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Angry Comcast Customer in Illinois Assaults Technician Over the Quality of Work Done in His Home

angry guyA customer angry over the performance of a Comcast technician in his Berwyn, Ill. home stood in his doorway and blocked the technician from leaving until the work met his satisfaction.

Police say things deteriorated from there. When the technician said he attempted to leave to avoid escalating what was already a heated verbal altercation, Thomas Guel, 37, of the 1900 block of South Elmwood Ave., allegedly pushed the technician and slapped him in the face.

Authorities charged Guel with unlawful restraint and battery.

In our view, such confrontations are unacceptable and unconscionable. It is never appropriate to become verbally or physically abusive to a worker invited into your home. If you are dissatisfied with the work being done by a technician and they are unresponsive after bringing your concerns to their attention, thank them for their time and politely ask them to leave. Then contact your provider and ask for a supervisor to intervene and handle the situation.

The Comcast technician did the right thing by seeking to end the confrontation by leaving. Had he been allowed to, this story would have never been written.

Stop the Cap! Still Collecting Names of Those Interested in Fighting Cox Usage Caps in Cleveland

wews coxThis weekend will end the first phase of our campaign to fight Cox usage caps being tested in Cleveland, Ohio. We’re collecting the names and e-mail addresses of interested citizens that would like to participate in the fight to get Cox to drop its usage-based billing and overlimit fee scheme. If you are interested, use the link at the top to “Contact Us” as a volunteer and include your name and a valid email address.

Next week we will have an initial outline for an action plan with hopes of building a team of Cleveland-area Cox customers to lead the fight. Local participation and involvement is essential to win these battles, and we will expect the city’s Internet enthusiasts to run this effort themselves, with support from Stop the Cap! It’s your fight to preserve your uncapped broadband, so please get involved!

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WEWS Cleveland Cox Changing Internet Service 5-19-15.mp4

WEWS in Cleveland ran a story on Cox’s usage caps and interviewed Stop the Cap! about why usage-based pricing is typically a giant ripoff for customers. (2:12)

A Tale of Two Territories: Frontier Plans Upgrades for Newly Ex-Verizon/AT&T Customers While Legacy Areas Suffer

frontier-fast-buffalo-large-2The new CEO of Frontier Communications is promising more fiber to the home service and advanced ADSL2+ and VDSL2 service to dramatically boost Internet speeds… if you happen to live in a Verizon territory Frontier is planning to acquire in Texas, California, or Florida. For Connecticut customers that used to belong to AT&T, Frontier also plans to spend money to further build out AT&T’s U-verse platform to reach more suburban customers not deemed profitable enough to service by AT&T.

For legacy Frontier customers in other states? Frontier plans nothing beyond what it already provides — usually dismally slow DSL.

Speaking to investors during the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, Frontier CEO Daniel McCarthy said upgrades offer the company new earnings opportunities, but a closer analysis reveals those benefits will only reach customers in areas where Verizon and AT&T already did most of the work and spent the money required to build advanced network infrastructure.

Verizon has spent millions upgrading customers in Texas to its FiOS service and has a significant fiber to the home presence in California and Florida. Because fiber infrastructure is already largely in place, Frontier will not have to spend huge sums to build a new network. Instead, it will spend incrementally to expand service to nearby service areas.

Mediocre broadband in upstate New York.

Mediocre broadband in upstate New York.

“The FiOS penetration is much higher, specifically in Texas, but we think there’s a lot of opportunity to drive FiOS penetration in Florida and California,” McCarthy said. “We see that as a big opportunity.”

Fierce Telecom notes Frontier won’t have to make a large investment outside of installing new DSLAMs in remote terminals or local Central Offices to deliver higher speeds over copper. Frontier will likely depend on VDSL2 technology on short copper line lengths in suburban areas and ADSL2+ in rural locations.

“I think in this case it might be replacing some electronics, but it’s not a heavy lift from a construction perspective,” McCarthy said. “By putting in a shelf and next-generation capabilities, whether it’s VDSL, ADSL2+, or all the different flavors you can use to serve the different loop lengths in a market you achieve the ability to bring a fresh product set into an area at a fairly low cost.”

While Frontier is willing to invest money in areas that are easy to upgrade, it has proven itself reluctant to consider major upgrades in its legacy service areas where it acquired traditional copper-based landline networks.

“The new states will clearly have new growth opportunities,” McCarthy said. “In Florida there has been a revival of housing in certain areas and subdivision growth in Texas and California.”

In Connecticut, Frontier will build on the acquired AT&T fiber/copper network with a modest expansion of U-verse.

frontier u-verse“We actually see growth opportunity in Connecticut,” McCarthy said. “As we go through and look at the Connecticut property, one of the things that have been a recent development from a technology perspective allows us to serve lower density parts of the state of Connecticut with U-verse product that was limited by densities and loop lengths in the past.”

Although the company often touts millions in upgrade investments, most legacy service areas see only modest service improvements, while the company continues to score very poor in customer satisfaction, especially in states like West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. With Frontier’s ongoing focus on newly acquired service areas, long-standing customers in other states are feeling neglected.

In upstate New York, the prevalence of Frontier Communications’ low speed DSL on the company’s legacy copper network has dragged down overall broadband speed ratings to some of the lowest in the country. Frontier territory Rochester, N.Y., in particular, is now among the worst cities in the northeast for overall broadband speed performance, now rated at just 21.42Mbps. The national average is 36.22Mbps. In comparison, Buffalo scores 24.31Mbps, Cleveland: 22.57Mbps, and NYC 55.56Mbps.

Canada Prepares to Say Goodbye to the 3-Year Cellphone Contract; June 3rd is the Deadline

Signing a three year contract usually meant a cheaper device.

Signing a three year contract usually meant a cheaper device.

Canadians still stuck on an old three-year wireless contract may be able to leave their current carrier penalty-free as soon as June 3rd as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) deadline on lengthy wireless contracts takes full effect this Sunday.

In June 2013, the CRTC banned three-year cell phone contracts in its wireless code to give customers a chance to switch providers more often without an expensive early termination fee to deter them. The commission set a two-year transition period which will end June 3.

But it turns out wireless carriers have not made the process of leaving penalty-free easy and the Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) expects the ombuds office will be forced to intervene on behalf of consumers. Some providers have applied creative interpretations of the wireless code the industry earlier sued to block on the grounds it created retroactive interference with contractual rights. The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the wireless industry’s lawsuit last week. The CCTS is notifying providers what it expects from them.

There are two primary groups of customers affected by the June 3rd deadline:

  • Those who signed a three-year contract before June 3, 2013:

These customers will see their three-year contracts cut to two years, and all will expire June 3. They can leave their current provider without any early termination fees or penalties.

  • Those who signed a three-year contract between June 3-Dec. 3, 2013:

crtcThings get more complicated for customers in this window. While carriers quickly introduced new two-year plans, there are a number of customers who managed to sign a three-year contract during this transition period. These longer contracts have also been cut to 24 months by the CRTC, but an early termination fee may still apply if the contract has not run a full two years and carriers will be permitted to get back their device subsidy if you have not yet paid off your device.

If you like your current carrier, you can stay on your existing contract and nothing will change. If you are ready to leave for another provider, you will need to calculate the termination fee you are likely to owe when you cancel service.

If you accepted a device subsidy to reduce the cost of your device, here is the formula to determine your payoff amount:

Jane Smith signed a contract with Rogers in the late fall of 2013. She is now about 20 months into her contract, which the CRTC has now automatically shortened from its original three years to two. For our purposes, let us say she received a device subsidy of $240 (the exact amount of the device subsidy you received is available from your provider.)

Carriers like Vidéotron offer customers discounts if they bring their old device along.

Carriers like Vidéotron offer customers discounts if they bring their old device along.

To calculate the payoff amount to buy out and cancel the contract, take the original device subsidy and divide it by 24. In our example, that equals $10. That means for each month Jane has been in her contract, she has repaid $10 towards the $240 subsidy she received. In this example, she has made 20 payments under contract, which means she has paid back $200 and still owes an additional $40. When she cancels service to switch to Bell (or whatever other carrier she chooses), her exit fee will be $40.

The CRTC also allows carriers to collect an Early Termination Fee (ETF) from customers who paid for a device upfront or brought their own when they signed a contract. These no-subsidy customers must either wait until 24 months have passed from the contract signing date or pay an ETF of the lesser of $50 or 10% of the minimum monthly charge for the remaining months of the now two-year contract.

Bill Smith brought his old iPhone to Telus and signed a three-year contract at the same time Jane did. The CRTC has already lopped off one year of his contract. He will hit the 24 month mark four months from now, but wants to leave to switch to Vidéotron Mobile today. The minimum monthly charge on his Telus bill is $65. For the remaining four months on his contract, he has to pay 10% of $65 for his termination penalty, which amounts to $26 total — his ETF.

Howard Maker, chief executive officer of the CCTS, said, “The calculation is maybe a bit challenging, because not all customers’ contracts will indicate what the device subsidy is.”

Some customers have used the impending end of their contracts as a tool to negotiate a better deal, but it can be tough finding one. After the demise of the three-year contract, last fall many Canadian cell providers raised the monthly price of service on two-year contracts to recoup lost profits.

Drahi Readies His Next Move: “If I Buy Five Smaller Cable Companies, I Am as Big as Time Warner Cable”

Drahi

Drahi

Patrick Drahi, the billionaire ruthless cost-cutting owner of Altice SA told a French parliamentary hearing he didn’t go ahead with a serious bid for Time Warner Cable because he lacked enough management talent to run a huge cable company in a country he only recently entered.

“I didn’t follow up on the exchanges we had on Time Warner Cable that were mentioned in the media because we were not ready,” Drahi told a French parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

Drahi testified French-owned banks were ready to help finance a deal that would have stolen Time Warner Cable away from Charter Communications. Instead, Drahi has decided to spend a little time digesting his acquisition of Suddenlink to gain experience in the U.S. cable market before he moves on other cable operators. Drahi believes he will be the only buyer left to cut major cable consolidation deals.

“Time is on our side” for the U.S. expansion,” Drahi said. “The two leaders Comcast and Charter will not be able to buy anything else because of their size so we will have an open boulevard ahead of us. If I buy five small operators, I can be as big as Time Warner Cable.”

The five most-likely cable operators Drahi will pursue, according to a business editor at RFI, the French overseas broadcaster: Cablevision, Cox, Mediacom, WOW!, and Cable One. Cox and Mediacom are privately held and Cablevision is tightly controlled by its founding Dolan family, so Drahi will likely have to sweeten deals to convince all three to sell.

Reuters reports Drahi is especially interested in the smaller, less profitable operators because they are ripe for his brand of cost management and consolidation-related savings.

“Even better, that means we will have room to improve them,” Drahi said.

Drahi remained enthusiastic about Cablevision, despite the fact it serves one of the most competitive markets blanketed by Verizon FiOS in the United States.

“It’s good actually since it means they know how to compete,” Drahi said.

Drahi’s reputation is well-known in Europe based on his earlier acquisitions. Altice favors telecom and cable companies seen as poorly managed or undervalued which Drahi targets for massive cost-slashing to improve profitability. The investments he does make are largely to benefit high-end customers he values the most.

Motivated Seller: Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus Stands to Win $97 Million Golden Parachute on Latest Deal

Phillip Dampier May 27, 2015 Charter, Consumer News, Time Warner Cable No Comments

Money-Stuffed-Into-PocketIf you were wondering what motivated Time Warner Cable CEO Robert Marcus to move so quickly from a failed merger with Comcast to a new deal with Charter Communications, follow the money.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Marcus is set to receive a handsome payout:

The value of Mr. Marcus’s exit package should he leave within two years of a change in control will be around $97 million, according to an analysis of his employment agreement by Mark Reilly, head of executive compensation practice for Verisight Inc., a human resources consultancy. The analysis was conducted at the request of The Wall Street Journal. To be sure, the parties could reach a settlement with different terms than those laid out in his employment agreement.

If that amount is confirmed, it is equal to asking each of Time Warner’s 15.4 million customers to kick in $6.30 apiece to cover Marcus’ golden parachute.

Most of the rest of Time Warner Cable executives will also each likely receive a generous exit package, although not likely to approach the amount payable to Marcus if the deal wins regulator approval.

Charter Customers Warn: Don’t Be Suckered By Their Promises of Better Service – “Charter Blows”

Phillip Dampier May 27, 2015 Broadband Speed, Charter, Competition, Consumer News 5 Comments

charter sucks“I thought I was watching Comedy Central,” said Ralph Wilson, a longtime Charter customer in suburban Los Angeles. He was actually watching a Bloomberg News interview with the CEO of Charter Communications regarding yesterday’s formal merger announcement. “What cable company was Thomas Rutledge talking about when he said Charter would bring better service to Time Warner and Bright House? Charter blows.”

Wilson is just one of several unimpressed Charter customers responding to the news their cable company is about to grow more than four times larger with the acquisition of the larger Time Warner Cable and the smaller Bright House Networks.

“They promise you 60Mbps and you are lucky to see 40Mbps unless it is raining,” said Aaron Peters, a Charter customer in Texas. “Then you are lucky if you get anything. You sure won’t get anyone on their support line.”

“I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out than have to deal with Charter,” writes Betty, a 74-year old Stop the Cap! reader in Wyoming. “I’ve had cable out sometimes for five days and when the last time it was out, the slobs that showed up to fix it were shabbily dressed and one had his zipper down. It’s disgraceful.”

“Maybe it will go from F-minus to an F,” Terence Allen of Atlanta told the New York Times. Allen, among others, recited a litany of service problems familiar to many Charter customers around the country: Screen freeze and pixelation, unresponsive remote controls, uneven broadband speeds, slurring and skipping over dialogue, and problems getting a real person on the phone.

For Time Warner Cable customers in particular, it is unlikely that prayers for better service from a new owner are going to be answered.

“‘Not quite as bad’ may be about as good as they can get with this deal,” reflected the Times.

“Charter is not going to revolutionize Time Warner’s service quality, because Charter’s service quality is not that much better,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America.

Pay for 60Mbps, get 40ish instead.

Pay for 60Mbps, get 40ish instead.

One of the key arguments in favor of the merger is that long-suffering Time Warner Cable customers will finally get faster Internet speeds. Time Warner Cable Maxx upgrades, now likely to be shelved by Charter, were already outperforming several of Charter’s own speed commitments. Charter’s theme pushing faster speeds for one and all might appeal to the broad masses of Time Warner Cable customers yet to be upgraded.

“Except what Charter advertises is often not what they actually deliver,” complains Wilson. “They tell you it’s 60Mbps, but here in LA it is often closer to 40Mbps and when you complain, they claim they don’t guarantee speeds.”

Allen in Atlanta also signed up for faster speeds from Charter, but never got them.

“Their high end doesn’t seem to be very high-end,” Allen said.

He also called Charter to complain but never got to speak a customer service agent. Instead, an automated attendant instructed him to unplug his modem to reset it, to no avail.

“Getting a human on Charter’s customer service line to help you with a problem is a laugh,” said Sue Turner, a Charter customer in Montana. “They keep telling us Charter is better than the last three owners of our cable system because their repair service calls are way down. Well of course if you cannot actually reach anyone to schedule a service call, that works too.”

technical-difficulties2Turner has seen three cable companies come and go in her part of Montana since April 2002. Comcast sold many of its cable systems in the sparsely populated states of the Rockies to Bresnan Communications that year. Cablevision acquired Bresnan in 2010 and rebranded her cable system Optimum West. Just three years later, Cablevision sold all of its interests outside of the northeastern U.S. to Charter Communications, which runs things today.

“Badly,” Turner said. “The biggest problem is the weather which always affects our television and Internet service. Charter has been here six times in two years to try to fix things, but the only realistic way to get service is to go down to the cable office and demand they do something. You don’t get help on the phone.”

“I would say my impression overall of Charter is that they talk very well about their services and their breadth and depth, but quite honestly they don’t deliver very well,” Mr. Allen told the newspaper. “One of the things they push quite a bit is the bundle — telephone, Internet and cable. I would never even consider getting the telephone because their cable and Internet can be so dodgy.”

The Better Business Bureau in St. Louis, which tracks complaints about Charter, found at least 5,183 unsatisfied customers over the last three years willing to escalate matters to them. Most are about problems with Charter service, which would seem to show there is a problem.

Nonsense, counters Alex Dudley, one of Charter’s senior spokesmen.

“Charter takes our customer service very seriously,” Dudley said. “There are millions of Charter customers who are satisfied with our products.”

Shaneice Johnson in Connecticut isn’t one of them.

“Oh my God I thought Frontier was awful when they took over AT&T here,” she tells Stop the Cap! “But then when we switched to Charter my modem has dropped weekly and all I get is attitude from customer service about how they know how the Internet is supposed to be run and it must be my fault. Years of good service with AT&T with no problems but now it must be my fault because their service is off up and down the street? I don’t think so. We need to get some competition in here.”

On that point, many would agree.

“If Charter had Google Fiber here chasing them, I guarantee they would clean up their act, but when their only competition is AT&T DSL, they just don’t care,” said Wilson.

Money Party: Tiny Investment Bank Reaps Up to $65 Million in Fees for a Week’s Work on Cable Mergers

liontree_logo_web1A tiny Madison Avenue investment bank (so small its only web presence is a webpage displaying its logo) that spent one week advising Charter Communications on its merger deal with Time Warner Cable and Altice SA on its acquisition of Suddenlink Communications will earn as much as $65 million in fees if both deals close, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

LionTree Advisors has fewer than 50 employees, which adds up to more than $1 million per worker. Charter is expected to be billed as much as $25 million for the bank’s advice on the Time Warner acquisition and $40 million advising Altice on its buyout of Suddenlink. That represents about $1 from each Charter, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customer and approximately $27 from each Suddenlink customer.

Aryeh Bourkoff and Ehren Stenzler, co-founders of the bank, were more than little thankful to “be a part of these transactions on behalf of our clients.”

Quid Pro Quo: Boys & Girls Club That Supported Comcast/TWC Merger Gets $8 Million from Comcast CEO

After sending 25 letters of support for the Comcast-TWC merger, the Boys & Girls Club is getting $8 million to construct the Ralph J. Roberts Boys & Girls Club (Roberts is the founder of Comcast.)

After sending 25 letters of support for the Comcast-TWC merger, the Boys & Girls Club is getting $8 million to build the Ralph J. Roberts Boys & Girls Club in Germantown, Penn. (Roberts is the founder of Comcast.)

One of Comcast’s most enthusiastic supporters for its (failed) merger deal with Time Warner Cable has just received a multi-million dollar donation from Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast to build a new state-of-the-art facility in Germantown, a neighborhood in Philadelphia.

The Boys & Girls Club and its various chapters pelted state and federal regulators with letters supporting Comcast at a time when the company was seeking approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable. Just a few weeks after the merger left the headlines, Comcast has announced it will spearhead a $40 million campaign to renovate six clubs in the region. Senior executive vice president David Cohen will serve as campaign chair.

An $8 million contribution from Comcast’s CEO and the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation will cover much of the construction costs for the Germantown facility, which the non-profit group will name the Ralph J. Roberts Boys & Girls Club, in honor of Comcast’s founder.

For much of the 14 months the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger was being reviewed by regulators, Comcast repeatedly name-dropped the non-profit as a supporter of the transaction. The group’s various chapters sent not less than 25 letters of support for the deal:

“We believe that a company as committed to community service as Comcast deserves our support and our gratitude,” wrote Joseph and Lisabeth Marziello, the CEOs of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia, in a letter to the FCC. “We are confident that if Comcast extends its footprint into the areas now served by Time Warner Cable, nonprofit agencies in those communities will reap the benefits.”

Asking nonprofit groups to write letters of support is “good politics” for Comcast, said Free Press’ Matt Wood, because it gives the merger a “public-interest veneer.”

Pennsylvania’s Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) went out of their way to mention the group in a letter to FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler:

We have seen firsthand Comcast’s record as an outstanding corporate citizen. Comcast assists 1,200 non-profits through its foundation, serves hundreds of thousands of young people through the Boys and Girls Club of America, and has invested $57 million in training for workers to keep them competitive in today’s economy.

Lost in the millions of dollars now changing hands was the impact of the proposed merger on consumers, including the kids that use the Boys & Girls Club facilities. Comcast has raised prices on its broadband service repeatedly and made participating in its Internet Essentials discount program too cumbersome for many income-challenged residents to participate. But the Boys & Girls Club came out ahead.

Stop the Cap! continues to urge our readers to consider donating only to non-profits that focus on their mission, not on quid pro quo back-scratching that works against the best interests of the very people who give their time and money to non-profits. It’s clear the Boys & Girls Club is already getting plenty of help from Comcast. They don’t need yours.

Comcast Raising Rates July 1st; Higher Cable TV Surcharges, $3 More for Double-Play Broadband/TV Package

Phillip Dampier May 26, 2015 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 3 Comments

comcastJust in time for the summer fireworks, Comcast’s own rate explosion may be arriving in your mailbox. The cable company is boosting rates on cable television and broadband service in several regions, including higher Broadcast TV surcharges and, for some, the introduction of a new compulsory sports programming fee. Comcast customers shared their rate increase letter with Broadband Reports.

The original notification letter was littered with grammatical and spelling errors and obviously was never proofread. Maybe they are using the extra money to hire someone to help out with that. We’ve translated the text into the English language:

At Comcast, we are committed to constantly improving your entertainment and communications experience, and we continue to invest in making your services even better. Due to increases we incur in programming and other business costs, we periodically need to adjust our prices as we make these and other investments.

Starting on July 1, 2015, the prices of select XFINITY TV and Internet services and equipment will change. We’ve included the changes in this notice. Among these price changes, we have itemized a Regional Sports fee for customers receiving Digital Starter service tiers and above to offset the rising costs of distributing regional sports networks.

In the Atlanta area, a sample of rate changes include: a Limited Basic rate hike between $1-3 a month, a Standard Cable increase of $1 a month, a $2 hike in HD DVR Service (was $8, soon to be $10), a $1 Regional Sports fee, a $1.75 a month increase in the Broadcast TV Fee (this varies widely in different Comcast markets), and a $3 increase in the cost of Blast! With XFINITY TV or Voice Service (was $67.95, now $70.95). The modem rental fee remains unchanged at $10/mo.

Rates are unaffected for customers on term contracts or promotions until those plans expire. It will also not affect customers who have previously received a notification of a rate hike during 2015.

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