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Google Fiber Threat Cited in Cincinnati Bell’s Decision to Sell Wireless Division to Verizon Wireless

cincinnati bellCincinnati Bell threw in the towel on its wireless mobile business Monday when it decided to sell its wireless spectrum licenses, network, and 340,000 customers for $210 million to its larger rival Verizon Wireless.

While most analysts say the transaction is the inevitable outcome of a wireless industry now dedicated to consolidation, at least one analyst said the threat of Google Fiber eventually entering the Cincinnati market may have also contributed to the decision to sell.

The future of Cincinnati Bell’s wireless division had been questioned for more than a year, ever since the arrival of the company’s newest CEO Ted Torbeck in January 2013. Cincinnati Bell, one of the last independent holdouts of the Bell System breakup that have not been reabsorbed by AT&T or Verizon, had struggled since Torbeck’s predecessor made some bad bets on acquisitions, including an investment in microwave communications provider Broadwing that left the company with more than $2 billion in debt in 2004. Another $526 million acquisition of data center Cyrus One left the company further in debt.

Torbeck

Torbeck

Torbeck promised a frank evaluation of Cincinnati Bell’s operations last year and keeping its declining wireless division no longer made sense with Torbeck’s focus on replacing the company’s aging copper wire network with fiber optics.

For years, Cincinnati Bell’s biggest competitor has been Time Warner Cable, which has taken away many of its landline customers. Cincinnati Bell’s mobile phone division was created to protect its core business, picking up wireless subscribers as customers dropped their landlines. But the cable company’s bundled service packages made landline service much less expensive than sticking with the phone company, and many wireless customers prefer a national wireless phone company offering better coverage and a wider selection of devices.

Rampant wireless industry consolidation has concentrated most of the cell phone market in the hands of AT&T and Verizon Wireless, giving those two companies access to the most advanced and hottest devices while regional carriers made do offering customers less capable smartphones. Its competitors’ march towards 4G LTE network upgrades also challenged Cincinnati Bell with costly capital investments in a 4G HSPA+ network that Torbeck recently decided no longer made economic sense.

Cincinnati Bell’s wireless revenue for 2013 was $202 million, a decrease of 17 percent from 2012. The company also lost 58,000 subscribers last year, an unsustainable drop that showed few signs of stopping.

610px-Verizon-Wireless-Logo_svg“Our business has been in decline for five or six years,” Torbeck told the Cincinnati Business Courier. “This is absolutely the right time to make this deal. It was probably the highest value we could get at this point in time.”

Torbeck believes Cincinnati Bell’s best chance for a future lies with with fiber optics, capable of delivering phone service along with a robust broadband and television offering that can effectively compete with Time Warner Cable.

“We’ve got to grow market share in Cincinnati and fiber optics is the way to do it,” Torbeck said in 2013. “We have about 25 percent of the city covered and we think from a financial perspective we can get to 65 or 70 percent so we’ve got significant growth opportunity there.”

fiopticsLast year, Cincinnati Bell had passed 184,000 homes with fiber optics – a 28 percent market share. But only 52,000 homes subscribed to Fioptics — Cincinnati Bell’s fiber brand. Time Warner Cable had managed to keep many of its wavering 446,000 customers loyal to the cable company with aggressive discounting and customer retention offers. But now that many of those discounts have since expired, Torbeck wants to reach 650,000-700,000 homes in its service area covering southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky and convince 50% of those customers to switch to fiber optics.

Torbeck isn’t interested in limiting his business to just greater Cincinnati either.

“At some point in time, we’d like to expand regionally into Indianapolis, Columbus,” Torbeck said. “Louisville is another opportunity. But that’s probably a little down the road. From a fiber standpoint, we could look at acquisitions and get into metro fiber. These are things we’re looking at, but these are things that are down the road. We got a lot of room for growth just here in Cincinnati.”

But financial analysts warned Cincinnati Bell’s enormous debt load limits the company’s potential to invest in expansion. Torbeck’s decision to sell off the company’s wireless unit is another step in reducing that debt and further investing in fiber optics expansion.

google fiberThe company’s unique position as the last remaining independent phone company that still bears the name of the telephone’s inventor may make the company a target for a takeover before Torbeck’s vision is realized. One analyst thinks Cincinnati Bell would be a natural target for Google, which has a recent record of repurposing fiber networks built by other companies as a cost-saving measure to further deploy Google Fiber.

“They are a small and cheap company with the infrastructure that Google could use,” said Brian Nichols. “My theory is that Google will buy undervalued companies like Cincy Bell to save on the mounting costs of buildouts, which could top $30 billion,“ Nichols wrote in an email to WCPO-TV.

Google did exactly that in Provo, Utah, acquiring struggling iProvo from the city government for $1 in return for agreeing to expand the fiber network to more homes.

Cincinnati’s local phone company would sell for considerably more than that, but it would still prove affordable for Google, which has a market value of $361 billion, about 470 times that of Cincinnati Bell.

cincCincinnati Bell has already spent about $300 million on Fioptics and plans to spend an extra $80 million this year on expansion. Before the network is complete, the phone company is likely to spend as much as $600 million on fiber upgrades. But the payoff has been higher revenue — $100 million last year alone, and a stabilizing business model that has reduced losses from landline cord-cutting. Telecom analyst Nicholas Puncer offers support for the investment, something rare for most Wall Street advisers.

“It’s a reasonable strategy,” Puncer said. “There’s only going to be more data going through networks in the future, not less. The way we consume content is going to be a lot different 10 years from now than it is today. This is their effort to be on the right side of that, giving people more options to receive that content.”

But if Google Fiber comes to town, it may not be enough.

“Google has an unprecedented luxury,” Nichols said in his email to WCPO. “They are [attaching] fiber to existing poles owned by AT&T (and other telecom companies), and then targeting areas where consumers agree for service before the network is even built. Given this demand, and its mere ability to operate in such a manner, I do think Cincinnati Bell will have major problems once that day comes (likely sooner rather than later). In fact, I don’t think they stand a chance of competing against Google.”

Cincinnati Bell said it will continue to offer wireless service for customers for the next 8 to 12 months. The company will notify customers with further details regarding transition assistance around the time of the closing, which is expected to be in the second half of 2014.

It was not immediately clear on Monday if the sale will impact jobs. Cincinnati Bell Wireless employs about 175 people, including retail store employees.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WKRC Cincinnati Cincinnati Bell selling wireless spectrum to Verizon 4-8-14.flv

WKRC in Cincinnati reports on what the sale of Cincinnati Bell Wireless to Verizon Wireless means for customers. (1:24)

Comcast Gobbledygook: “We Don’t Have Data Caps, We Have Data Thresholds”

The Plain English Campaign's Golden Bull Award is given to companies that prefer gobbledygook over plain English.

The Plain English Campaign’s Golden Bull Award is given to companies that prefer gobbledygook over plain English.

Comcast is outraged by slanderous suggestions it has data caps on its broadband service.

In response to the scathing report from the Writers Guild of America that pleads for the FCC to block the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Comcast has accused to WGA of getting its facts wrong and being nothing more than a meddling union.

The WGA writes in their filing with the FCC:

The WGAW has also joined Public Knowledge in asking the FCC to enforce the condition that Comcast not use “caps, tiers, metering, or other usage-based pricing” to treat affiliated network traffic differently from unaffiliated traffic. Comcast has violated this condition by exempting its online video service, Xfinity Streampix, from its own data caps, while the viewing of content by other, unaffiliated video services such as Netflix or YouTube would count against a user’s data cap. The violation of this merger condition is a clear threat to competition from online video distributors, and the FCC should respond by requiring Comcast to stop exempting its Streampix service from data caps.

Comcast pounced on the WGA filing, calling it inaccurate.

Comcast-Logo“We don’t have data caps — and haven’t for about two years,” said Sena Fitzmaurice, Comcast’s vice president of government communications. “We have tested data thresholds where very heavy customers can buy more if they want more — but that only affects a very small percentage of our customers in a few markets.”

Until 2012, Comcast had a uniform usage cap of 250GB a month, above which a customer risked having their broadband service suspended. In 2013, the usage allowances were back, reset at 300GB a month and rolled out to a series of expanding “test markets” that today include Huntsville and Mobile, Ala., Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah, Ga., Central Kentucky, Maine, Jackson, Miss., Knoxville and Memphis, Tenn., and Charleston, S.C.

nonsenseCustomers who exceed this allowance won’t have their broadband service suspended, they will just get a higher bill, as Comcast charges $10 for each additional 50GB of usage.

In contrast, Time Warner Cable neither has a data cap or a data threshold. Stop the Cap! made sure that didn’t happen when Time Warner attempted to impose its own usage limits back in 2009. We successfully organized protests sufficient to get Time Warner executives to back off and shelve the idea. If Comcast takes over, Time Warner Cable customers will likely eventually face Comcast’s “data thresholds,” which are a distinction without much difference. Whatever you call it, it’s a limit on how much a customer can use Comcast’s already-expensive broadband service before bad things happen.

The WGA and Comcast get along about as well as oil and water, so the back and forth is to be expected. The Writer’s Guild also fiercely opposed Comcast’s merger with NBCUniversal. But when it comes to who is playing fast and loose with the truth, it isn’t the group that writes for a living. Comcast’s doublespeak about data caps is no better than calling The Great Recession a periodic equity retreat. It isn’t fooling anyone.

Time Warner Cable Tells Charter Cable to Get Lost; War of Words Ensues

analysisTime Warner Cable executives brushed away Charter Communications’ first public offer to acquire the second largest cable company in the country in a debt-financed deal that Time Warner considers a lowball offer.

“[Charter’s] proposal is grossly inadequate,” Time Warner Cable said in a statement. “We are confident in our standalone plan and we are not going to let Charter steal the company.”

Charter;s new service areas, if they win Time Warner Cable.

Charter’s combined service areas, if they win control of Time Warner Cable.

On Tuesday, Charter violated a long-standing, informal Code of the Cable Cartel that keeps cable companies from attacking each other.

twc charterCharter Communications chief operating officer John Bickham launched an investor presentation that trashed Time Warner Cable and its leadership, and contended fixing the cable company will take more work than first envisioned.

Bickham claimed Time Warner has exhibited a decade of a “failed operating strategy revealed by fact that they are losing customers at an alarming rate,” while Charter has a proven track record of performance.

Bickham

Bickham

Historians recollect Charter’s recent past differently. In 2009, mired in debt and lacking a disciplined business plan, Charter declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy, wiping out shareholders and stiffing creditors.

Bickham capitalized on Time Warner’s 2013 summer of discontent, when a dispute with CBS resulted in the loss of the network from Time Warner Cable lineups (along with Showtime) in some of the biggest cities in the country. Combined with rate increases, subscribers began switching to the competition, especially where Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse gives cable operators stiff competition from money-saving new customer promotions.

Bickham described TWC as a company in shambles:

On Time Warner Cable TV: “It appears that Time Warner didn’t want to spend the money to go all-digital,” adding that the quality of TWC’s TV signal is poor and the company still lacks enough HD channels that could have been on the lineup if the cable company dropped analog service long ago.

On Time Warner Cable Internet: Bickham complained Time Warner is offering deep discounts on slow Internet packages, particularly its campaign targeting DSL customers with 2Mbps service for $14.99 a month. Bickham complains the large variety of Internet speed tiers are unnecessary, resulting in “nickel-and-dime charges to customers.” He argues Time Warner needs to simplify its offering by adopting a digital lineup and boost Internet speeds, so customers get at least 30Mbps service. Bickham did not mention Charter Communications also has a usage cap on its broadband products. TWC does not on most offerings.

On Time Warner Cable employees: “TWC never had a vision on high standards” for how the company manages its 50,000 employees. Bickham feels the workmanship of TWC installers leaves a lot to be desired.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Time Warner Cable Rejects Charter Offer 1-15-14.flv

Time Warner Cable rejected an acquisition offer from Charter Communications valued at more than $61 billion including debt, spurning the biggest unsolicited takeover bid since 2008. Manus Cranny examines why the offer was rejected on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown.” (2:06)

Charter's price comparison chart for the benefit of Time Warner Cable shareholders lacks accuracy. Virtually nobody has to pay TWC's quoted retail rates and the chart assumes worst-case pricing for TWC customers, while also ignoring Charter's very high customer dissatisfaction score.

Charter’s proposed price comparison chart, produced for the benefit of Time Warner Cable shareholders, assumes worst-case pricing almost no Time Warner Cable customer actually has to pay.

Charter is America's second worst rated cable company. (Consumer Reports, 2013)

Charter is America’s second worst rated cable company. (Consumer Reports, 2013)

On its face, Charter’s plan for Time Warner Cable doesn’t look all bad, but execution is critical and Charter has a long-standing and very poor record of customer satisfaction, typically ranked in consumer surveys as America’s second worst cable operator year after year.

Should Charter win control of Time Warner Cable, big changes will be in store for TWC customers under the Charter umbrella:

  • Analog television would be phased out, along with “limited basic” packages. Charter wants to repurpose analog spectrum for faster Internet speeds, but that also means video customers will be required to get more set-top boxes;
  • Eliminate “Switched Digital Video” technology now in place on TWC systems. SDV is a bandwidth saver – only delivering digital TV signals customers in a particular neighborhood are actively watching. But those using inexpensive digital-to-analog set-top boxes on analog-only televisions can’t watch SDV channels, inconveniencing customers;
  • Increase the number of HD channels to 200+;
  • All residential set-top boxes would now support HD signals at no added cost and customers will be able to get up to four DVR boxes for $20 a month;
  • Time Warner Cable’s new minimum Internet speed would be 30Mbps with much faster added-cost tiers available, but usage caps will apply;
  • Time Warner Cable’s phone product would be repriced at $30 a month in the first year, $20 in the second with all calling features and voicemail included;
  • No term contracts will be offered and modem rental fees, regulatory surcharges, added taxes on Internet and Phone, and service visit fees will no longer be charged.

Charter customers can expect aggressive sales pitches for their “high value” triple-play bundle which may include services customers don’t want at a price that is largely non-negotiable. The more boxes and services you add, the greater the discount you will receive. In contrast, Time Warner Cable began de-emphasizing its triple play promotions in early 2012 and now aggressively promotes single and double play packages that typically omit phone service.

Unlike TWC, Charter has been more difficult when trying to negotiate customer retention discounts. Charter generally charges the same prices everywhere.

Their proposed offer for Time Warner customers will be a triple play offer starting at $110 a month for the first 12 months, then increase $20 in the second year to $130 a month and in year three the price will rise again to $150 a month. Charter’s typical “step-up” pricing is in $20 increments.

Charter is reluctant to allow customers to add or drop package components, so for most customers packages will be all-inclusive with no discounts for dropping channels or features. That means customers will likely end up with more television channels, more phone features, and faster Internet speeds, but at the cost of an eventually higher cable bill.

Any buyout could also mean some Time Warner Cable territories could be put up for sale to a third-party. Charter is especially interested in the New York and Los Angeles markets, but may have little interest in western New York and Ohio, New England, Kentucky and Wisconsin. Any orphaned TWC customers would likely be snapped up by companies like Comcast, which may join Charter’s takeover bid.

Any sale would need approval by the Federal Communications Commission and potentially the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, especially in Comcast becomes involved.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Tom Rutledge Explains Charter Offer for TWC 1-15-14.mp4

Time Warner Cable rejected a merger proposal from Charter Communications. Tom Rutledge, Charter Communications president and CEO, explains the offer as he describes as “rich and fair.” We feel like we’ve come a far way and have not received a serious response, Rutledge says. A CNBC exclusive. (4:35)

AT&T Acquires AWS Spectrum from Frequency Squatter-Speculator Aloha Partners II

AT&T today announced it has agreed to buy 49 Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum licenses from a venture that has done nothing with the frequencies since acquiring them at auctions dating back as early as 2004.

Aloha Partners II, L.P. has no intention to use the frequencies it controls, so it has sold part of its spectrum portfolio to AT&T. The acquired licenses cover almost 50 million people in 14 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Aloha Partners II is selling a considerable amount of its AWS portfolio to AT&T for an undisclosed sum. The venture never used the frequencies, although it controlled some of them as early as a decade ago.

Aloha Partners II is selling a considerable amount of its AWS portfolio to AT&T for an undisclosed sum. The venture never used the frequencies, although it controlled some of them as early as a decade ago.

The acquisition will complement AWS frequencies AT&T already controls in the band, which ranges from 1710 – 1755 and 2110 – 2155MHz.

att_logoFinancial terms were not disclosed.

Carriers have complained regularly about spectrum shortages but some consumer groups charge carriers and spectrum squatters are not putting the airwaves they already control to use. Spectrum has become such a valuable asset, some investors have pooled resources to buy licenses only to resell at a profit later.

Before today’s announcement, Aloha Partners II was the 8th largest owner of wireless spectrum in the U.S. The venture owns AWS spectrum concentrated in 12 of the top 50 markets including many of the leading high-tech areas like San Francisco, San Jose, Denver, Austin and San Antonio.

In 2004, Aloha Partners II purchased 15 licenses covering 38 million pops from the Federal Communications Commission in the Advanced Wireless Spectrum (AWS) auction. In 2007 and 2008 Aloha Partners II purchased an extra 37 AWS licenses covering 12 million pops from Nextwave Wireless.

Comcast Expands 300GB Usage Cap in Alabama, South Carolina; Minimum Overlimit Fee: $10

Comcast-LogoComcast has expanded its 300GB usage cap to Internet customers in Huntsville and Mobile, Ala. and Charleston, S.C.

In these cities the XFINITY Internet allowance includes a $10 penalty for each 50GB segment customers exceed the arbitrary allowance. Alabama and South Carolina join customers in parts of Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee now subject to a usage allowance.

Comcast is also offering a new Flexible Data Option for Economy Plus customers that use less than 5 GB per month.

Customers who do not want the new usage caps can register their displeasure by calling Comcast Customer Security Assurance at 1-877-807-6581, contacting the local news media, or writing to your federal elected officials.

xfinitylogo

Dear XFINITY Internet Customer:

At Comcast, we recognize that our customers use the Internet for different reasons and have unique data needs. As a reminder, starting November 1, 2013, Comcast will trial a new monthly data plan in this area, which will increase the amount of data included in your XFINITY Internet Service to 300 Gigabytes (GB) and provide more choice and flexibility.

What this means for You

The vast majority of XFINITY customers use far less than 300GB of data in a month. Based upon your recent usage history, it appears this new data plan will have no impact upon you, and you won’t need to do anything, or change your Internet usage. If you are not sure about your monthly data usage, please refer to the Track and Manage Your Usage section below.

We want our customers to use the Internet for everything they want and your service will not be limited to 300 GB . While we believe that 300 GB is more than enough to meet the Internet usage needs of most customers, Comcast will automatically add blocks of 50 GB to your account for an additional $10, should you exceed the 300 GB included in your plan in a month.

In order for our customers to get accustomed to this new data plan, we are implementing a three-month courtesy program. That means you will not be billed for the first three times you exceed 300 GB included in the data plan during a 12 month period. Should your usage exceed 300 GB a fourth time during any 12-month period, an additional 50 GB will automatically be allocated to your account and you will be billed $10 for that data and each additional 50 GB of data in excess of 300 GB during that month and any subsequent months your usage exceeds 300 GB.

Please note that this is a consumer trial. Comcast may modify or discontinue this trial at any time. However, we will notify you in advance of any such change.

For more information on all our data usage plans, please visit www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Track and Manage Your Usage

Comcast provides you with several tools to easily track and manage your data plan:

Usage meter – Use the usage meter to see how much data you have used – available at www.xfinity.com/usagemeter

Data Usage Calculator – Estimate your data usage with this tool available at www.xfinity.com/datacalculator. Simply enter information on how often and how much you typically use the Internet, and the calculator will estimate your monthly data usage.

In-Browser Notices and Emails – We will send you a courtesy “in-browser” notice and an email letting you know how much of the data included in your monthly plan you are using. If you have any additional questions about the new data usage plan, please visit www.xfinity.com/datausageplan/expansion

Thank you for being an XFINITY Internet Customer.

Sincerely,

Comcast

Comcast Hires ‘Internet Guy’ to Embrace Broadband Innovation; Start By Killing the Usage Cap

Phillip Dampier September 23, 2013 Broadband Speed, Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Internet Overcharging, Net Neutrality Comments Off on Comcast Hires ‘Internet Guy’ to Embrace Broadband Innovation; Start By Killing the Usage Cap
Phillip "Unlimited Innovation depends on Unlimited Access" Dampier

Phillip “Unlimited Innovation depends on Unlimited Access” Dampier

Comcast wants to embrace innovation and change. Before it can succeed, the cable company needs to permanently retire usage caps and consumption billing schemes, now being market-tested for possible reintroduction nationwide.

Comcast today announced it created a new executive position — vice president of consumer services for video, phone, Internet, and home products and appointed Marcien Jenckes to the position. His role is to oversee development of ideas for new products and services that can be sold to Comcast customers.

Jenckes says Comcast’s product lines are blurring as convergence between television and broadband continues. His role is to keep customers of both services happy by embracing innovation and change.

He will find his hands tied should Comcast bring back its usage cap, now under serious consideration. Limiting residential broadband limits customers’ interest in innovative new online applications that carry the threat of a wallop to one’s wallet from overlimit fees. Comcast ditched its arbitrary 250GB usage cap in the spring of 2012, but continues to think about bringing it back. This year, Comcast has tested a new 300GB cap in certain states tied to an overlimit fee for customers exceeding their usage allowance.

Customers don’t like usage caps one bit. Neither should Comcast “innovators” like Mr. Jenckes.

The future of Internet innovation is likely to be developed on a platform that delivers faster Internet speeds, opening up new high bandwidth applications not easily possible today. Usage caps are anathema to that kind of innovation because customers will be unlikely to embrace new services that blow their usage allowance away.

If Mr. Jenckes is seriously interested in promoting a new spirit of innovation at Comcast, he should start by pressing his fellow executives to ditch usage caps and consumption billing once and for all. The future of unlimited innovation in broadband has its best chance of success with unlimited access.

Comcast Raising Rates in Pacific Northwest: $70.49/Month for Cable TV

Phillip Dampier August 28, 2013 Broadband Speed, Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Consumer News, Internet Overcharging, Online Video Comments Off on Comcast Raising Rates in Pacific Northwest: $70.49/Month for Cable TV

Comcast oregonComcast rates are going up again this fall in the Pacific Northwest, now exceeding $70 a month.

At least 600,000 cable customers in Oregon and southwestern Washington will pay 4.4 percent more for 100-channel television service beginning this October, raising the cost of Standard basic cable to $70.49 a month.

Despite threats of cord cutting, customers in the Pacific Northwest have remained loyal to the idea of paying for television, according to Fred Christ, policy director for the Metropolitan Area Cable Commission in Washington County.

“Subscriber numbers remain steady,” Christ told The Oregonian. “People still don’t see an easy alternative to Comcast, Frontier (FiOS TV), or the satellite providers, all of which cause more or less the same amount of pain.”

Comcast Rates (Image: The Oregonian)

The newspaper notes sports programming may not be the cause of this year’s rate increase.

The cost of Comcast’s discounted “Digital Economy” cable package, which excludes most expensive sports networks, is rising at nearly double the rate of Standard Cable, up 8.6 percent this fall to $37.95 a month.

For those who cannot afford traditional Standard cable television, Comcast’s limited basic service, which primarily consists of local TV channels, runs $12-22 a month depending on the customer’s location. It also increased in price by about $1.30 a month in August.

Comcast may not mind cord cutters too much, because it reaps significant profits from the broadband service that powers online viewing. Comcast raised speeds from 15 to 20Mbps last spring along with the price. The popular “Performance” tier now costs $53.95 a month.

Comcast is testing the reintroduction of usage caps in a handful of service areas, typically providing up to 300GB of usage per month before overlimit fees kick in. But those Internet usage limits do not yet apply in the Pacific Northwest.

Comcast blamed the rate increases on network enhancement investments including faster Internet speeds, more multi platform video and better customer service. Comcast is currently introducing its new X1 cable box that makes finding programming easier.

Customers can avoid the worst of the price increases by choosing a bundled service package, which will see a lower rate increase. Current customers can also call Comcast to negotiate a better deal by threatening to cancel service.

Time Warner Bungles Insight Cable Conversion in Indiana: Phone/Internet Service Gone

Phillip Dampier May 6, 2013 Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Insight, Time Warner Cable, Video Comments Off on Time Warner Bungles Insight Cable Conversion in Indiana: Phone/Internet Service Gone

welcome to twc

Former Insight Cable customers in Evansville, Ind. are fuming after the company’s new owner temporarily left them without phone or Internet service, with nobody available to explain why.

Time Warner Cable attempted to convert Insight customers to its own platform last week, interrupting service in the process. Affected customers quickly jammed customer service lines, leading some to visit local cable offices to straighten things out.

Time Warner Cable will convert former Insight customers in Kentucky and Ohio to its own platform starting in June.

Time Warner Cable will convert former Insight customers in Kentucky and Ohio to its own platform starting in June.

“Right now, I have no Internet,” said Insight customer Claudia Congleton. “I tried to call them three or four times today. No one answers. You’re waiting for over 30 minutes and so that’s why I’m down here. I’m just going to come down here and talk to them about it.”

“It’s so frustrating,” Congleton told Tristate News.

Time Warner blamed the problems on “minor glitches” during the customer conversion process, which began in Evansville on April 29. A larger transition is planned in Kentucky in mid-June, with former Insight customers in Columbus, Ohio moved later that same month.

When Time Warner Cable launched the conversion in Indiana, broadband customers whose names ended in letters “A” through “K” were redirected to a web page that required them to re-register broadband service and select a new twc.com e-mail address to replace their existing Insight e-mail account. Customers who either failed to complete the registration process or who tried during peak usage times often found their Internet service interrupted. Similar problems occurred with phone customers.

Some customers were unhappy with the cable company’s optimistic predictions of a quick fix.

“They lied to me,” said Insight customer Mary Jackson.  “I am so upset because they lied to me.”

Jackson visited the Evansville cable office to report her phone and Internet service were out and the company promised a same-day fix. A day later it was still out.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WTVW Evansville Time Warner Transition Step By Step 5-1-13.flv

Here is how the transition was supposed to take place between Insight Cable and Time Warner. WTVW in Evansville walks customers through the conversion process.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WFIE Evansville Broadband Problems 5-1-13.mp4

WFIE in Evansville reports how things actually went. Not so good, reported a number of customers.  (1 minute)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WTVW Evansville Time Warner Cable Customers Look For Answers 5-1-13.flv

The next day, Time Warner Cable customers who could not get through to the company by phone were down at this Time Warner Cable office in Evansville looking for answers, as WTVW reports.  (2 minutes)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WFIE Evansville Insight Switch 5-3-13.mp4

The following day, some customers were still without service. WFIE talks to one Time Warner Cable customer upset she still did not have phone service.  (1 minute)

Say Goodbye to Insight Cable, Time Warner Cable Has Arrived

Phillip Dampier March 20, 2013 Consumer News, Insight, Time Warner Cable, Video Comments Off on Say Goodbye to Insight Cable, Time Warner Cable Has Arrived

insightOver the next three months, customers of Insight Cable will notice some major changes from their cable operator.

New owner Time Warner Cable is retiring the Insight name for good and replacing it with their own.

Customers will gradually see Time Warner Cable’s logo introduced on company trucks, billing statements, channel guides, and all correspondence.

The company promises one thing is not changing for now: your rates. But that promise won’t last long. Time Warner adjusts rates annually.

Time Warner Cable will also leave current channel lineups in place, but expect to see technology upgrades that will deliver services like online video and faster broadband speeds that may not yet be available in all Insight Cable areas.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WCPO Cincinnati Say goodbye to Insight Cable in Ky 3-19-13.mp4

WCPO’s consumer reporter lets northern Kentucky subscribers know ‘Insight Cable’ is a name headed for the history books.  (1 minute)

AT&T Will Invest $14 Billion to Expand Wired/Wireless Broadband, Abandon Traditional Landlines

AT&T will spend $14 billion on its wireless and wired broadband networks in an effort to improve service for its urban and suburban customers, while preparing to argue its case for disbanding parts of the century-old landline network.

In a major 90-minute presentation with most of AT&T’s top executives on stage, the company announced its intention to move away from traditional landline service and towards a combination of an enhanced broadband platform and 4G LTE wireless access, especially in the 22 states where it currently delivers landline service.

The investment plan — Project Velocity — is a pivotal moment for AT&T, which has seen deteriorating revenue from its aging rural landline network and has focused most of its investments in recent years on its increasingly profitable wireless network.

But AT&T also hoped to hang on to the enormous revenue it still earns providing traditional home phone service. Its early answer for landline cord cutting came in 2006 with U-verse, an IP-based network platform on which AT&T can sell video, voice, and broadband service with a minimum of regulatory oversight. U-verse succeeded attracting high-paying customers who either stayed with or returned to AT&T. But now company officials hope U-verse can help the company achieve victory in its next public policy fight: to abandon traditional landline service altogether.

That emerging battle is likely to pit urban and suburban customers enjoying enhanced U-verse service against rural AT&T customers deemed unsuitable for wired broadband. AT&T is seeking to decommission up to 25% of its rural landline network as part of the strategy announced today, shifting affected customers to its 4G LTE wireless voice and broadband service, which comes at a higher cost and includes draconian usage caps.

Critics contend such a move could leave AT&T largely unregulated with monopoly control over its networks, with few service requirements or access concessions for competitors. It would also leave rural customers relegated to a wireless Internet future, perhaps permanently.

Landline/Wired Broadband: Good News for Some, Scary News for Rural America

AT&T plans to expand and enhance its broadband network to 57 million consumers and small businesses across its 22-state operating area, reaching 75 percent of customers by the end of 2015. AT&T will operate three broadband networks going forward, while gradually decommission its existing ADSL network.

  • U-verse: AT&T’s triple play package of TV, Internet, and Voice over IP phone will be expanded by more than a third to reach an additional 8.5 million customers by the end of 2015. This will make U-verse available to 33 million customers in AT&T home phone service areas. Most of the expansion will be in urban and suburban areas bypassed during the initial U-verse construction phase. To remain competitive, AT&T will also increase available broadband speeds for existing customers up to 75Mbps;
  • U-verse IPDSLAM: An additional 24 million customers will be offered a combo voice-broadband package that could be called “U-verse Lite.” It will offer speeds up to 45Mbps and is primarily intended as a replacement for the company’s DSL service in exurban and semi-rural areas. Arrives by the end of 2013;
  • Fiber to Multi-Tenant Business Buildings: AT&T plans to expand its fiber network to reach more commercial buildings, but also lay the foundation to use these facilities for future distributed antenna systems and small cell technology that will create mini-cell sites serving individual neighborhoods, cutting down the demand on existing cell towers.

Customers living in rural, open country in AT&T service areas in states like Texas, northern Mississippi, western Tennessee and Kentucky, central and northern California and Michigan, and the rural areas of the Carolinas may eventually find themselves using AT&T’s wireless network as the company seeks to decommission its landline infrastructure.

A number of AT&T customers living in areas shown in red may see red if and when AT&T begins trying to force rural Americans to its more profitable wireless networks.

But AT&T officials also admitted in a Wall Street Q & A session that the company planned nothing special for rural landline customers transitioned to wireless. Those customers will be sharing service with traditional mobile customers. If AT&T’s service plan resembles that of Verizon, customers will pay around $60 a month and limited to just 10GB of usage per month. If AT&T decommissions its existing landline infrastructure, no other wired provider is likely to take its place.

Most remaining regulations enforcing a level playing field for telecommunications networks remain with legacy copper-wire landline Plain Old Telephone Service. AT&T’s plan would effectively banish that network in its entirety through a series of regulatory and service-transition maneuvers:

  • U-verse customers actually no longer have traditional landline service. U-verse offers barely regulated Voice over IP service, free from most state regulations and pricing oversight;
  • U-verse IPDSLAM customers will also quietly forfeit their traditional landlines. This product works over an IP network, which means telephone service is Voice over IP;
  • Wireless service is already barely regulated and not subject to price oversight or universal service requirements that landline providers must meet to deliver service to all Americans.

AT&T proves you have to spend money on network upgrades to make money from customers purchasing the enhanced services they offer.

4G LTE Mobile Broadband: 99% Coverage Across 22 AT&T Landline States, Up to 300 Million Americans Served by the End of 2014

The majority of AT&T’s planned investment in its network will once again go to its highly profitable wireless division. At least $8 billion will be spent on bolstering AT&T’s 4G LTE wireless coverage area, especially in rural sections across its 22 state landline service area. That investment is necessary if AT&T hopes to win approval to decommission traditional landline service for rural customers.

  • 4G LTE Expansion: AT&T plans to expand its 4G LTE network to cover 300 million people in the United States by year-end 2014, up from its current plans to deploy 4G LTE to about 250 million people by year-end 2013. In AT&T’s 22-state wireline service area, the company expects its 4G LTE network will cover 99 percent of all customer locations;
  • Spectrum: AT&T continues its acquisition binge with more than 40 spectrum deals so far this year. AT&T’s biggest win of the year was approval for new WCS spectrum it will occupy alongside satellite radio. AT&T will have accumulated 118MHz of spectrum nationwide.
  • Small Cell Networks: AT&T has already aggressively deployed a large number of Wi-Fi hotspots to encourage customers to shift traffic off its traditional wireless network. The next priority will be deployment of small cell technology, macro cells, and distributed antenna systems that can offer neighborhood-sized cell sites to serve urban and suburban customers and high density traffic areas like shopping malls and entertainment venues.

AT&T’s wireless 4G LTE upgrades will cover 99% of the service areas where the company provides landline service. It has to offer blanket coverage if it hopes to win approval for decommissioning its current legacy landline network in rural America.

Using New Infrastructure to Drive New Business and Even Higher Revenue

AT&T would have had a hard time selling its planned investments to Wall Street without the promise of new revenue opportunities. AT&T’s new network enhancements will support a range of new services the company hopes to introduce to win greater revenue in the future:

  • AT&T Digital Life: A nationwide all IP-based home security and automation service set to launch in 2013 that will let consumers manage their home from virtually any device — smartphone, tablet or PC.
  • Mobile Premise Solutions: This new nationwide service, available today, is an alternative for wireline voice service and in the future will include high-speed IP Internet data services.
  • Mobile Wallet: AT&T is participating in the ISIS mobile wallet joint venture. Market trials are underway in Austin, Tex. and Salt Lake City today.
  • Connected Car: More than half of new vehicles are expected to be wirelessly connected by 2016. AT&T is positioned to expand from vehicle diagnostics and real time traffic updates to consumer applications that tie into retail wireless subscriber data plans. AT&T already has deals with leading manufacturers such as Ford, Nissan and BMW.

AT&T’s 2012 Investor Conference introduced major transformative changes for AT&T’s wired and wireless broadband networks.  (2 hours, 9 minutes)

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