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Verizon FiOS Wins PC Magazine’s ISP Award: “FiOS Is the Absolute Fastest Nationwide Broadband”

fastest isp 2013Verizon FiOS is the fastest nationwide broadband service available.

That was PC Magazine’s assessment in its ranking of the fastest Internet Service Providers of 2013. It’s not the first time Verizon FiOS has taken top honors. In fact, the fiber to the home broadband service has consistently won excellent rankings not only for its speed, but also for its value for money and quality of service. The worst thing about FiOS is that many Verizon customers cannot buy the service because its expansion was curtailed in early 2010.

Verizon FiOS has seen its national speed rankings increase this year. In 2012, the provider’s nationwide download speeds averaged 29.4Mbps; this year FiOS average downstream speeds jumped to 34.5Mbps. Upstream speeds are also up from 26.8Mbps to 31.6Mbps. In part, this is because a growing number of customers have moved away from Verizon’s entry-level 15/5Mbps package with a $10 upgrade to Quantum FiOS 50/25Mbps service. FiOS TV customers can upgrade themselves with their remote control.

Frontier Communications made the top five in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to FiOS infrastructure the company inherited from Verizon.

Other high-ranking ISPs included Midcontinent Communications, a small cable provider serving the north-central states. Midco’s DOCSIS 3 upgrade allows the company to offer most customers up to 100Mbps service. The average download speed for Midco customers is 33.1Mbps; average upload speed is 6.4Mpbs.

Where cable operators face head-on competition from Verizon FiOS, the usual competitive response is speed increases. Cablevision is a good example. It came in fourth place nationally with average speeds of 25.9/5.9Mbps. Comcast has also been boosting speeds, especially in the northeast where it faces the most competition from fiber. It came in third place with average speeds of 27.2/6.8Mbps and offers Internet speeds up to 505Mbps in some areas.

There were companies that performed so poorly, they barely made the regional rankings. The most glaring example largely absent from PC Magazine’s awards: Time Warner Cable, which has lagged behind most cable operators in the speed department. It scored poorly for the second largest cable company in the country, beaten by Charter, Mediacom, and CableONE — which all usually perform abysmally in customer ratings. The only regional contest where Time Warner made a showing at all was in the southeast, where it lost to Verizon FiOS, Comcast, and Charter. Only TDS, an independent phone company, scored worse among the top five down south.

Even more embarrassing results turned up for AT&T U-verse, which performed so bad it did not even make the national rankings. AT&T has promised speed upgrades for customers this year, and has implemented them in several cities. Unfortunately for AT&T, its decision to deploy a fiber to the neighborhood system that still depends on copper to the home is turning out to be penny wise-pound foolish, as it continues to fall further behind its cable and fiber competitors. At the rate its competitors are boosting speeds, U-verse broadband could become as relevant as today’s telephone company ADSL service within the next five years.

Other players scoring low include WOW!, a surprising result since Consumer Reports awarded them top honors for service this year. Also stuck in the mud: Atlantic Broadband (acquired by Canada’s Cogeco Cable, which itself is no award winner), Suddenlink, Wave Broadband and Metrocast, which serves smaller communities in New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama.

The magazine also ranked the fastest U.S. cities, with top honors going to the politically important Washington, D.C., and its nearby suburb Silver Spring, Md, which took first and second place. Alexandria, Va., another D.C. suburb, turned up in eighth place. No cable or phone company wants to be caught delivering poor service to the politicians that can make life difficult for them.

Brooklyn, N.Y., took third place because of head-on competition between Cablevision and Verizon FiOS. Time Warner’s dominance in Manhattan and other boroughs dragged New York City’s speed rankings down below the top ten. Among most of the remaining top ten cities, the most common reason those cities made the list was Verizon FiOS. Florida’s Gulf Coast communities of Bradenton (4th place) and Tampa (6th place) have fiber service. So does Plano, Tex. (5th place) and Long Beach, Calif. (7th place). The other contenders: Hollywood, Fla. takes ninth place and Chandler, Ariz. rounds out the top 10.

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Mediacom Usage Caps Annoy Customers; Usage-Based Billing Excuses Don’t Fit the Facts

Mediacom, logo_mediacom_mainthe worst-rated cable operator in the United States, claims it needs usage caps and consumption billing to force heavy users to pay for needed upgrades. But that isn’t what Mediacom’s executives are telling investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Thomas Larsen, group vice president of legal and public affairs for Mediacom told The Gazette the consumption-based billing program was intended to pay for the cost of network upgrades incurred by “individuals who are the highest users.”

But Mediacom’s August 10-Q filings (Mediacom LLC and Mediacom Broadband LLC) with the SEC indicate Mediacom’s revenues are increasing faster than the cable operator’s costs to provide service, as customers upgrade to more costly, faster speed Internet tiers.

internet limitRevenues from residential services are expected to grow as a result of [broadband] and phone customer growth, with additional contributions from customers taking higher speed tiers and more customers taking our advanced video services,” Mediacom reports. “Based upon the speeds we offer, we believe our High Speed Data (HSD) product is generally superior to DSL offerings in our service areas. As consumers’ bandwidth requirements have dramatically increased in the past few years, a trend we expect to continue, we believe our ability to offer a HSD product today with speeds of up to 105Mbps gives us a competitive advantage compared to the DSL service offered by the local telephone companies. We expect to continue to grow HSD revenues through residential customer growth and more customers taking higher HSD speed tiers. “

Mediacom’s consumption billing program, already in effect for new customers, will be imposed on all Mediacom broadband customers starting in September. Larsen claims only about three percent of customers will be impacted by the usage allowance, which will include 250GB of usage for customers selecting the company’s most popular speed tier. Larsen also claimed the average Mediacom customer uses only 14GB per month.

That usage profile is below the national average, and leads to questions about why Mediacom needs a usage allowance system when 97 percent of its customers do not present a burden to the cable company.

“Once a customer reaches their monthly allowance,  for $10 they can purchase an additional 50GB a month of capacity,” Larsen explained. “Each time that they reach that next level, they’ll be able to purchase another allotment. We’re never going to stop you from using data, we’re just going to charge you more if you exceed your monthly allowance. Before, we could cap you, there was no mechanism for them to purchase more.”

Mediacom did not frequently enforce its usage caps in the past except in instances where usage levels created problems for other customers. Despite Larsen’s assertion Mediacom would spent the overages collected from heavy users on broadband upgrades, Mediacom’s report to the SEC indicates broadband usage has never been a significant burden for the cable operator:

Our HSD and phone service costs fluctuate depending on the level of investments we make in our cable systems and the resulting operational efficiencies. Our other service costs generally rise as a result of customer growth and inflationary cost increases for personnel, outside vendors and other expenses. Personnel and related support costs may increase as the percentage of expenses that we capitalize declines due to lower levels of new service installations. We anticipate that service costs, with the exception of programming expenses, will remain fairly consistent as a percentage of our revenues.

Although Mediacom reported field operating costs rose 7.6%, much of that increase was a result of greater fiber lease and cable location expenses on its wireless backhaul business for cell towers and greater use of outside contractors. In the company’s latest 10-Q filing, Mediacom reports its revenues increased 2.9 percent in the past year while its costs rose only 1.5 percent. Mediacom’s revenues from its broadband division are even more rosy, rising 9% in the past year alone. In fact, broadband is the company’s highest growth residential business.

Many of Mediacom’s long-standing customers were initially promised they would be exempt from usage caps, with only new customers subject to usage limits. But Mediacom has unilaterally changed their minds, much to the consternation of some customers.

As of this afternoon, Mediacom is still promising customers usage caps only apply to new customers and those making plan changes.

As of this afternoon, Mediacom is still promising customers usage caps only apply to new customers and those making plan changes.

“It is my belief a man’s word is gold and when Mediacom customers have been told for ages they were grandfathered in with no usage data charges unless they changed plans, that is how it is supposed to be,” said D. Gronceski. “I have explicitly turned down service increases in the past to stay on the unlimited usage plan originally offered by Mediacom [...] so I get screwed twice, once for bandwidth caps and again because I’m not getting the services I would be getting if I had not refused the automatic increases.”

annoyedOther customers incensed about the new usage limits have called to cancel service only to be threatened with steep early termination fees.

“Why do I have to pay an early termination fee?” asked AustinPowersISU. “The way of billing for the service is changing and I do not agree to this method of billing. I should be allowed to terminate my service without paying a fee.”

A Mediacom social media team representative offered one suggestion for customers finding themselves quickly over their usage limits: upgrade to faster speed tiers at a higher price. As for complaints about the unilateral introduction of usage caps with overlimit fees, it’s tough luck for customers, on contract or off:

All Internet users will be held to the new terms of service and usage based billing as of Sept. 7, 2013.  There is no agreement to sign, no acknowledgement needed.  Continuing to utilize Internet services is acceptance of these changes. If for any reason you do not feel that your current service level meets your needs, let us know and we can have a representative contact you with further options.

[...] Per the posted terms of service and acceptable use policy, there has always been an established data consumption threshold (data allowance) to be enforced at Mediacom’s discretion.  With this change, we have clarified these methods of enforcement and have expanded the allowance to offer different levels of users different options.  We have notified the proper departments of possible additions, but these statements are and have been posted.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KCRG Cedar Rapids Mediacom Going Usage Billing 8-21-13.mp4.

KCRG in Cedar Rapids reports Mediacom is switching to consumption billing for broadband service in September.  (2 minutes)

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Mediacom Adopts Internet Overcharging Scheme for All Customers: Caps and Overlimit Fees

logo_mediacom_main

…fiction into “fact.”

Although America’s perennially worst-rated cable company is advertising “always faster Internet,” it is also moving “full speed ahead” to enforce usage limits to make sure customers don’t take too much advantage of those speeds.

Broadband Reports notes Mediacom is preparing notices stating effective Sept. 7 usage limits and overlimit fees that used to only apply to new customers or those changing plans will now be enforced for all customers.

A member of their social media team blamed bandwidth hogs for the caps.

“We have a small subset of customers that are using a very large portion of the available bandwidth, which can have a negative impact on the other Internet users in the surrounding area,” said Mediacom’s Social Media Relations Team. “By curbing this behavior, other customers can benefit with faster speeds.”

capacityActually, Mediacom will benefit from lower usage and higher revenue it will collect from the $10 overlimit fee for each additional 50GB of usage. Neighborhood congestion issues are largely a thing of the past because of upgrades to DOCSIS 3 technology.

Although the usage caps for higher priced tiers are generous by current standards, the company can adjust the caps up or down at any time. Mediacom traditionally serves rural areas or small cities that lack significant telephone company competition, so customers may have few alternatives. Both CenturyLink and AT&T have their own usage caps, barely enforced. Frontier Communications, another common provider in Mediacom territory, has tested the water with usage caps in the past but does not regularly impose them.

Broadband Reports assembled the pricing and caps for each Mediacom broadband tier:

  • Mediacom Launch 150GB (3 Mbps, $28)
  • Mediacom Prime 250GB (12-15 Mbps, $46)
  • Mediacom Prime Plus 350GB (20 Mbps, $55)
  • Mediacom Ultra 999GB (50 Mbps, $95)
  • Mediacom Ultra Plus 999GB (105 Mbps, $145)
Mediacom has an online usage tracker and promises to notify customers when they are nearing their usage limit before the overlimit fees begin.
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Mediacom Joins Pack of Cable Companies Selling Home Automation, Security Systems

Phillip Dampier June 11, 2013 Consumer News, Mediacom No Comments

Mediacom is joining many other major cable operators with plans to offer customer home security and automation powered through its broadband network.

The cable company is joining the Comporium Security, Monitoring and Automation Dealer Program — the first step towards introducing the iControl OpenHome platform, an outsourced “managed solution” also used by Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Rogers, and Bell Aliant to offer the service.

icontrol platform“This partnership with Mediacom marks a significant milestone in the continued expansion of our dealer program,” said Comporium SMA Dealer Program general manager Dan Lehman. “We are excited that consumers in Mediacom’s markets will have the opportunity to experience the iControl OpenHome platform that has made the connected home a reality, enabling broadband service providers to offer the next generation of home management, security and connectivity to their customers.”

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Bloomberg: Dr. John Malone, Charter Cable Contemplating Buyout of Time Warner Cable

Charter_logoOne of America’s lowest-rated cable companies and an industry legend labeled by consumer advocates as the “Darth Vader of cable” may be joining forces to buy Time Warner Cable, according to Bloomberg News.

The blockbuster buyout would leap Charter Cable from fourth largest cable operator to second place, although still behind Comcast in terms of revenue and number of subscribers.

The spectacular return of Malone to the top echelon of the American cable industry was the talk of the industry’s Cable Show, ongoing this week in Washington, D.C. Those attending are reportedly buzzing Malone’s imminent return is likely to spark a massive consolidation of the U.S. cable industry to as few as three major cable operators serving more than 95 percent of the American cable marketplace.

Malone

Malone

Driving momentum to merge, in Malone’s view, is increasing cable video programming costs, which are cutting into profits. Having a fewer number of cable operators could hand the industry more leverage over broadcasters and unaffiliated cable programmers, but could also cut costs through marketplace efficiencies and volume discounts.

“If you’re John Malone, you’re thinking: we’ve got to get bigger,” Jim Boyle, managing director of SQAD and formerly a cable equity analyst for more than 19 years, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. “The bigger Charter can get, the more economies of scale discounts it can get,” he said. “If everyone else is playing checkers, Malone is playing three-dimensional chess.”

For many on Wall Street, the only thing left to do is plan the funeral for the country’s second largest cable company.

“If you’re going to do a transformational deal, your choices are Time Warner Cable, Time Warner Cable and Time Warner Cable,” Craig Moffett, a veteran industry observer told Bloomberg. “You can roll up all the little guys if you want to, but even if you did, you haven’t built something that’s truly large-scale.”

“Time Warner Cable is gone,” Chris Marangi, a money manager at Gamco Investors Inc., said. “I think Charter will buy them eventually, whether it’s Liberty facilitating that or Charter doing it directly or the two companies doing it in partnership.”

Industry observers predict Malone will signal his dream deal by initially launching smaller mergers and acquisitions before attempting a buyout of a cable company considerably larger than Charter itself.

The first target: perennially bottom rated Mediacom, where any buyer is likely to be hailed as a rescuer by beleaguered subscribers who have regularly dismissed the cable operator as incompetent. Next, the Washington Post’s Cable ONE, which may already be plumping itself up as at attractive takeover target through investment in improving its network infrastructure.

timewarner twcBut the most obvious foreshadowing of a big deal with Time Warner would most likely come if Charter first successfully acquires always-rumored-for-sale Cablevision, where the controlling Dolan family is rumored to be holding out for an exceptionally attractive buyout package other cable companies aren’t willing to offer. Time Warner itself has been rumored as a buyer, but current management has repeatedly stressed it will not pay a premium price for acquisition targets.

Malone may not be able to help himself. His long history in the cable industry includes a voracious appetite for merger and acquisition deals. For more than two decades, Malone led Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI). When he arrived in 1972, TCI was a rural Texas and western states cable operation with 100,000 subscribers. By 1981, through mergers and acquisitions, he built TCI into America’s largest cable operator. In 1998, AT&T bought out TCI Cable. The phone company later exited the cable business and sold most of the operation to present owner Comcast.

The level of consolidation proposed by Malone is unheard of in the United States, but is familiar in Canada where two major cable operators — Rogers and Shaw — control the majority of cable subscriptions. Third largest Vidéotron leads in Québec and Cogeco serves pockets of Ontario and Québec bypassed by Rogers and Vidéotron, respectively.

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Not Living the Good Life With Mediacom; Outages Plague Iowa Retirement Community

Phillip Dampier January 9, 2013 Consumer News, Mediacom No Comments

mediacomMediacom, regularly rated America’s worst cable operator by Consumer Reports, is earning its bad reputation when it left one Iowa retirement community with extended outages that began Dec. 20 and did not get resolved for more than two weeks.

Dozens of elderly residents at the Good Life Retirement Apartments in Norwalk, Iowa were unable to talk to anyone except a national technical support center that never connected the dots about the broader outage and only arranged individual service calls that never addressed the larger problem.

When the Des Moines Register’s consumer watchdog began receiving calls, Mediacom finally noticed.

The optics of delivering bad service to a retirement community populated primarily by 70+ year old retirees on fixed incomes that depend on cable television for entertainment delivered the cable company yet another public relations blow.

norwalkA Mediacom official finally acknowledged there was a bigger problem. Phyllis Peters, communications director for Mediacom, told the newspaper the outages were due to a “rare and broader issue” that affected customers across Des Moines.

Affected customers have been given credits for the extended outages, finally resolved Jan. 4, but most would have rather received working service.

“With this being a senior community, we don’t get to go out to the movies at night,” Edna Haines told the Register. “Our TV is our entertainment.”

Mediacom claims they are addressing their poor reputation for customer service with two new initiatives:

  • Customers left endlessly on hold can select a new call-back feature to request a local employee call back the customer at a pre-selected time;
  • Mediacom’s national customer service center (1-800-332-0245) now uses speech recognition to help direct calls to the appropriate department.
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Indianola, Iowa Getting Community-Owned Fiber Service: 25/25Mbps as Low as $5/Month

Indianola, Iowa has relied on community-owned and non-profit Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU) to deliver gas and electric service to the community of 15,000 for more than 100 years. Now customers in south-central Iowa will soon be able to purchase broadband service from the utility as it prepares to open its fiber-to-the-home network to residential customers.

Partnering with Mahaska Communication Group (MCG), IMU will be in the triple-play business of phone, broadband, and cable television by October.

Iowa’s public broadband network has served institutional and large commercial users since being installed in the late 1990s. But residential services were not available until recently.

Wholesale service comes primarily from Iowa Network Services via a SONET protected fiber optic ring, with redundant access going from and to Indianola. Multiple direct connections to Tier 1 backbone providers also ensure reliability and speed.

MCG intends to compete against cable providers like Mediacom and phone companies that include CenturyLink and Frontier Communications. MCG will market three broadband services in Indianola:

  • 25/25Mbps – Available for as little as $5/month when bundled with a triple-play package including phone and television service;
  • 50/50Mbps – Targeting homes with multiple users.  Download a 2 GB movie file in 1 minute;
  • 100/100Mbps – For multiple users with high bandwidth demands and business customers. Download a 2 GB file in 30 seconds.

The triple play package, including 25/25Mbps broadband, TV and phone service will sell for $99.95 a month. That is the ongoing rate, not an introductory teaser that expires after 6-12 months. Standalone broadband customers can purchase 25/25Mbps for $39.95 a month. Upgrading broadband speed will be fast and affordable: $5 a month extra for 50/50Mbps service, $10 a month more for 100/100Mbps service.

Mediacom charges considerably more for its broadband service, which has vastly slower upstream speeds and usage caps. CenturyLink locally provides 1-3Mbps DSL service for many customers in the area.

MCG promotes its forthcoming service as a vast improvement over what phone and cable companies sell locally:

  • The network is locally owned and operated and their employees live and work in the region. MCG does not use offshore call centers for customer support;
  • MCG has no contracts, term commitments, or early cancellation penalty fees;
  • No usage limits or speed throttles — and the speeds are fast in both directions;
  • No introductory prices that leave customers with a higher bill after 6-12 months.

The municipal utility says it welcomed other Internet Service Providers, including CenturyLink and Mediacom, to sell services over their public fiber network. Neither provider has shown any interest.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Indianola Iowa Fiber 3-29-10.flv

Introducing Indianola, Iowa and its new community-owned fiber to the home network, an important upgrade for a community 15 miles from Des Moines. (4 minutes)

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Mediacom Introduces Formal Usage Caps; White Powdery Substance Mailed to Company

America’s worst-rated cable company is facing an apparent customer backlash on two fronts — its introduction of usage caps and at least one disgruntled unidentified citizen who mailed Mediacom a white powdery substance that forced a temporary closure of one hospital and left two Mediacom employees and two Washington County, N.C. sheriff’s deputies quarantined Wednesday.

Deputies launched an investigation after Mediacom employees handled and opened a plain envelope that was found to contain an unknown substance. Employees unintentionally exposed two sheriff’s deputies to the material after they responded to the incident. As a precaution, Mediacom’s Plymouth office was evacuated and both employees and police were decontaminated in an area hospital also placed on lockdown.

All are reportedly doing fine and the unknown substance was sent to Raleigh for further examination. Authorities won’t release further details about the envelope or its contents as the investigation is ongoing, but did say the substance turned out not to be harmful.

Earlier this month the cable company announced it was introducing variable usage caps for customers who either add or change broadband services after August 1. Current customers will be grandfathered under Mediacom’s informally uncapped usage plans, but cannot make changes to their packages without choosing one of several new usage-limited plans. (Thanks to Stop the Cap! reader Curt for sending along the details.)

The caps range from 150GB for Mediacom’s lightest-use plan Launch, which offers 3Mbps downstream, 250GB for the popular 15/1Mbps Prime plan, to 999GB for the company’s 50/5 Ultra and 105/10Mbps Ultra Plus plans.

A Mediacom representative explained the company’s reasons for the usage caps:

“We’ve implemented the usage allowances to ensure we can deliver on our promise of Always Faster Internet,” said “Chad” — from Mediacom Social Media Relations in Gulf Breeze, Fla. “In reality, only 2% of our users exceed our usage allowances. This 2% can use over 19 times what the average household would use, and this can dramatically impact the service you experience in your home. It could cause us to raise our rates for everyone, just to accommodate the excessive use of a few.”

Unfortunately, not every Mediacom customer currently has access to a company-developed usage measurement tool. If a customer exceeds their limit, Mediacom will charge a flat $10 for every 50GB segment over that amount.

Mediacom’s need to implement usage caps is open to debate, however.

The company’s latest 10-Q report filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Mediacom admits it has already increased rates for its broadband customers – heavy users and otherwise. At the same time, Mediacom admits its costs to operate its broadband service have dropped 18.7%, principally due to lower connectivity costs.

In fact, the largest costs Mediacom faced included:

  • Field operating costs, which grew 13.7% as the company increasingly relies on outside, third-party contractors;
  • Marketing costs increased 13.8% to pay for the company’s rebranding, junk mail marketing, and advertising;
  • Employee costs increased 23.5%, primarily to beef up its marketing and direct sales to potential business customers.

Nothing in Mediacom’s required declarations to the SEC show any impact by so-called “heavy users” on its broadband service costs or revenues. If they represented any potential threat to the company’s value to investors, disclosure as a “risk factor” is required by law.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WNCT Jacksonville Investigation continues following Mediacom Powder 8-8-12.flv

WNCT in Jacksonville, N.C. covers a potential anthrax scare when an unidentified person mailed a plain envelope to Mediacom in Plymouth containing a white, powdery substance.  (2 minutes)

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A Lesson for Municipalities Enduring Statewide Cable Franchises: Get it in Writing, Carefully

Several years ago, phone companies like AT&T and Verizon discovered providing competing cable service over U-verse and FiOS meant approaching each community, asking permission to tear up the streets and yards of local residents to deliver the service. AT&T’s U-verse requires enormous 4-6 foot ugly metal cabinets in the front or side yard of a customer every few blocks. Verizon’s FiOS network necessitates the replacement of the copper wire network with fiber optic cables in its place. More than a few yards and streets were torn up installing the new cables.

Dealing with individual town boards, city councils, and other franchising authorities became a nuisance for the companies, so both decided to invest some serious lobbying money to rip control away from local authorities. Understanding they would never get away with advocating for no oversight, they settled for the next best thing — advocating for a statewide franchise law. With that, both phone companies simply needed to obtain a single license from the state to operate.

U-verse cabinets often make the evening news when they are plunked down in your front yard. With statewide video franchise laws, you and your local community leaders no longer have a say.

AT&T has been especially successful in passing such “reforms” in their service areas. Verizon has fought less successfully in the more-skeptical northeastern states unwilling to give the company carte blanche-benefit of the doubt.

Illinois is definitely AT&T territory, and the company’s successful push for statewide franchising in 2007 was tied to promises AT&T would hurry out its U-verse service across Illinois. Instead, with many Illinois customers still without access to U-verse, the phone company recently announced its upgrade-expansion was over. But AT&T remains grateful to the Illinois legislature for keeping its end of the agreement — removing certain pesky consumer protection and local oversight laws.

AT&T also craftily defined limits on how much authority the state franchise body could have to operate. In some states, franchise authorities are little more than paper pushers issuing franchise agreements at-will to operators, leaving local communities stuck with whatever quality of service the phone and cable company is willing to offer.

While phone companies spent millions lobbying for franchise reform, the cable industry has occasionally fought their efforts, maintaining AT&T and Verizon should have to follow the same rules they do. Cable operators spent years negotiating franchise agreements with every community they service. In many cases, the cable industry lost the battle but, along with AT&T and Verizon, effectively won the war.

In Carbondale, cable customers quickly learned that statewide video franchise “reform” pushed by AT&T was no help to them. Soon after the law was passed, Mediacom closed the only local customer service center in the city, in direct violation of their local 2009 franchise agreement that required Mediacom to keep its service center open for at least a decade after signing.

In court, Mediacom argued their signed contract with Carbondale was null and void because of the changes to the Illinois Public Utility Act, which transferred franchise authority to the Illinois state government and out of the hands of local officials.

Carbondale officials sued Mediacom in 2010 over the franchise violation, and the cable company opened a temporary customer service center in a local shopping center as an interim measure.

Now two courts have found in favor of Carbondale’s carefully written franchise agreement, and have ruled Mediacom cannot simply tear up their local franchise agreement, state law or not.

What made the difference for Carbondale was language in the agreement that kept close to the consumer protection provisions now found in the statewide franchise law. Courts found that because Carbondale did not stray from the state’s standards, they were within their rights to expect Mediacom to continue operating under the terms of the franchise agreement the company signed.

“The circuit court correctly concluded that the plaintiffs and Mediacom ‘mutually agreed to contracts, both valid at the time of their formation, and valid after the enactment of the customer service and privacy protection standards of (statute),” Justice James M. Wexstten wrote in the appellate ruling.

That leaves Mediacom mulling extending its lease on their single local customer service center, at least until they decide whether or not to appeal the case to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Jackson County Assistant State’s Attorney Dan Brenner and Carbondale City Attorney Mike Kimmel, who fought Carbondale’s case in court told The Southern they would not be surprised to see Mediacom pursue the case.

“As far as we’re all concerned, they’ve got to keep that service center open in Carbondale until the contract ends or they get this thing reversed,” Brenner told the newspaper.

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L2Networks Alleged to Be Stealing Mediacom Broadband to Resell Under Its Own Name

Phillip Dampier June 20, 2012 Competition, Mediacom, Public Policy & Gov't, Video No Comments

Beahn’s booking photo

A competitor to dominant cable provider Mediacom has been accused of stealing the cable company’s broadband service and reselling it as its own in a bizarre Georgia case that also includes a feud between Albany’s Water, Gas & Light Commission and the defendant.

Back in December, a Georgia Power representative alerted Mediacom about unauthorized equipment placed on a utility pole. When Mike Donalson, Mediacom’s regional security manager arrived at the location off McCollum Drive in Albany, he was surprised to discover a residential Mediacom cable modem powered by a standard car battery sealed in a weatherproof enclosure. Tracking the wiring that exited the box, Donalson eventually found himself at the front door of Addtran Logistics, Inc.

Mediacom immediately launched an investigation and discovered that L2Networks had allegedly contracted with Addtran to provide Internet service. Mediacom alleges in its lawsuit L2 provided the service through a cable modem originally assigned to Beahn’s mother-in-law for residential broadband service at her home.

The company called the Dougherty County Police Department, who arrested Beahn on felony charges for theft of service.

Mediacom is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in its civil suit.

Beahn first came into national prominence in May when he filed the first formal Net Neutrality complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission claiming the local authority was refusing to allow L2 employees 24-hour access to utility-owned facilities where L2 has placed equipment.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WFXL Albany Mediacom Files Suit Against L2 6-8-12.flv

WFXL in Albany, Ga. reports L2 Networks is headed to court to face charges it used to a Mediacom residential cable modem to deliver business class service under L2′s name.  (1 minute)

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  • Dave Hancock: Soon the rest of the cable companies will follow Verizon's lead and start limiting the input bandwidth to their systems (ex: Netflix) to discourage su...
  • Milan in Austin: Cable TV is an obsolete product! I suggest everyone seriously consider dropping cable television. I cut the cord in August of 2013, and don't miss ca...
  • gsuburban: I have to agree that Verizon is not interested in providing its customers with a "clear pipe" due to the politics of peer-to-peer data sharing or what...
  • Scott: Not good, that takes away all your leverage in the situation. If you're holding the money you can work through the BBB or try and negotiate with the ...
  • Hudson Mohawk Press: We knew it couldn't last forever. Starting this month Time Warner Cable of NYC is charging Earthlink Internet customers a $5.99 modem lease fee. The w...

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