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Outbid, Charter Expected to Eye Consolation Prizes: Cox, Bright House, and/or Suddenlink

brighthouse_logoBright House Networks’ long standing relationship with Time Warner Cable — which negotiated programming deals on behalf of the smaller cable operator with operations in the south — may come to an end with an approval of a merger between Comcast and Time Warner. That could make Bright House a prime candidate for a takeover.

Charter Communications is likely to seek consolation prizes now that Comcast has outbid the smaller cable company for Time Warner Cable. Liberty Media’s John Malone and Charter’s CEO Tom Rutledge are meeting with advisers and board members to discuss where Charter will go next to grow its operations.

Malone and Rutledge believe the cable industry must consolidate to better position it against competition from online video, phone companies, and satellite television. Malone would like to see the United States served by just a few cable operators, and feels acquisitions are the best way to accomplish his vision.

suddenlink logoCharter is almost certain to buy at least some of the three million Time Warner Cable customers Comcast intends to cast-off if it wins regulator approval of its buyout deal. But Team Charter has assembled enough financing to go much farther than that.

Among the most likely targets, according to CRT Capital Group and Raymond James Financial are family held Cox Communications, the third largest cable operator in the country with more than four million customers, Bright House Networks, the tenth largest operator with just over two million customers, and Suddenlink Communications and its 1.4 million subscribers.

COX_RES_RGBCox, like Cablevision, has been closely controlled by its founding family for years, so rumors of sales of one or both have never come to fruition. But with the merger announcement of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Wall Street pressure to consolidate is growing by the day. There is talk that if Comcast succeeds in its buyout effort, even satellite providers like DirecTV and DISH are likely to seek a merger. Even Cablevision, which serves suburban New York City may finally feel enough pressure to sell.

A Cox spokesperson this week continued to insist the company is not for sale, but money often has a way of changing minds, if there is enough of it on the table.

Other small regional operators also likely to be approached about selling include: MidContinent, Mediacom, and Cable ONE.

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.

Cablevision West For Sale: Time Warner Cable, Charter, Suddenlink All Submit First-Round Bids

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Here today, gone tomorrow.

Cablevision West, formerly known as Bresnan Communications, has been up for sale for weeks, and at least three major cable operators have submitted bids to acquire its 300,000 customers in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.

Cablevision bought Bresnan Communications in 2010 for $1.37 billion. The cable operator invested millions updating the cable properties in the mountain west, but ultimately decided the more rural cable systems were too far away from its hometown systems in densely populated suburban New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

Selling Cablevision West would improve Cablevision’s balance sheet and allow the company to concentrate on its highly competitive home territory in the northeast, where Verizon FiOS frequently competes.

Among the three vying for Cablevision West, Charter Communications seems to be the best positioned to win. Charter already operates cable systems in the central and western United States, mostly in smaller cities and rural areas. Former Cablevision CEO Thomas Rutledge was in charge when Cablevision bought Bresnan Communications, and in his new role as CEO of Charter, he told CNBC he still admires those western systems.

Suddenlink has attained deeper pockets after its acquisition earlier this year by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, European private equity firm BC Partners and the cable operator’s current management. With money to spend, Suddenlink Communications could find itself the highest bidder. Suddenlink currently serves over 1.4 million residential and commercial customers, primarily in Texas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Time Warner Cable, the second-largest U.S. cable provider, is also among the stingiest of the three bidders. CEO Glenn Britt has consistently told investors the company will not engage in bidding wars or overpay for acquisition opportunities. The company has passed on several earlier opportunities for cable systems up for sale, although it did successfully acquire Insight Communications earlier this year.

The winner will likely be announced as early as January and then customers will have to prepare, once again, for another owner to take control.

Bottom-Ranked Suddenlink Upset About Frontier’s Ad Claims Their DSL is Better

Suddenlink is throwing a hissyfit over Frontier’s aggressive advertising.

Now come on, you are both pretty… slow that is.

Suddenlink Communications is crawling mad that Frontier Communications has been hammering the cable company over their broadband speeds, which PC Magazine this week proclaimed were nothing to write home about. The cable operator successfully challenged some of Frontier’s ads with the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The group recommended Frontier cease making claims that its DSL service offers “dedicated” lines to the Internet in contrast to Suddenlink, which forces customers to share their connection with the whole neighborhood.

Frontier claims Suddenlink’s network can bog down during peak hours, while Frontier makes sure customers consistently get the speeds they pay for.

Many of the ads targeted customers in West Virginia, who regularly tell Stop the Cap! neither provider competing there offers particularly good service.

“Is Frontier kidding?,” says Shane Foster, a former Frontier customer in West Virginia. “I was supposed to be getting up to 6Mbps service and I was lucky to get 1.5Mbps at 2 am.”

Foster says he believes Frontier oversold its DSL network in his area, with speeds slowing even further during the evening and weekends when everyone got online. While Frontier may not require customers to share a line from their home to the company’s central office, congestion can occur within Frontier’s local exchange or on the connection Frontier maintains with Internet backbone providers.

“The technician sent to my house even privately admitted it,” Foster tells Stop the Cap!

Foster switched to Suddenlink, but he is not exactly a happy customer there either.

“Their usage caps suck, the service is slow, and their measurement tool is always broken,” Foster shares. “West Virginia doesn’t just get the bottom of the barrel, it gets the dirt underneath it.”

Frontier Communications says it has been making improvements in West Virginia and other states where it provides DSL broadband. Some areas can now subscribe to 25Mbps service because of network upgrades. Foster says he would dump Suddenlink and go back to Frontier, if they can deliver speeds the rest of the country gets.

“Sorry, but 1.5Mbps is not broadband and with their prices, tricky fees and contracts it is robbery,” says Foster. “They need to clean up their act and I’ll come back. I hate usage caps with a passion.”

Frontier says it will appeal the NAD’s decision. But Frontier might do better advertising its broadband service as usage cap free — something customers consistently value over those running Internet Overcharging schemes.

Department of Oops: Suddenlink Defends Its “Accurate” Usage Meter, Then Disavows It

Phillip “The Company Paid by Suddenlink to Issue a Third Party Guarantee Makes All the Difference” Dampier

When Stop the Cap! and Broadband Reports reader Simon contacted us about Suddenlink’s fact-free usage measurement tool that managed to rack up nearly 23GB of usage for one West Virginia customer on the same day his service was out for most of the evening, he probably did not think one customer catching the cable company’s fingers in the usage cookie jar would make much difference.

But it did.

Suddenlink spokesman Pete Abel, initially responding to complaints about the usage tool’s accuracy, told Light Reading last week its meter was “consistently accurate, as was demonstrated in the tests we ran before we launched this program.”

Four days later, the company effectively disavowed that, put the meter’s built-in overlimit fee scheme on hold and plans to hire a third party company to “validate the accuracy of its system,” after finding it was faulty after all.

Suddenlink won’t say what is causing the inaccuracies, but blamed “unusual” circumstances for the problem. The company is now refunding customers billed overlimit fees of $10 per 50GB and waiving future charges until its system is reviewed and validated by “a trusted third party.”

Stop the Cap! believes that does not come close to satisfying the company’s responsibility to its customers for accurate billing.

Suddenlink has never demonstrated it actually needs an Internet Overcharging scheme with usage limits and overlimit fees. The company proves that when it claims only a “relatively small number of customers” were ever billed overlimit fees. With no demonstrable usage problem, the company’s need to implement its Project Imagine “Allowance Plan” is sorely lacking.

Easy as counting anyway we like.

Additionally, the accuracy of providers’ usage measurement tools has proven highly suspect, and not just with Suddenlink. All of the companies caught with inaccurate meters always strongly defend them, until overwhelming evidence suggests they should not. Even super-sized companies like Bell Canada (BCE) and AT&T have enforced usage limits with meters the companies later had to disavow. Suddenlink is only the latest.

The scale in your grocery store is checked and certified. So is the corner gas pump, your electric meter, water meter, and gas meter. Why should broadband usage be any different?

Consumers are right to suspect Suddenlink’s usage meter. No official regulatory body verifies the accuracy of usage measurement tools and whatever company Suddenlink chooses to “verify” its meter has a built in conflict of interest — it works for a company that depends on a certain result in its favor. Suddenlink clearly has no business in the usage measurement business when it insists on the accuracy of a meter it disavows just a few days later.

With only murky details available to consumers about what caused the problem and why Suddenlink did not see it until a customer managed to catch them in the act, there is little confidence the company will actually solve a problem it never realized it had. There is also nothing to assure us — “third party guarantee” or not — it cannot happen all over again.

Suddenlink customers need to reach out and tell Suddenlink its “Allowance Plan” is completely unacceptable. Tell the cable company you don’t want to worry about their unverifiable and proven-inaccurate metering program. Ask them why you should remain a customer when they spend time and money on a scheme that the company itself admits is not really needed — targeting just a small number of “heavy users.”

Suddenlink’s customer service team does not think much of customers who use their broadband service a lot, as this recent “Who’s On First” exchange illustrates:

Lisa (Suddenlink): “Well, you show heavy OVERUSAGE of the Internet, you drew 14GB of data yesterday.”

Customer: “Okay, let’s back up, explain to me how I drew 12GB of data when my power was off and I wasn’t home on June 30.”

Lisa: “I didn’t say anything about June 30.”

Customer:  “If you have sooo much faith in your meter, explain to me how I drew 12GBs of data on June 30, while I didn’t have power, and wasn’t home.”

Lisa:  “I didn’t say anything about June 30.”

Customer:  “I’m asking, how did I draw 12GB of data without power to my house?”

If Suddenlink has a problem with a handful of users creating problems for other subscribers on its broadband network, it has always reserved the right to contact those customers directly and work out the problem one on one. That is a far better solution than inconveniencing all of their customers with endless rounds of “usage roulette,” where the big winner could find themselves with Bill Shock from overlimit fees, whether they actually deserve them or not.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Internet v. Cable 8-20-10.flv

CNBC interviewed Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent in August 2010 on how his company intends to deal with “invasive online video,” threatening to erode cable-TV profits. Kent proved Suddenlink doesn’t really need any extra money from overlimit fees — the days of big spending on capacity are over, but the money is nice to have anyway.  (8 minutes)

Suddenlink’s Thumb on the Scale That Measures Your Usage

Suddenlink’s decision to implement an Internet Overcharging scheme that couples usage caps with overlimit fees can be a real revenue-booster for the cable company, especially if a usage measurement tool decides to nip at your allowance with phantom usage that can eventually expose you to overlimit fees.

Simon, a Suddenlink customer in northern Texas contacted Stop the Cap! with news he managed to catch Suddenlink in the act of ginning up his broadband usage, measuring around 23GB of broadband usage in just one day:

Here is what Suddenlink’s usage measurement tool reports Simon has used during the month of August. Not the 23GB measurement recorded for Aug. 18.

“Suddenlink believes I used ~23GB and my router confirms I only used 2.22GB (a difference of 936%),” Simon writes. “It’s insane.”

Even more unusual is Suddenlink’s measurement tool recorded that usage on a day when a thunderstorm knocked out his cable broadband service for nearly six hours during peak usage times. It is not the first time Suddenlink’s meter has gone haywire.

Consumers are at the whim of broadband provider-supplied measurement tools, which are unregulated and unmonitored by federal, state, or local authorities. What those tools measure is what customers will be billed for, with no verification or proof of accuracy required.

Companies utilizing these measurement tools require customers to accept the provided measurements as the final word on the matter.

“I think it’s a repugnant money grab that needs to be regulated by the state or federal government,” Simon shares.

Unregulated metered billing is a dream come true for providers who can bill customers whatever they want.

Here is what Simon’s router measured on that same date – 2.22GB, almost a 1,000% difference… in Suddenlink’s favor.

Suddenlink Executives Join Canada’s Pension Plan to Buy Out the Company

Phillip Dampier July 19, 2012 Consumer News, Suddenlink 1 Comment

Suddenly Bought

Well-compensated management at Suddenlink are teaming up with private equity firm BC Partners and the Canada Pension Plan’s CPP Investment Board to buy out Suddenlink Communications in a deal for the $6.6 billion company.

The transaction will leave Suddenlink’s founder and current CEO Jerry Kent in charge and part-owner of the company. Some other members of top management are also participating in the buyout deal.

Suddenlink is currently owned by investment bank Goldman Sachs through its private equity arm, Quadrangle Group LLC and Oaktree Capital Management LP.

The buyers will assume $4 billion of Suddenlink’s outstanding debt and BC Partners and CPP Investment Board are taking on $500 million of additional debt to fund the purchase.

Kent

Kent says the deal is designed to infuse additional capital into Suddenlink’s operations, which primarily serve smaller communities in Texas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arizona, and Arkansas. Suddenlink launched in 2003 with the acquisition of discarded cable systems originally owned by Cox and Charter Communications. Today the company serves 1.4 million residential customers, making it the seventh largest cable operator in the country.

With Kent remaining in charge, few changes are expected. In 2011, Suddenlink adopted an Internet Overcharging scheme including usage caps and overlimit fees that it is gradually rolling out to all of its customers.

Investors see revenue growth opportunities from Suddenlink, particularly as it further monetizes broadband.

“This represents a unique opportunity to acquire a leading cable operator that has consistently generated industry-leading results,” said André Bourbonnais, who heads private investments for CPPIB.

Kent had been reportedly shopping the cable system around to private-equity firms over the past several months, on the condition he got to remain in charge and early investors could cash out.

Suddenlink’s Magical Mystery Meter: Records 12GB of Usage Even During Power Outage

Easy as counting in the dark.

Suddenlink customers in West Virginia who have been dealing with the aftereffects of a damaging derecho for a week found a nasty little surprise from their cable company when the lights cut back on — gigabytes of usage recorded on the company’s suspect “usage meter,” despite the fact customers were without power for up to a week.

Broadband Reports readers have begun to check back in after extended downtime to report Suddenlink is racking up usage whether customers are using their broadband connection or not:

  • “Tylr” reports he was without power for two days but Suddenlink’s usage meter kept the party going, recording 12GB of phantom usage during the two days the customer was without service;
  • “Jdmm72″ found exactly the same thing, shocked to discover he racked up 10.8GB of usage on a day when he and his fellow neighbors in Nitro, W.V., were completely in the dark.

Suddenlink’s usage meter is not verified by any third-party or government agency to ensure its reliability and the company is under no obligation to change this policy. But customers are expected to cover any overlimit fees Suddenlink imposes for “exceeding your allowance.”

Does the company need the extra money? Not really, according to Suddenlink president and CEO Jerry Kent, who earlier admitted the days of expensive system upgrades were over and it was now time to rake in profits:

“I think one of the things people don’t realize [relates to] the question of capital intensity and having to keep spending to keep up with capacity,” Kent said. “Those days are basically over, and you are seeing significant free cash flow generated from the cable operators as our capital expenditures continue to come down.”

Tulsa TV Station Chases Suddenlink, DirecTV for Ripping Off Oklahoma Customers

Phillip Dampier April 25, 2012 Consumer News, DirecTV, Suddenlink, Video 1 Comment

KJRH’s newsroom has been spending a lot of time this spring dealing with viewers ripped off by their telecommunications providers.  When Tulsa residents can’t get satisfaction from the local cable or satellite company, they often call Channel 2’s Problem Solvers for help.

DirecTV’s Phantom Gift Cards: The Promised Rebate That You Qualify For, Until You Don’t

Satellite TV companies are increasingly aggressive pitching discounts and rebates to win customers away from traditional cable TV or the phone company’s new IPTV service.  In addition to cheap teaser rates, many providers also sweeten the deal with high value rebate cards for customers signing multi-year service contracts.

Local resident Michael was attracted to DirecTV’s $200 Visa card rebate offer and signed up for satellite service.  Weeks later, with no rebate card in hand, he called the company to find out why, only to be told he did not qualify.  When Michael tried to cancel service because the company didn’t deliver what it promised, the customer service representative informed him he would owe $480 in early cancellation penalties.

DirecTV's fine print: Emphasis ours.

DirecTV initially stonewalled KJRH when they called on Michael’s behalf, eventually claiming he was told he did not qualify for a rebate a week after signing up for service.  But when KJRH asked to hear a recording of the call DirecTV routinely makes when customers sign up for service, they changed their tune.

“The next day, we were told Michael had been given the wrong information about the promotion and he could cancel without that $480 penalty,” the Problem Solvers’ team reports.

Michael says it is important to get everything in writing — including the names of representatives you speak with — because that can make all the difference when a company tries to squeeze out of its own promotional promises.  He’s now an ex-DirecTV customer for free, and decided to watch his favorite shows over local broadcast TV.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KJRH Tulsa TV gift card 3-19-12.mp4

KJRH got called by Michael when DirecTV reneged on a $200 rebate offer that locked him into a contract that could cost him $480 to escape.  (2 minutes)

Suddenlink: Suddenly Owe $400 in April for Service You Canceled In January

Tulsa resident Lucille got the shock of her life this month when she opened a bill from Suddenlink charging her $400 for cable service she canceled in early January.

The past due bill came without warning and Lucille says she never received any phone call, bill, or letter notifying her charges were still accumulating on her account.

When she called Suddenlink, they told her that service was never discontinued, and she owed the money.

Lucille may have been born at night, but not last night.

Angered by Suddenlink’s intransigence, she called KJRH for help.  The station went to the top — calling Suddenlink’s corporate headquarters.

In short order, a company representative researching the dispute found Lucille’s cancellation request, as well as the customer service representative who never processed it.

That representative will be attending Customer Service 101 re-training classes, and a company executive called Lucille directly to apologize.

Not only that, a local Tulsa Suddenlink worker arrived with a $100 refund check — the credit balance owed her for service she paid one month ahead to receive.

While both Lucille and Michael benefited from the threat of both companies being portrayed in a bad light on the evening news, an unknown, uncounted number of customers may not win similar satisfaction.

Many customers simply give up pursuing unpaid rebate promotions (or forget about them altogether), and DirecTV’s nearly $500 early termination fee is a strong incentive to grudgingly stay with the satellite provider until your contract runs out.  Lucille, 88 years old, was not going to be intimidated by Suddenlink’s insistence she owed the money (or the implications of being called a past due deadbeat — an especially scandalous notion for older Americans).

Both consumers did something else: they wrote down names, times, and dates of their communications with the companies.  That can go a long way to winning satisfaction. So can filing complaints with the Better Business Bureau, which can usually prompt a contact from a higher-level customer service representative more willing to give a complaining customer the benefit of the doubt.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KJRH Tulsa Past due cable bill 4-18-12.mp4

KJRH got a call from Lucille about an unexpected $400 Suddenlink cable bill for April… for service she canceled in January.  (2 minutes)

Comcast/Time Warner Cable Biggest Broadband Winners; DSL Withers on the Vine

Won 1.1 million new customers in 2011

Comcast and Time Warner Cable collectively picked up more than 1.5 million new customers in 2011, with most of the growth coming from dissatisfied DSL subscribers seeking better broadband speeds.

Leichtman Research Group, Inc. (LRG) found the eighteen largest cable and telephone providers in the US — representing about 93% of the market — acquired 3 million net additional high-speed Internet subscribers in 2011. Annual net broadband additions in 2011 were 88% of the total in 2010.

The top broadband providers now account for 78.6 million subscribers — with cable companies having over 44.3 million broadband subscribers, and telephone companies having over 34.3 million subscribers.

Stalled growth

Despite AT&T’s position as the second largest Internet Service Provider in the country, the company only picked up 117,000 new customers in 2011.  In contrast, Time Warner Cable, with 6 million fewer customers, added almost a half-million new broadband subscriptions last year.

Frontier Communications, which made broadband a primary target for expansion, has not seen considerable growth either.  The company only added just short of 38,000 new broadband customers last year, almost all getting DSL, often at speeds of 1-3Mbps.

Other key findings include:

  • The top cable companies netted 75% of the broadband additions in 2011;
  • The top cable companies added 2.3 million broadband subscribers in 2011 — 98% of the total net additions for the top cable companies in 2010;
  • The top telephone providers added 750,000 broadband subs in 2011 — 68% of the total net additions for the top telephone companies in 2010;
  • In the fourth quarter of 2011, cable and telephone providers added 765,000 broadband subscribers — with cable companies accounting for 82% of the broadband additions in the quarter.

Now serving 10.3 million

“Despite a high level of broadband penetration in the US, the top broadband providers added 88% as many subscribers in 2011 as in 2010,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc. “At the end of 2011, the top broadband providers in the US cumulatively had over 78.6 million subscribers, an increase of nearly 25 million over the past five years.”

Americans are increasingly treating broadband as an essential “utility” service, as fundamental as electricity or clean water.

The majority of consumers who lack the service either consider it irrelevant in their lives (a factor that increases with the age of the surveyed respondent), cannot obtain service from their provider because of their location, or cannot afford the service.

Broadband Internet Provider Subscribers at End of 4Q 2011 Net Adds in 2011
Cable Companies
Comcast 18,147,000 1,159,000
Time Warner^ 10,344,000 491,000
Cox* 4,500,000 130,000
Charter 3,654,600 252,900
Cablevision 2,965,000 73,000
Suddenlink 951,400 65,100
Mediacom 851,000 13,000
Insight^ 550,000 25,500
Cable ONE 451,082 25,680
Other Major Private Cable Companies** 1,925,000 55,000
Total Top Cable 44,339,082 2,290,180
Telephone Companies
AT&T 16,427,000 117,000
Verizon 8,670,000 278,000
CenturyLink 5,554,000 238,000
Frontier^^ 1,735,000 37,833
Windstream 1,355,300 53,600
FairPoint 314,135 24,390
Cincinnati Bell 257,300 1,200
Total Top Telephone Companies 34,312,735 750,023
Total Broadband 78,651,817 3,040,203

Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group, Inc.
* LRG estimate
** Includes LRG estimates for Bright House Networks, and RCN
^ Totals prior to Time Warner Cable’s acquisition of Insight completed on 2/29/2012
^^ LRG estimate does not include wireless subscribers
Company subscriber counts may not represent solely residential households
Totals reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions
Top cable and telephone companies represent approximately 93% of all subscribers

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