Home » Broadband Speed » Recent Articles:

Strong Evidence CenturyLink Giving Up on Most Residential Broadband Upgrades

CenturyLink is ready to capitulate in its competitive war with the cable industry, conceding its residential broadband business is a money loser that will no longer get broad-based upgrades and investment under the management of incoming CEO Jeff Storey, who will refocus CenturyLink on its larger business/enterprise customers.

The independent phone company has sent strong signals it is going to focus only on residential customers that are cheapest and easiest to reach, promising to fund broadband urban and suburban upgrades only where costs are low and the chances of a significant return is high. In rural areas, CenturyLink will depend heavily on capital made available by the FCC’s Connect America Fund when choosing areas worthy of upgrades.

“We’ll focus more on return on investment, which includes rural capital from the CAF II program,” said Sunit Patel, CFO of CenturyLink.

Patel, along with CenturyLink’s incoming CEO, originally worked for Level 3 Communications, a business and enterprise internet company acquired by CenturyLink in 2016. Now top Level 3 executives, at the behest of Wall Street and shareholders, are gradually taking over the top management positions of CenturyLink, pushing out current CEO Glen Post III with an early retirement this spring. With Post leaving, there is clear evidence CenturyLink is embarking on a transformation away from low return residential phone and broadband service and towards the kind of high profit business and enterprise connectivity Level 3 has provided for years.

Wall Street increasingly sees CenturyLink’s residential business as costing the company a lot of money for network upgrades that simply don’t deliver shareholder expectations of return on that investment, especially as the cable industry continues to aggressively deploy faster speed service to its customers.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, CenturyLink lost another 105,000 broadband subscribers, bringing internet subscriber numbers down to around 5.7 million nationwide. That represents a 4.8% reduction year over year, despite repeated promises of upgrades to stem those customer losses.

Last November, Post blamed those losses on customers served by CenturyLink’s legacy copper/DSL service areas where speeds and performance are lowest.

Soon to be CenturyLink Ex-CEO and President Glen F. Post

“We saw a much higher than expected loss of customers at the 20 Mbps and below speeds in a lot of the markets where we have that,” Post said during a late fall earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha earnings transcript. “We had a much higher loss there. I think a couple of reasons, first of all, you see cable rolling out more with more aggressive offers, higher speeds and just the demand for bandwidth in those markets.”

Last fall, Post emphasized his broad-based residential and commercial broadband upgrade transformation plan to stop those losses. Post committed CenturyLink would provide 90% of homes with at least 40 Mbps, 70% of homes and businesses with 100 Mbps and over 20% with 1 Gbps or higher no later than 2020.

That was before activist shareholders and Wall Street joined forces to successfully push CenturyLink’s board to replace Post with business-oriented Level 3 CEO Jeff Storey. CenturyLink stock had been down by about one-third of its value over the last nine months, which only aggravated investors to push harder for dramatic management changes at the phone company. Activists argued CenturyLink shouldn’t be devoting much attention to its legacy businesses. In their eyes, only “strategic/success” businesses are worthy of investment, and those include commercial and enterprise broadband, metro ethernet, and cloud/backup services. The revenue eating “legacy” businesses, namely residential landline and DSL service, represent a drain on profits and threaten the company’s shareholder dividend. About two-thirds of CenturyLink customers are commercial enterprises.

(Blue) CenturyLink (Orange) Level 3

On March 6, 2018 the company announced Post’s retirement effective the day of its annual shareholder meeting in May. Post had originally planned to leave at the end of 2018, but some shareholders were unwilling to wait that long.

Strategic changes in CenturyLink’s future were previewed at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom conference earlier this month, where Patel outlined the company’s new vision.

“On the consumer side, the focus will be on enabling higher broadband speeds,” Patel said, but added a caution. “We won’t be spending capital on 5-20 Mbps connections, but rather on 100 Mbps and higher speeds. In urban areas we want to make sure we’re spending the capital where the returns make sense so focusing on multi-dwelling units make more sense in urban areas.”

Since the company is now going to target upgrades only in areas that “make more sense,” Post’s goal of better broadband for all by 2020 seem doomed

Another key piece of evidence is the retirement of CenturyLink executive Duane Ring, who announced he is leaving after 34 years despite a recent promotion. Ring, who led CenturyLink’s 12-state midwest region, was also behind much of CenturyLink’s residential broadband enhancement effort, including the 2005 launch of Prism TV — CenturyLink’s cable-TV alternative, as well as deploying gigabit speed services in several midwestern states. In 2016, he oversaw the deployment of 500 Mbps service for multi-dwelling units in 44 Platteville, Wisc. buildings that included nearly 800 apartments.

Broadband industry analyst Dave Burstein already sees the writing on the wall.

“Their fiber and G.fast plans, modest already, have been cut,” he noted. “They simply aren’t competitive with cable, which by 2020 will have a gigabit to 90% [of customers]. I look at the network and say if they don’t cut the dividend, trouble is near. Depreciation was $3 billion more than capex the last three years. Dividends were higher than income.”

As cable broadband speeds increase and customers defect from CenturyLink, few may choose to come back, making investments in broadband upgrades even more questionable.

“The rumor is they will virtually abandon much of the wireline network,” Burstein noted. “They will temporarily draw cash out to upgrade where they have better prospects,” referring to areas Patel identified as worthy targets for upgrades.

Mediacom Increasing Business Broadband Speeds

Phillip Dampier March 22, 2018 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Mediacom No Comments

Mediacom Business reports the company will be increasing broadband speeds for its commercial customers around the country beginning April 1st without a change in rates.

The new speed tiers are:

  • 10 Mbps ($69.95) customers will be upgraded to 60 Mbps
  • 20 Mbps ($129.95customers will be upgraded to 100 Mbps
  • 50 Mbps ($199.95customers will be upgraded to 300 Mbps

Mediacom undertook a three-year network upgrade project starting in 2016, spending $1 billion to increase its fiber backhaul network and boost internet speeds and network capacity for its residential and commercial customers in 22 states where Mediacom operates. Mediacom offers gigabit speed across its footprint and claims it was the first major cable company in the country to offer universal access to gigabit speed. Commercial customers pay $349.95 a month for gigabit service.

Mediacom is also perennially rated the worst cable company in the country by its subscribers, according to Consumer Reports. Many of the complaints regard Mediacom’s internet service not meeting advertised speeds and suffering from overselling — placing too many customers on a shared connection which can drastically lower speeds during peak usage times. It isn’t known how much Mediacom’s upgrades have corrected these problems. Mediacom’s primary service areas are small and mid-sized towns and cities.

 

Comcast Boosting Broadband Speeds in the Northeast

Comcast is raising internet speeds of several of its XFINITY internet service plans in the northeastern United States as it continues to battle Verizon’s fiber to the home network FiOS.

“With new devices coming online for consumers every day, we’re committed to offering the fastest speeds and the best features and overall experience so our customers can take advantage of the technology available,” said Kevin Casey, president of Comcast’s Northeast Division. “We’ve increased speeds 17 times in the last 17 years, and continue to invest to deliver a fast, innovative and reliable experience in and out of the home.”

  • Blast download speeds increase from 200 Mbps to 250 Mbps
  • Performance Pro download speeds increase from 100 Mbps to 150 Mbps
  • Performance download speeds increase from 25 Mbps to 60 Mbps
  • Starter download speeds increase from 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps

Most customers can expect to see an average increase of 35-50 Mbps of enhanced download speed starting sometime this month. There is no news if upload speeds are affected. It may be necessary to briefly unplug your cable modem to reset to the new speeds.

The changes will affect customers from Maine to Virginia. Comcast has already increased broadband speeds in parts of the midwest and west coast. The cable company says 80% of its internet customers now subscribe to broadband speeds of 150 Mbps or more.

 

Altice USA: 90% of Our New Customers Want Broadband Speeds 100+ Mbps

Cablevision customers get very attractive promotions in the highly competitive northeastern United States, while Suddenlink customers in more rural areas pay more.

The majority of Cablevision and Suddenlink broadband customers want speeds of 100 Mbps or greater from the Altice-owned cable operators, and average monthly data usage by those customers is now reaching 200 GB per month.

Those statistics were part of a quarterly financial results presentation by Altice USA executives about how the company is doing in the United States.

Altice’s cable holdings include Cablevision, serving a generally affluent customer base in and around the New York City area where Verizon FiOS is its biggest competitor, and Suddenlink, which serves in less competitive markets where local economies are often challenged and phone company DSL still has a significant presence.

Regardless of whether customers receive broadband from Cablevision or Suddenlink, Altice USA CEO Dexter Goei made it clear consumers want faster internet service and are consuming exponentially more data than ever before.

Goei said Altice will continue to increase internet speeds over its existing hybrid fiber-coax network (HFC) even as it builds out its fiber to the home replacement network in some areas. At least 95% of Cablevision customers can now subscribe to 400 Mbps broadband on the company’s legacy HFC network. Around 72% of Suddenlink customers can get similar speeds today. Gigabit speed is available to 29% of Altice USA customers.

Goei said 90% of new Cablevision and Suddenlink customers now choose internet plans featuring 100 Mbps or faster broadband. The average data use of those customers “is now reaching about 200 GB” per month, Goei reported. For customers on HFC systems, Goei said the maximum speed Altice’s implementation of DOCSIS 3 can support is around 600 Mbps, depending on how many customers are sharing the connection. As customers transition to fiber service in the northeast, faster speeds are planned. In fact, Goei wants Cablevision to offer speeds even faster than Verizon FiOS, its chief competitor.

“In terms of the speed capabilities, we’ll have the ability to do higher speeds than the competition,” Goei said.

Altice USA’s fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) deployment is “well underway” in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, with plans to connect several hundred thousand customers to the new network starting later this year. Goei told investors Altice was accelerating the rollout this year with the hope of further reducing network and customer operation costs related to servicing the older coaxial network.

Cablevision and Suddenlink will gradually be rebranded as Altice, and the company has begun familiarizing customers with the new brand name in various ways, including the rollout of its new deluxe set-top box, called Altice One.

“This is our new entertainment platform with an all in one box, including TV, internet, Wi-Fi, integrated apps such as Netflix and a voice activated remote control,” said Goei. “The service includes an improved Wi-Fi experience […] as many TV boxes double up as Wi-Fi repeaters around the home. This is a key part of our strategy of enhancing the customer experience and we’ll have the capacity for ongoing upgrades and the addition of new apps as they become available.”

But that new platform comes at a cost. Currently, Cablevision customers can pay as much as $10 for each set-top box and $5 for a cable modem. Altice One is regularly priced at $25 a month — $10 more for a customer that has one television set-top box and cable modem. That makes Altice’s box among the most costly in the cable industry. The company is trying to hide the cost of its box by bundling it into promotions targeting price sensitive new customers.

In fact, the cost of service is increasingly becoming a factor, especially for Suddenlink customers. Over the last two years, Altice has been “harmonizing” Suddenlink’s rate plans, which used to be set based on the technical capabilities and performance of each cable system. Goei said Suddenlink comprised “five or six different customer bases” — each served by cable systems with different capabilities and rate plans. In the last two years, Suddenlink customers have been introduced to new rate plans, and some are paying considerably higher rates than before, especially for equipment and surcharges.

“All of that activity was probably more than we ever wanted to or anticipated as harmonizing all the different variables is not that easy,” Goei said. “And so we made a very concerted effort to not implement a usual or industry like price increase at the end of 2017, given all the various changes that happened over both customer bases as we harmonized them.” But Goei added the reprieve from rate hikes won’t last forever, promising a “rate event” strategy sometime this year, different from rate changes in past years.

Altice is emphasizing the progress it is making boosting internet speeds at its Cablevision and Suddenlink cable systems.

What Suddenlink and Cablevision charge for service is very dependent on what the competition is offering in Altice’s various markets. Goei paradoxically noted that some of the most attractive rates go to customers living in the most affluent areas of the New York Tri-State Area because of intense competition from Verizon FiOS. Prices have remained so low historically that, in Goei’s view, “it makes it very difficult for third parties to come into these markets” and compete with attractive offers that can match Cablevision. That also explains why Cablevision customers do not deal with data caps while Suddenlink customers often do.

Goei

Conversely, in Suddenlink service areas where less capable competitors exist, prices can be higher and service is considered less affordable. As a result, financial analysts have noted Suddenlink’s broadband growth has been anemic since Altice bought the company, presumably because would-be customers cannot afford the service or have chosen a more economic package sold by the phone company, even if it less capable.

Goei promised Altice would be more “nimble” in the future about targeting pricing in different service areas, taking current conditions on the ground into account when setting rates.

In more general terms, Altice is dealing with the same challenges most cable operators are facing these days. Cord-cutting continues to result in reduced numbers of video subscribers. The company also recently endured a multi-week programming dispute with Starz that cost the company video subscribers in the Cablevision service area. The dispute eventually ended with a new multi-year affiliation agreement that allows Altice systems to carry Starz and Starz Encore networks, on-demand services, and online access for several years.

But Altice clearly sees broadband as its key product going forward, which is why the company is upgrading its Cablevision and Suddenlink systems to support faster internet speeds.

Charter/Spectrum: We’ll Offer Gigabit Speed Nationwide by the End of 2018

Spectrum markets where gigabit speed is already available.

Charter Communications is accelerating the deployment of the next generation cable broadband standard DOCSIS 3.1 so that it can offer almost every customer gigabit download speed by the end of this year.

“We plan to be 1 Gbps everywhere and marketing 1 Gbps everywhere this year, which is [also includes] taking up a significant portion of our business to minimum speeds of 200 Mbps at the same price we were charging for 60 Mbps a year ago,” said Thomas Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, on a Feb. 2 investor conference call. “And we plan to do that as quickly as we can, but because of the all-digital rollout and some of the other operational issues we have, we haven’t fully planned out [200 Mbps speed for] the whole country yet.”

Charter’s biggest challenge is expected to be swapping legacy modems inadequate for the task of delivering 200 Mbps and higher speeds to residential customers. Many Charter customers are still using modems originally provided by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, generally considered adequate for supporting top speeds only between 50-100 Mbps. But Charter is planning to offer faster internet speeds to position itself as a viable broadband competitor in markets where fiber competitors have poached subscribers and the future threat of 5G speeds up to 1 Gbps are on the horizon. That could require a substantial modem exchange program, especially in cities that were never upgraded to Time Warner Cable Maxx before Charter acquired Time Warner Cable.

Charter’s migration for Time Warner Cable/Bright House customers continues, while Charter Legacy markets stall

In 2017, Charter intentionally focused most of its time and money integrating its acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customers into Charter’s billing, provisioning, service, and retention systems. This came, Rutledge admitted, at the expense of long-time Charter customers who saw new product launches and upgrades delayed because of the ongoing integration effort.

It will take until 2019 to fully integrate all of Charter’s customers onto a single platform that will no longer distinguish if a customer was a long-standing Charter customer or a former TWC or BH subscriber.

Customers willing to abandon their legacy Time Warner Cable or Bright House plans in favor of a Spectrum plan are also dragging their feet. As of the end of 2017, 51% of TWC and Bright House customers were still sticking with their original plan, refusing to switch to Spectrum pricing and packaging. As customers face Spectrum’s new plans, some are canceling service. Time Warner Cable residential video customers dropped by 2.5% over 2017. Charter Legacy customers dropped by 1%, while legacy Bright House customers declined by 0.5%.

Legacy Charter areas saw subscribers running out of patience. The company lost 10,000 video customers in the last quarter versus a gain of 20,000 customers a year ago. Company officials blame the complications associated with absorbing millions of acquired customers for the results.

“In 2016 and 2017, we delayed a number of new product launches through the integration, particularly at legacy Charter within our fundamental structured operating model and business rules now in place, we will more aggressively launch new products nationwide,” said Rutledge.

Charter is also spending a considerable amount of its financial resources buying back its stock. During the fourth quarter, Charter accelerated its buyback program repurchasing 13.5 million shares in Charter Holdings stock totaling $4.7 billion at an average price of $347 per share. For all of 2017, Charter bought back $13.2 billion worth of its own stock.

Digital television conversions drag on…

Charter did not restart its digital television conversion program until June of 2017, and 30% of Time Warner Cable and 50% of Bright House Networks customers are still watching analog cable television as a result. Company officials promise digital conversion will be completed nationwide by the end of this year, the first step the company will take to make dramatic broadband speed increases possible.

“Our video products in those markets will improve,” Rutledge said. “Internet speeds will increase further and all-digital will drive more efficient operations in the field including electronic disconnects, self-installation and a reduction of unauthorized connections.”

Among the most significant improvements is the introduction of the Worldbox set-top box, which will be available nationwide by the end of 2018, but generally only to new video customers. The new box runs faster and is less expensive than the traditional set-top box, and better integrates on-demand and streaming video services.

Worldbox will also highlight Spectrum’s new Spectrum Guide, an improved on-screen program guide and content portal. The new guide will also include support for third-party streaming services like Netflix.

Charter has also begun to deploy an improved Wi-Fi router known as Wave 2, which claims to offer faster speeds and better signals throughout a customer’s home. Availability is reportedly spotty, but improving.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • LG: I've been trying and in several cases getting friends and family to dump those bundle services and cut that cord. The only real problem is that these...
  • jelabarre: Ironically enough, I'm finding I'm even watching Netflix less than even when we dropped CableTV some 18 months ago. These days it's all Crunchyroll (...
  • LG: I left Massachusetts 4 years ago for Florida. Hearing about corruption in my home state is nothing new. Recently, a letter showed up at a family memb...
  • L. Nova: Charter bribed this guy Larkin....
  • Keith: I concur...First, the programs available are junk and riddled with ads. Most subscribers might find 1-3 channels that they would watch but for most, G...
  • BobInIllinois: Did you ever consider that your ideas are great, but some companies just don't have the people, the skills, and $$ to make it all happen?...
  • L. Nova: I work for an I.T. hardware server and desktop company and even I could run Frontier better than these boneheads. What is Dan McCarthy doing? Fire AL...
  • LG: Poor, poor them. I guess they need to pay 45c instead of 36c....
  • Phillip Dampier: You are considered a current Time Warner Cable/Spectrum customer so new customer promotional rates like the one you quoted are not available to you......
  • BobInIllinois: Prediction---Many will be angry at this, because they will think that ESPN+ is to be a streaming of ESPN's normal stuff....
  • 16Candles: I signed up for twc at the tailend of the buyout from spectrum and I'm on the l-twc extreme 60/5. My price just went up to $49.99 and I was wondering...
  • Savanna Harness ( Vanna): I agree with all of this. Windstream and direct tv are known for getting over on ppl. I think mentally disabled ppl and low income are what they ta...

Your Account: