi-Fi; such was, of course, complete nonsense)”, the magazine wrote.

Other American wireless carriers showed little interest in WiMAX, particularly as competing 4G technologies including HSPA+ and LTE were nearing deployment.

SprintDespite the promise of greatly enhanced data speeds with the next generation of WiMAX, dubbed WiMAX 2, many of the world’s largest wireless carriers were already preparing to move on. In particular, China Mobile (and its 600 million customers) became the decisive factor that turned WiMAX 2 into a bad bet. China Mobile decided the better choice was TD-LTE, a variant of LTE technology. With China Mobile providing service to 10 percent of the world’s mobile users all by itself, support for TD-LTE grew and attracted equipment manufacturers that saw the earnings potential from selling tens of millions of base stations.

TD-LTE is an excellent upgrade choice for WiMAX operators because it was designed to work best at high frequencies ranging from 1850-3800MHz — the same frequency bands that WiMAX already uses.

Sprint expects to decommission at least 6,000 of its 17,000 WiMAX cell sites. Another 5,000 of those sites have already gotten TD-LTE technology, a part of Sprint’s broader LTE network upgrade. Sprint will combine its FDD-LTE network in its 800MHz and 1.9GHz spectrum with a TD-LTE network in its 2.5GHz spectrum. Sprint Spark customers are being offered tri-band equipment that can access either technology. Sprint can use its massive expanse of 2.5GHz spectrum to offload data usage from its lower frequency spectrum, especially in large cities.

Another 5,000 legacy Clearwire cell sites will be upgraded to TD-LTE between now and the end of next year. Sprint expects to deploy TD-LTE more widely than WiMAX, potentially serving 100 cities and 100 million base stations by 2016.

Sprint has protected much of its postpaid customer base from the transition by repeatedly encouraging customers to upgrade to LTE service, now being rolled out as part of its Network Vision plan. But firms like FreedomPop and others that now lease access to the WiMAX network will leave their customers with a shorter upgrade path when WiMAX equipment stops working, requiring users to upgrade to LTE equipment.

Sprint hypes its new tri-band Sprint Spark network, which combines two different LTE networks to deliver faster data speeds. (1:18)

Time Warner Cable Hiking Rates for Earthlink and Time Warner Cable Customers

Phillip Dampier February 18, 2014 Consumer News, Earthlink, Time Warner Cable/Spectrum 3 Comments

timewarner twcEarthlink and Time Warner Cable are two independent companies, but you would never know it from Time Warner Cable’s mailed notification of rate increases that will apply to customers of both. In addition to general rate increases, Time Warner is now imposing its $5.99 monthly modem rental charge on Earthlink customers that used to avoid the modem fee.

The cable company has also seen fit to add a considerably higher monthly fee for “The Guide” — which refers to the on-screen guide offered through your set-top box. Love it or hate it, it will now cost you an extra $3.27 per month per cable outlet.

Your Time Warner Cable basic television package now called “Preferred TV” will now cost about $2.50 more per month, ranging from around $79 in Maine to $82.50 in Buffalo.

Other increases:

  • All cable TV customers should expect to see a new Broadcast TV Fee surcharge applied to their bills after the rate increase takes effect. In the northeast, it runs $2.25 a month;
  • Time Warner’s Variety Pass, which includes semi-premium movie channels is increasing to $10 a month in many markets. That is up around $1;
  • Your primary set-top box rental fee will increase from $8.99 a month to $10.25 a month. Each additional box will increase from $8.49 to as much as $10.25 a month, depending on the market;
  • Your broadband price may also be increasing. Lite Internet will be $37.99 a month, Basic $47.99, Standard $57.99, Turbo $67.99, Extreme $77.99, Ultimate 50 $88.99;
  • Earthlink customers will now pay $37.99 for Earthlink Lite and $57.99 for Earthlink Standard. Earthlink’s turbo upgrade costs an extra $10 and TWC’s $5.99 monthly modem rental fee will now apply unless you buy your own modem;
  • Customers with extra cable outlets installed after the new rates take effect will now owe an extra service fee of $1.50 per month per outlet.

Customers on promotional packages will not see the new rates applied to their accounts until after their promotions expire. Rate increases are generally rolled out region-by-region over the course of the year. These rate increases will apply to customers in the northeastern United States beginning with the March or April invoice.

CBS Online Video Yanked from Time Warner Cable/Bright House/Earthlink Customers

cbsCBS has blocked Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ broadband customers from watching CBS online video in a retaliatory move against Time Warner Cable’s decision to pull CBS-owned programming off the lineup because of a contract dispute.

Broadband customers of both cable companies (Bright House relies on Time Warner Cable to negotiate its programming carriage agreements) started losing access to CBS streamed content late Friday, now replaced with a message blaming Time Warner Cable for the loss. Earthlink customers using either cable operator are collateral damage — Earthlink is effectively reselling the others’ cable broadband services.

“If Time Warner Cable is a customer’s Internet Service Provider, then their access to CBS full episode content via online and mobile platforms has been suspended as a result of Time Warner Cable’s decision to drop CBS and Showtime,” said a CBS spokesperson. “As soon as CBS is restored on cable systems in affected markets, that content will be accessible again.”

In place of the programming, cable customers get to see a brief attack ad criticizing Time Warner for yanking CBS-owned channels and networks, despite the fact CBS authorized the companies to keep the channels up and running until the dispute can be worked out.

Time Warner Cable shot back with their own rebuttal.

Time Warner Cable claims it does not want a war over programming costs in its latest ad regarding the blackout of CBS programming, which now also affects the cable company’s broadband customers. (1 minute)

dont want a war“CBS has shown utter lack of regard for consumers by blocking Time Warner Cable’s customers, including our high-speed data only customers, from accessing their shows on their free website,” the company said in a statement. “CBS enjoys the privilege of using public owned airwaves to deliver their programming – they should not be allowed to abuse that privilege.”

Customers well outside New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles discovered several CBS-owned cable channels were missing, even though they are not served by a CBS-owned local affiliate. The most obvious — Showtime/The Movie Channel came during the middle of the latest season of Dexter.

New York City residents can sat least keep watching WCBS by signing up for Aereo, which streams local stations over the Internet. A 30-day free trial is available. Getting programming in other cities is going to be much tougher. Some predict hardcore viewers will just look for pirated copies of their favorite shows.

CBS said no further negotiation took place over the weekend. Some industry analysts predict the impasse could run for weeks, even potentially until the start of football season — considered a line of PR destruction neither company is willing to cross.

Golf is not as critical, apparently. The PGA Championship taking place in Rochester, N.Y., this weekend is likely going to get a smaller viewing audience because of the blocked programming.

The blackout of CBS programming by Time Warner Cable enters its third day with no light at the end of the tunnel, suggests this Bloomberg News report. (3 minutes)

This is not the first time broadcasters and cable operators have cut viewers off, sometimes for more than a week. Bloomberg News reports the soft deadline for Time Warner and CBS to sort out their differences is the start of the fall football season. Sources say Time Warner now pays $1 a month for CBS, but the network now wants $2 a month. (3 minutes)

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  • debra Gruber: FRONTIER SAID they were giving me promotional credit. for 1 year. I have called them several times regarding this, there is no promotion showing on my...
  • Ryan: Better yet,dump ATSC and switch to DVB-T2. The FCC is considering this. DVB-T2 can recieve signals while moving. Some NC stations even tested DVB-T2 a...
  • Switeck: DSL is shared at the DSLAM level -- these are expensive devices often with limited backhaul, sometimes resulting in even worse contention ratios than ...
  • Lee: With the change in over the air from analog to digital, it is now possible to encrypt the signal and charge for over the air. I expect that to happen....
  • Josh: All the more reason to dump cable and do free ATSC over the air. Of course they want to take away even MORE of our bandwidth so Verizon or Comcas...
  • Lee: DSL lines are not shared. COAX and Fiber lines are shared. You will NOT get a coax or fiber line for home use that is not shared, and there is no reas...
  • kevin: Nope - just had my TWC bill increase over 170 without any premium channels. They say nothing they can do, all packages are more and if I switch now t...
  • Florence Sundberg: Hi, I checked again and neither Verizon, Charter, Comcast or Infinity offer services in Litchfield...I don't understand why not...they don't offer Int...
  • Florence Sundberg: Hi, you will probably be surprised that I do not pay as much as you may pay...since I only moved in here about a year and a half ago, I have the start...
  • Jackie Larkin: Hi Florence, Verizon does offer internet and so does Charter. I believe you could get phone service from them too. If you have an older TV, you h...
  • Florence Sundberg: Feb. 17th...I was just in Torrington yesterday to go to Staples. Thanks for the tip about Optimum...they don't even bother to give us updates about t...
  • Jackie Larkin: Thanks for answering Florence. I know that if you threaten Optimum with cancellation they will send you to their "Retention Unit" and remove the five...

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