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Bright House, Time Warner Cable, and Mediacom Customers Get Expanded TV Everywhere

NBC_Universal.svgThree cable operators have announced additions to their TV Everywhere services that let cable television subscribers stream certain cable networks from home computers and portable wireless devices.

Time Warner and Bright House are inching towards making their apps more useful with new deals that will allow viewing outside of the home. Unsurprisingly, Time Warner has managed to sign a deal with their potential new owner — Comcast/NBCUniversal —  that includes anywhere-viewing of live and on demand content from NBCUniversal’s suite of cable networks including USA Network, Syfy, Telemundo, Bravo, Oxygen, CNBC, MSNBC, mun2, NBC Sports Network, and Golf Channel, as well as local NBC and Telemundo-owned broadcast stations.

Since Time Warner Cable handles cable programming negotiations for Bright House Networks, both customers will receive the enhanced service.

Within the next few days, customers will have access to the NBC Sports Live Extra and Golf Live Extra services via apps on iOS and Android devices, as well as online. Access to the remaining broadcast and cable networks will become available to Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers starting in September, and continuing on an ongoing basis. Customers must verify their subscription to begin watching.

nfl channelUnfortunately, there are only a handful of NBC-owned and operated broadcast stations across both companies’ service areas. In most cases, local affiliate stations are owned and operated by other corporate entities and will not be included in this deal.

Mediacom Communications has expanded its own TV Everywhere package, adding NFL Network and NFL RedZone this week, along with mobile access to FX, FXX, FX Movies, National Geographic and National Geographic Wild.

Mediacom now offers 40 channels for out-of-home viewing and plans to add FOX Sports Go and other popular sports networks by September.

TV Everywhere allows Mediacom customers to always be connected to live entertainment and information,” said Mediacom senior vice president Ed Pardini. “Adding new channels to this service extends the value of a video subscription by giving customers more options to view their favorite programs when and where they want, whether that’s the big screen in living rooms or with the convenience of a mobile device.”

Mediacom customers looking for NFL Network and NFL RedZone on smartphones and tablets must download the free NFL Mobile App by going to the web site. Mediacom is now listed as a participating provider. Customers should log in with their Mediacom email address and username.

Mediacom Boosts Speeds Up to 305Mbps; Upgrades Begin in June

Phillip Dampier April 29, 2014 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Mediacom 2 Comments

logo_mediacom_mainMediacom sent Stop the Cap! a press release today indicating it is boosting broadband speeds at no charge for customers starting this June and continuing through the summer months.

  • Prime Plus ($59.95), originally 30/2Mbps will be upgraded to 50/5Mbps in early June;
  • Ultra ($79.95), originally 50/5Mbps will be increased to 100/10Mbps in early June;
  • Ultra Plus ($99.95), formerly 105/10Mbps, increases to 150/20Mbps and will be rolled out to most Mediacom systems over the summer. Upload speeds may initially stay at 10Mbps until the upgrades are complete.

Mediacom is testing 305/10Mbps service in Cedar Rapids, Ia. to compete with CenturyLink. It costs $199.95 a month. Standard Internet service ($49.95) remains unchanged at 15/1Mbps.

“Today, we’re either pulling down data or sending something up,” Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters said. “People want faster speeds coming down because a lot of people maybe are tapping into things coming down. They want more speed in both directions because they’re sharing video files and higher-bandwidth applications.”

The company said it will be the eighth time in the last 10 years it will have increased Internet speeds, in each case without raising prices.

“We’re doubling our network capacity every 18 months,” Peters said.

 

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.

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)

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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