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Charter to N.Y.: Life After Time Warner Cable is Great for You

Charter Communications this afternoon submitted its annual update to the New York Public Service Commission, a condition of its approved merger with Time Warner Cable.

The cable company argues the merger has already delivered substantial pro-consumer benefits, including faster internet speeds, a low-income broadband program, no loss of New York jobs, and more upgrades to come.

Some highlights for customers in New York State:

All-Digital Conversion

  • The handful of Charter legacy cable systems in New York have already been converted to all-digital service.
  • Former Time Warner Cable systems in New York City, Syracuse, and the Hudson Valley are now all-digital.
  • Albany will be converted to all-digital service in late 2017.
  • Rochester and Buffalo will be converted to all-digital service in early 2018.

Broadband Speed Upgrades

  • As of March 14, 2017 all Charter customers in New York can subscribe to at least 100Mbps service. ($105/mo, $199 setup fee)
  • Charter has been actively rebuilding its Chatham system in Columbia and Rensselaer counties to provide broadband service. Project completion dates: In Rensselaer County, Berlin and Petersburgh expected to be done by the end of the third quarter 2017. In Columbia County, construction is scheduled to begin in May 2017, with a target completion date set for the end of first quarter 2018.

Cable Expansion

Since the last build-out update was filed on February 17, 2017, Charter has completed build-out to an additional 5,039 passings and has now completed build-out to a total of 15,164 passings across 56 counties and approximately 1,018 municipalities. Major areas of completed passings include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Albany County for approximately 1,330 passings, including the Village of Menands, Towns of Colonie, Cohoes, Bethlehem, Voorheesville, Selkirk, and New Scotland, and the City of Albany.
  • Broome County for approximately 151 passings, including areas such as the Barker, Binghamton, Conklin, Endicott, Lisle, Marathon, Vestal, and Whitney Point.
  • Cortland County for approximately 154 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Cincinnatus, Cortland, Cortlandville, Homer, Virgil, and Truxton.
  • Erie County for approximately 2,029 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Amherst, Boston, Clarence, Colden, East Concord, Depew, Grand Island, Holland, Orchard Park, Derby, Lancaster, Eden, Springville, Williamsville, West Seneca, and the City of Buffalo.
  • Genesee County for approximately 157 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Batavia, Elba, and Alexander.
  • Kings County for approximately 390 passings in Brooklyn.
  • Livingston County for approximately 196 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Honeoye Falls and Dansville.
  • Monroe County for approximately 1,797 passings, including areas such as the City of Rochester, Town of Perinton, Greece, Penfield, North Chili, Webster, Pittsford, Ontario, Spencerport, and Gates.
  • New York County for approximately 575 passings in the City of New York.
  • Niagara County for approximately 297 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Cambria, Lockport, Lewiston, Niagara Falls, Newfane, North Tonawanda, Sanborn, Pendleton, Youngstown, and Wilson.
  • Oneida County for approximately 221 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Utica, Rome, Clinton, Camden, Cassville, and Marcy.
  • Onondaga County for approximately 787 passings, including areas such as the City of Syracuse, Village of Camillus, and Towns of Cicero, Baldwinsville, Liverpool, Chittenago, Clay, Homer, Manlius, and Marcellus.
  • Ontario County for approximately 442 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Clifton Springs, Canandaigua, Phelps, and Victor.
  • Orange County for approximately 429 passings, including areas such as the Towns of New Windsor, Middletown, Salisbury Mills, Montgomery, Goshen and Woodbourne.
  • Oswego County for approximately 146 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Pulaski, Fulton, Parish, Albion, Altmar, Camden, and Central Square.
  • Rensselaer County for approximately 376 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Castleton on Hudson, Cropseyville, Brunswick, Hoosick Falls, Nassau, Johnsonville, Sand Lake, East Greenbush, and Wyantskill, the City of Rensselaer, and the City of Troy.
  • Saratoga County for approximately 1,854 passings, including the Towns of Milton, Stillwater, Clifton Park, Ballston Lake, Ballston Spa, Halfmoon, Round Lake, Mechanicville, Malta, Waterford, and Wilton, and the City of Saratoga Springs.
  • Schenectady County for approximately 218 passings, including areas such as the Village of Delanson, Towns of Esperance, Niskayuna, Duanesburg, Glenville, and Rotterdam, and Burnt Hills, and the City of Schenectady.
  • Schoharie County for approximately 106 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Middleburgh, Cobleskill, Jefferson, and Schoharie.
  • St. Lawrence County for approximately 171 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Canton, Massena, Potsdam, and Gouverneur.
  • Sullivan County for approximately 639 passings, including the Towns of Fallsburg, Liberty, Monticello, Victor, Thompson, Loch Sheldrake, Swan Lake, Bethel, and White Lake, and the Villages of Woodridge and Wurtsboro.
  • Tompkins County for approximately 303 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Ithaca, Slaterville Springs, Groton, and Newfield, and the City of Ithaca.
  • Ulster County for approximately 537 passings, including the Towns of Accord, Hurly, Rochester, Ulster, Kerhonkson, New Paltz, Greenfield Park, Woodstock, and Saugerties, and the City of Kingston.
  • Warren County for approximately 107 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Lake George, Warrensburg, Queensbury, and Glens Falls.
  • Wayne County for approximately 192 passings, including the Towns of Palmyra, Ontario, Macedon, Walworth, Newark, Sodus, and Williamson.

Ed. Note: Nothing precludes Charter from including new housing developments and similar projects in these numbers where it would have provided service regardless of the Order from the PSC.

The Availability of Time Warner Cable’s Unrestricted $14.99 Everyday Low Price Internet Tier

Charter has continued to offer new subscribers in TWC’s New York territory the TWC standalone Everyday Low Price $14.99 broadband service, at speeds no less than those being offered at the time of the merger order, and will continue to offer this to new subscribers for up to two years after close (until May 17, 2018). Any customer is qualified to subscribe to this service, which provides around 2Mbps of internet speed.

Ed. Note: This service is not advertised or mentioned in any way on Charter/TWC’s marketing website and many Stop the Cap! readers in New York have told us Charter sales representatives have repeatedly told them the service is not available, so this claim is in dispute.

Existing customers with the Everyday Low Price tier at the time of closing will be allowed to retain this product for a minimum of three years, which the Commission has set to “run concurrently with the two-year period in which Charter must continue to offer the service to new customers.” New subscribers will be able to retain the product until at least May 17, 2019.

$14.99 Low Income Broadband Service “Spectrum Internet Assist”

First available in the Plattsburgh area in November, 2016, Spectrum Internet Assist has now expanded to former Time Warner Cable territories in New York.

For $14.99 a month, qualified customers get 30/4Mbps broadband service. Wi-Fi service is available for an extra $5 a month. Customers must qualify for at least one of these low-income benefit programs:

  • The National School Lunch Program (NSLP); free or reduced cost lunch
  • The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) of the NSLP
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) ( ≥ age 65 only)

A former Time Warner Cable call center.

Charter Tells N.Y. Regulators It Will Prioritize Upgrades for Central N.Y. Region This Year

Just days before the finalizing of the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications, customers in Central New York were a week away from the completion of Time Warner Cable’s Maxx upgrade program targeting Syracuse and other communities in the region. But once Charter took over, all upgrades were put on hold, leaving some customers with Maxx speeds of 300Mbps while others languished with top speeds of 50Mbps.

Good news for those customers, at least. In a communication with the New York State Public Service Commission, Charter told regulators it intends to focus its efforts on completing those upgrades over the course of 2017. In fact, it will likely be the only region of New York targeted for speed upgrades of up to 300Mbps this year. For other upstate cities including Buffalo, Rochester, and Binghamton, Charter has upgraded its top speed to 100Mbps for those willing to pay approximately $105 a month and a one-time upgrade fee of $199.

Sometime this year, those New York communities still not able to buy 300Mbps will commence a full transition to all digital and encrypted cable television service, a prerequisite for the faster broadband speeds. Charter has a deadline of 2019 to introduce up to 300Mbps service across all areas it services in New York State. The company seems to hint it will achieve that well before the deadline, which likely means sometime in 2018.

In February, the cable company also reported it had completed building out new service to an additional 2,860 homes across 49 counties and approximately 250 municipalities. But the company is committed to expanding service to approximately 145,000 New York households, which means it has a long way to go. This week, Charter formally applied for an extension of the deadline, blaming utility pole owners for taking too long to “make-ready” utility poles for cable service and admitting it will fall short of regulator expectations.

The areas where Charter has most recently managed to complete expanded service areas include:

  • Albany County for approximately 281 passings, including the Village of Menands, Towns of Colonie, Bethlehem, and New Scotland, and the City of Albany.
  • Erie County for approximately 336 passings, including areas such as the Towns of Amherst, Boston, Orchard Park, Derby, and the City of Buffalo.
  • Kings County for approximately 285 passings in Brooklyn.
  • New York County for approximately 553 passings in the City of New York.
  • Saratoga County for approximately 373 passings, including the Towns of Milton, Northumberland, Stillwater, Clifton Park, Ballston Lake, Halfmoon, and Wilton, and the City of Saratoga Springs.
  • Sullivan County for approximately 84 passings, including the Towns of Fallsburg, Liberty, Victor, Thompson, and the Village of Woodridge.
  • Ulster County for approximately 143 passings, including the Towns of Rochester, Ulster, and Saugerties, and the City of Kingston.
  • Wayne County for approximately 78 passings, including the Towns of Macedon, Walworth, Newark, and Williamson.

Former Time Warner Cable Customers in Non-Maxx Areas Get Minor Speed Upgrades

An email from Charter/Spectrum announcing minor speed upgrades. (Image courtesy: pspfreak)

Former Time Warner Cable customers that never received Maxx upgrades are now getting a minor consolation prize from Charter Communications: a minor broadband speed boost at no additional charge.

Customers eventually receive an email message from Charter/Spectrum advising them of the upgrade. For Standard Internet customers, the email reads:

Dear Valued Customer,

We just made your fast Internet speeds even faster. And the best part is, you don’t have to do a thing.

We know that today there is more to see, learn, play, share and do online than ever before. That means more streaming video, more music and movie downloads, more photo sharing and more gaming. You have more devices in your home than ever before, from laptops to game consoles, e-readers to smartphones, which means you need more speed so everyone can do what they need to, and all at the same time if they want to. That’s why we have increased your Internet speeds from 15Mbps to 20Mbps.

This speed increase for our customers is just our way of saying thanks. Enjoy your faster speeds!

Customers in western New York were upgraded over the past weekend, while some others have quietly been getting upgrades over the last two weeks. At press time, we have confirmed two tiers have been upgraded, but others may have as well. Customers need to disconnect the power cable from their modem for 10 seconds and plug it back in to get the new speeds:

  • Time Warner Cable Standard Internet: Was 15Mbps, now 20Mbps. (Speeds are overprovisioned and may report somewhat faster during speed tests).
  • Time Warner Cable Ultimate Internet: Was 50Mbps, now 60Mbps. (Speeds are overprovisioned and generally report 70/6Mbps during speed tests).

Stop the Cap! reader Howard in Albany, N.Y. reported his area was upgraded over the weekend, and we can confirm customers in the Rochester/Finger Lakes region in western New York are now also getting the higher speeds.

Legacy Time Warner Cable customers can report their experiences in the comment section. We’d be particularly interested in knowing if these upgrades also happened for Turbo and Extreme customers.

California Legislature Wants to Give $300 Million of Your Money Away to AT&T, Frontier, and Big Cable

Delivering 21st century broadband speeds to rural Californians just doesn’t interest incumbent phone companies like AT&T and Frontier Communications, so the California legislature has been hard at work trying to entice upgrades on the taxpayer’s dime while reassuring ISPs they won’t have to break a sweat doing it.

Steve Blum from Telus Venture Associates reports the California Advanced Services Fund (CASF), California’s equivalent of the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) – is about to get a makeover sure to delight the two phone companies while throwing some cash at cable operators like Comcast, Cox and Charter to keep them happy as well.

The changes are encompassed in Assembly Bill 1665, sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D–Riverside County), who counts AT&T as his sixth biggest contributor. The phone company has cut checks to the former mayor of Coachella not less than a dozen times amounting to $16,700. Garcia has also received special attention from AT&T’s lobbyists, who invited him to appear side-by-side with AT&T officials at press-friendly events where the phone company donated $10,000 to an abused women’s shelter and $25,000 to the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Imperial County.

Blum reports that the bill has been largely a placeholder until now as negotiations and dealmaking happened behind the scenes. The result is a corporate welfare bonanza that will raise $330 million for the CASF by reinstating a telephone tax on consumers and businesses than ended last year. Of that, $300 million will end up in the pockets of phone and cable companies, $10 million will go to regional broadband efforts, and the remaining $20 million will be designated for schools, libraries, and non-profit groups to promote broadband use, but only where providers already offer service or will shortly. In effect, that $20 million will turn public institutions into sales agents for ISPs.

The corporate giveaway bill will also sell Californian consumers down the river:

  • The bill effectively replaces the FCC’s minimum definition of broadband (25/3Mbps) with California’s own minimum: 6/1Mbps — conveniently about the same speed telephone company DSL provides. As Blum writes, the language “makes 1990s legacy DSL technology the new 21st century standard.”
  • AT&T and Frontier Communications get monopoly protection with exclusive CASF rights in areas where they currently receive federal CAF funding. This means both companies will get to double-dip federal and state money to expand inferior DSL or fixed wireless service and never have to worry about taxpayer funding going to their competitors or communities that might choose to build their own superior broadband networks. It virtually guarantees rural California will be stuck with sub-standard internet access indefinitely, and at the taxpayer’s expense.
  • CASF funding has always been exclusively for infrastructure construction — building out the last mile to deliver internet access to consumers and businesses. But the new bill now allows the money to also be spent on “operating costs,” a rat hole where millions can quickly disappear with little improvement in broadband expansion or service.
  • The new bill suggests that provider contributions — where providers agree to kick in a percentage (usually 30-40%) of their own money on expansion projects in return for getting taxpayer subsidies, is just too hard on struggling phone companies like AT&T and Frontier. Under the new proposal, this requirement should be eliminated.
  • Individual homeowners would be able to apply for grants to get broadband connections, a direct nod to the state’s cable companies that routinely ask would-be customers just out of reach of the nearest cable line to pay tens of thousands of dollars to build a line extension. If approved, cable companies could set the installation price as high as the sky and get taxpayers to foot the bill, enriching themselves while avoiding any regulatory scrutiny.

Cable companies also get another wish granted — keeping subsidized broadband out the hands of many poor Californians that need connections for education, job-seeking, and training. The bill proposes to ban funding for broadband facilities in public housing. Cable companies have been irritated spending capital on broadband expansion to public housing only to find many of its customers would likely to qualify for their “internet for the poor” programs that cost as little as $10 a month.

Blum reports the language isn’t final and is likely to be amended as negotiations continue. A hearing of the Communications and Conveyance Committee at the State Capitol, Room 437 is scheduled for 1:30pm PDT today on the bill. You can listen to the hearing when in session here.

Nationwide Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Charter Claiming False Advertising, Deficient Equipment

Phillip Dampier April 3, 2017 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 4 Comments

Charter Communications is facing a second lawsuit related to false advertising about its ability to provide fast internet service and allegations the company knowingly supplied customers with deficient equipment.

Hart et al. v. Charter Communications Inc., is seeking certification as a nationwide class action from a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The suit claims that Charter’s subsidiary Time Warner Cable purposely leased out modems and wireless routers it knew were incapable of achieving Time Warner Cable Maxx broadband speeds, consistently oversold its broadband network — resulting in slower internet speeds and performance than the company advertised, and raised customers’ bills without adequate notice.

The California lawsuit closely mirrors one filed in February by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, and focuses on similar claims that Charter is engaged in “false representations and other wrongful business practices.”

The complaint claims:

  • The company willfully and intentionally advertised internet service it could not provide, claiming customers would receive internet service that was “fast” with “no buffering,” “no slowdowns,” “no lag,” “without interruptions,” “without downtime,” and “without the wait.”
  • Charter leased older generation modems and wireless routers to many of their customers that were incapable of supporting the promised internet speeds. Older technology modems could not provide the full benefit of Time Warner Cable Maxx speeds of 100-300Mbps, and company-provided network gateways delivered Wi-Fi service at speeds considerably lower than advertised.
  • Charter regularly failed to manage their network in a manner that would give customers consistent broadband speeds. Instead, “Defendants included too many subscribers in the same service group and provided too few channels for such subscriber, thus causing an internet ‘traffic jam’ (particularly during peak hours) that slowed every subscriber’s connection to speeds substantially below what was promised and paid-for. Indeed, even when consumers resorted to using wired connections, their Internet speeds still fell short of the promised speeds.”
  • Defendants also have adopted an unlawful and unfair practice of adding new fees or other charges to consumers’ bills without adequate notice and outside of the terms promised upon sign-up. In 2016, one customer signed up for a promotional “Spectrum Internet with Wi-Fi” plan with a fixed rate of $64.99 and a $10.00 “Promotional Discount,” making her plan cost a total of $54.99 per month. This amount was reflected in her February 2017 bill. However, on her March 2017 bill, the customer was automatically charged $59.99, a $5.00 increase of which she was not given adequate notice and which was improperly charged to her credit card automatically.

The lawyers bringing the case propose to include as class members anyone who purchased internet service from Time Warner Cable/Charter Communications nationwide, those who believed the company’s advertising that claimed speeds were fast and reliable, and customers enrolled in auto-pay who were not properly informed of changes in price or the terms of service. If certified, the potential size of the class action case could involve millions of customers.

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  • Required: It's hard to believe people who just need entry level internet access are willing to pay $65/mo for that, alone. No wonder so many customers are fleei...
  • FredH: I keep hearing that (about trying to eliminate the 7 year no-data-cap requirement) and wonder how it's even possible. I hope the NYS AG will get invo...
  • John: It might be a problem with a person with disablities tries to pay and they charge them....
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  • Mike D.: And for those who are planning to "cut the cord" after a promotion expires, be aware that Charter is lobbying the new administration and FCC chairman ...
  • Dylan: Huh, that's interesting regarding that Spectrum only saves 3/10 of its customers. Maybe there is something going on. And regarding my own promotion -...
  • Phillip Dampier: You were not on a promotion before which is why you got one this time. One year from now when your bill spikes and you call and complain, they will te...
  • Dylan: It's not that hard to get new customer pricing from Spectrum. I used to be a TWC customer paying $65/mo for 50 Mbps down internet. Once Spectrum came...
  • NM: Phillip, You may be interested in today's online story in Syracuse.com about what Spectrum's customers in CNY think about the merged company: http://...
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  • Julia: Even in life after TWC, if customer complaints remain the same or if a customer service rep claimed to have fixed a problem, but really didn't, you ca...
  • DPNY: As soon as Spectrum took over, my bill went up (a couple of dollars, but still)! I pay almost $250 a month as it is now for the package! I can think...

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