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Erie County Executive Blasts Bad Internet Access for Harming Western N.Y. Economy

Western New York

In a recent survey of 2,000 residents living in Erie County (Buffalo), N.Y., it was clear almost nobody trusts their internet service provider, and 71% were dissatisfied with their internet service.

Seventeen years after many western New York residents heard the word “broadband” for the first time at a 2000 CNN town hall at the University of Buffalo, where then U.S. Senate candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton called for increased federal funding for high-speed internet, many upstate residents are still waiting for faster access.

The Buffalo News featured two stories about the current state of the internet in western New York and found it lacking.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz blames internet service providers for serving up mediocre broadband, and no service at all in some parts of the county he represents.

“It’s been put in the hands of the private sector, and the private sector has, for whatever reason, elected to not expand into particular areas or not increase speeds in particular areas, putting those areas behind the eight ball,” he said.

Poloncarz effectively fingers the three dominant internet providers serving upstate New York – phone companies Verizon and Frontier and cable company Charter/Spectrum. He argues that companies will not even consider locating operations in areas lacking the most modern high-speed broadband. The digital economy is essential to help the recovery of western New York cities affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the ongoing departure of residents to other states.

Poloncarz

An important part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s statewide broadband improvement initiative is prodding Charter Communications and its predecessor Time Warner Cable to do a better job offering faster internet speeds and more rural broadband expansion. The New York Public Service Commission, as part of its approval of Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable, extracted more concessions from the cable giant than any other state. Among them is a commitment to expand the cable company’s footprint into adjacent unserved areas by 2020 to reach at least 145,000 homes and businesses now outside of Charter’s service area.

Last week, the cable company told the PSC it was ahead of schedule on its expansion commitment, now reaching 42,889 additional households and businesses, which is above its goal of 36,771. It has two years left to add at least another 102,111 buildings.

Charter also recently increased broadband speeds to 100 Mbps for 99% of its customers in New York and has committed to boosting those speeds to 300 Mbps by the end of next year.

But where Charter does not provide service, broadband problems come courtesy of western New York’s biggest phone companies – Verizon and Frontier. In Erie County, a broadband census found a lack of service in parts of South Buffalo, the far West Side and East Side of Buffalo, as well as in parts of every town in the county except in the prosperous communities of West Seneca and Orchard Park. Verizon FiOS can be found in a handful of well-to-do Buffalo suburban towns, but not in the city itself or in rural parts of the region.

Verizon spokesman Chris McCann said the company had no further plans to expand FiOS service in upstate New York, and stopped announcing additional expansions in 2010. In the rest of its service area, Verizon supplies DSL service as an afterthought, and has made no significant investments to improve or expand service. Frontier Communications, which is the dominant phone company in the greater Rochester region, also provides service in some other rural western New York communities, but its DSL service rarely meets the FCC’s minimum speed definition to qualify as  broadband.

Rep. Collins

Both phone companies have no plans for significant fiber optic upgrades that would boost internet speeds. There is little pressure on either company to begin costly upgrades. In rural communities, both companies lack cable competition and in more urban areas, both have written off their ongoing customer losses to their cable competitor. That leaves towns like North Collins in a real dilemma. Poloncarz told the newspaper residents frequently park in the town library parking lot at night to connect to the library’s Wi-Fi service, because they lack internet service at home.

A political divide has opened up between area Democrats and Republican officials on how to solve the rural broadband problem. Democrats like Poloncarz are exploring solving the rural internet problem with a county-owned fiber network that would be open to all private ISPs to assist them in expanding service. He is joined by Erie County legislator Patrick Burke, who thinks it is time to spend the estimated $16.3 million it will take to build an “open access network” across Erie County.

“There are literally geographic dead zones, and it’s unnecessary,” said Burke, a Buffalo Democrat. “There’s no excuse.”

Poloncarz is more cautious and told the newspaper he will only propose the idea if he is convinced it will solve the problem, but is willing to continue studying it.

Republicans from the western New York congressional delegation believe deregulation and other incentives may give private companies enough reasons to begin upgrades and expansion.

Rep. Chris Collins, a Clarence-area congressman with close ties to the Trump White House, defended FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent decision to eliminate net neutrality. Pai was born in Buffalo.

Collins argues net neutrality only raised the cost of business for ISPs, and being rid of it would inspire cable and phone companies to boost investment in 105 exurban and rural towns in his district, which covers eight counties and extends from the Buffalo suburbs east to Canandaigua, 80 miles away. More than 65% of those areas are under-served because DSL is often the only choice, and at least 3.3% had no internet options at all.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-Corning) has just as many internet dead zones in his district, if not more. Reed represents the Southern Tier region of western New York in a district that runs along the Pennsylvania border from the westernmost part of New York east nearly to Binghamton. Much of recent broadband development in this part of New York comes as a result of Gov. Cuomo’s state-funded broadband expansion initiative, not private investment.

Reed has a record in Congress that is better at explaining the rural broadband dilemma than solving it.

“In a rural district, there are areas that are just physically difficult to serve,” Reed shrugged.

Collins’ hope that the banishment of net neutrality will inspire Frontier, Verizon, and Charter to use their own money to expand into the frontiers of western New York seems unlikely. Gov. Cuomo’s plan, which uses public funds to help subsidize mostly private companies to expand into areas where Return On Investment fails to meet their metrics has had more success.

But the rural broadband debate has been accompanied by a fierce pushback among upstate New Yorkers against the Republican-controlled FCC and elected officials like Collins who support the recent gutting of net neutrality. A backlash has developed in his district, and some have accused Collins of aiding and abetting a corporate takeover of the internet.

“The hysteria and narrative that this will kill the internet is blatantly false,” responded Collins. “Internet service providers have said they do not increase speeds for certain websites over others, and I have signed onto legislation that would make such a practice illegal.”

Charter Spectrum Updates Approved Modem List for New Speed Tiers

Phillip Dampier January 11, 2018 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 5 Comments

[Clarification 1/15/2018: This list only covers customer-owned modems approved by Charter Communications. It is not a comprehensive list of modems that may have been supplied directly by Charter/Spectrum, or its predecessors Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks, which are obviously also acceptable. However, if you have a modem supplied by Time Warner or Bright House, it might not support the upgraded faster speeds Spectrum now offers. You might want to contact customer service to verify whether your current modem is capable of performing at the speeds now provided.]

Charter Communications recently increased broadband speeds for most of their customers, and many cable modems that are still in use from the days of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cannot support the company’s fastest speed tiers. As a result, Charter has updated their approved/recommended cable modem list to help customers obtain a modem that can support faster speeds.

Those customers who have moved away from a legacy Time Warner Cable or Bright House internet plan can get a free cable modem from a local Spectrum cable store. If you prefer to still own your own, here is the updated listing. We recommend choosing a model capable of supporting up to 300 Mbps speed because additional speed upgrades are likely in the future. Most customers now receive at least 100 Mbps service, so at least choose a model that can support that speed.

Gigabit (940 Mbps) Tier

At this time there are no modems that have passed certification testing for the Spectrum Internet 1 Gig speed tier (940Mbps). You need to use a cable modem supplied by Charter/Spectrum.

400 Mbps

Vendor Model
ARRIS SB6190
ASUS CM-32_AC2600
Linksys CM3024
NETGEAR C7000-100NAS
NETGEAR CM600

300 Mbps

Vendor Model
ARRIS SB6183
ARRIS SB6190
ARRIS SBG6900-AC
ASUS CM-16
Motorola MB7420
Motorola MB7540
Motorola MB7550
NETGEAR C6250
NETGEAR C6300
NETGEAR CM500-100NAS
SMC NETWORKS D3CM1604
TP-Link Archer CR700
TP-LINK TC-7620
Zoom 5370

100 Mbps

Vendor Model
ARRIS SB6141
ARRIS SBG6400
ARRIS SBG6580
ARRIS SBG6580-2
ARRIS SBG6700-AC
D-Link DCM301
LINKSYS CM3008
Motorola MB7220
Motorola MG7310
Motorola MG7315
NETGEAR C3000-100NAS
NETGEAR C3700-100NAS
NETGEAR CM400
NETGEAR 450 CG3000Dv2
TP-LINK TC-7610
TP-LINK TC-W7960
ZOOM 5341J
ZOOM 5345
ZOOM 5350
ZOOM 5352
ZOOM 5354
ZOOM 5360
ZOOM 5363
ZyXEL CDA30360

60 Mbps

Vendor Model
ARRIS SB6120
ARRIS SB6121
Netgear CDM31T

These modems are NOT RECOMMENDED, but are still allowed on the Charter/Spectrum network.

Vendor Model
ARRIS SBG6950AC2
ARRIS SBG7400AC2
ARRIS SBG7580
ASUS CM-32
LINKSYS CG7500
LINKSYS CM3016
NETGEAR C3000v2
NETGEAR C3700v2
NETGEAR C6300-100NAS
NETGEAR C6900
NETGEAR C7000v2
NETGEAR C7500
NETGEAR CM700
NETGEAR N450-100NAS
TP-LINK CR500
TP-LINK CR1900
TP-LINK TC7650
ZOOM Motorola MB7621

Fierce Cable Predicts 2018 Will Be A Year of Big Cable Mergers

While giant cable company mergers unexpectedly took a breather in 2017, Fierce Cable predicts this year isn’t likely to be a repeat of last year.

“With polls showing Democrats poised to begin sweeping back into power with the 2018 midterm elections, look for cable operators to make hay on the current regulatory climate and start turning their rivals into that most precious of resources: scale,” writes Daniel Frankel.

With time for large cable operators to get easy approval of merger deals from deregulation-minded Republicans potentially running out, 2018 could bring dramatic consolidation in the cable industry, with Comcast a likely buyer and Charter Communications a potential seller… if the offer is good enough.

Many industry observers expected the first year of the Trump Administration to be a banner year for cable mergers, especially with the entry of Altice, a European cable conglomerate known for its willingness to overpay to acquire cable operators. Altice has since run into significant financial challenges and investor blowback, forcing the company to shelve acquisition plans for now and focus on debt reduction and developing a stronger business plan to operate its ailing cable and wireless properties in Europe. Altice USA, which owns Suddenlink and Cablevision, has not shelved its plans to upgrade many of its customers to fiber to the home service, but is also no longer seen as an immediate bidder for Charter, Cable One, or WideOpenWest.

Fierce Cable expects Comcast to respond to AT&T’s merger with Time Warner, Inc., assuming the deal successfully overcomes Department of Justice objections in court, and 21st Century Fox’s asset sales to Disney. Both transactions threaten to consolidate programming production and distribution around an even smaller group of media giants, which could challenge Comcast’s NBCUniversal unit as well as the cost of cable programming networks. Comcast has shied away from acquisitions after an embarrassing failure of its attempt to buy Time Warner Cable a few years ago.

If Comcast wants to build scale, it would naturally target an acquisition of Charter Communications, the second largest cable company in the country. The deal would give Comcast dominance over the New York and Los Angeles media markets and broadband service provision across most major American cities. Comcast could also seek a less controversial acquisition of Cox Communications, one of the few major independent cable companies left. But Comcast could also seek acquisitions in Hollywood to bolster its production capabilities.

Most other cable acquisition options would be considered scraps by the largest operators. Altice could be persuaded to prematurely exit the American market and sell Cablevision and Suddenlink if convinced it has no chance of building adequate scale to stand with Comcast and Charter. Beyond that are smaller rural and regional operators including Mediacom, Midco, WOW!, GTT, RCN, and many others that serve fewer than one million customers.

Company executives may be hoping the objections to the AT&T/Time Warner deal are an anomaly for the Trump Administration. But it’s clear that whatever smooth waters exist for upcoming mergers will get choppy as the midterm elections approach. Should Democrats win back the House and/or Senate, life will get considerably more difficult for future media consolidation deals.

Experiencing Charter’s Speed Upgrades: 100, 200, 300, 400, and 1,000Mbps Tiers

Phillip Dampier January 2, 2018 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News No Comments

Most Charter Communications customers should now be experiencing Spectrum’s free holiday season speed upgrade as the company rolls out speed tiers ranging from 100-1,000Mbps. Customers have been sharing their stories about the speed changes, especially for former Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers that, in many areas, languished with maximum speeds of around 50Mbps for years.

Most of the changes were noticed by customers around mid-December when Charter reprovisioned customer modems to reflect the new speed tiers. But some customers have had to call to get their modems refreshed to get the new speed upgrades. Others may need a new modem to take advantage of faster speeds. Since Spectrum does not charge a customer modem rental fee, if your speeds are inadequate with your current modem, it may not hurt to try one of theirs. Just remember they will often attempt to sell you added Wi-Fi service which you may not need for an additional $5 a month. This feature can be disabled to avoid the fee on any modem they provide if you already have your own router.

There has also been confusion because some cities are not yet fully upgraded to receive some of Spectrum’s fastest tiers and some current customers will not automatically qualify for speed upgrades until they talk to Spectrum customer service.

Premium Speed Price Reductions Arrive

Some good news — the premium prices Spectrum charges for its highest speed tiers are dropping to make room for the company’s new gigabit plan ($124.99), currently only available in a very limited service area. Spectrum Internet Ultra, which ranges in speed between 120-400Mbps depending on your service area is dropping from $104.99/mo to $89.99/mo ($79.99 if you have a television package). The original Spectrum Ultra upgrade setup fee – $199.99, has been reduced to $49.99.

If you subscribe to Internet Ultra, you may need to contact Spectrum to make sure they have provisioned your service at the new lower price. If you have any problems, refer them to Charter’s non-promotional rate card for your area, which should now show the new non-promotional/regular pricing.

Remember too that customers with legacy Time Warner Cable or Bright House packages and pricing will not receive speed upgrades.

Speed Changes in Select Areas

For many Spectrum customers, the speed increase introduces 100Mbps as the new Standard Spectrum internet speed, but in more than a dozen markets, even faster speeds are now available, at least for some customers.

In Austin, Tex., Charlotte, N.C., Cincinnati, Oh., Kansas City, Mo., New York, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C., and San Antonio, Tex.:

  • Spectrum Internet Gig (up to 940/35Mbps) is now available
  • Spectrum Internet Ultra (up to 400/20Mbps) for new customers (existing customers should check to see if they are still stuck at 300Mbps, the old speed)
  • Spectrum Internet Standard (up to 200/10Mbps) for all customers, which includes a free speed boost.

Note: Current Internet Ultra customers may need to contact Spectrum to make arrangements for the speed upgrade. You may also need a new modem to qualify for 400Mbps speed.

In Bowling Green, Ky., Burlington, Vt., Dayton, Oh., Dallas-Ft. Worth, Tex., Evansville, Ind., Green Bay, Wisc., Greensboro, N.C., Greenville, N.C., Houston, Tex., Lexington, Ky., Los Angeles, Calif., Louisville, Ky., Milwaukee, Wisc., Palm Springs, Calif., San Diego, Calif., Syracuse, N.Y., Utica, N.Y., Waco, Tex., Watertown, N.Y., Wilmington, N.C., and Yuma, Ariz.: 

  • Spectrum Internet Ultra (up to 400/20Mbps) for new customers
  • Spectrum Internet Ultra (up to 300/20Mbps) for existing customers, which represents no change.

Note: Some existing customers claim they have been upgraded to 400Mbps speed automatically, but others have had to contact Spectrum to make arrangements for the upgrade. You may also need a new modem to qualify for 400Mbps speed.

Experiencing Spectrum’s Gigabit Service

Technicolor 4400 DOCSIS 3.1 modem

Upgrading to gigabit speed will take more than a phone call with customer service. For now, Charter Communications insists on an in-home service call and a setup fee that was originally set at $199.99 but may have recently dropped. Some customers report getting the fee waived by complaining about it on Twitter and referencing @Ask_Spectrum in the tweet.

We have heard from customers in Texas and Hawaii that signed up for gigabit service and their stories are similar.

  • Expect a service call lasting up to two hours. A technician, or more likely a few of them will be thoroughly testing the condition of your current cable lines, both inside and outside of the home. They have new testing equipment that is more sensitive than older testing equipment, and can spot signal problems, interference, or deteriorating infrastructure that will need to be repaired or replaced before service can be installed. In most cases, this can be done during the same service call.
  • There are no authorized customer-owned modems for Spectrum’s gigabit internet at this time. Customers have received Technicolor TC4400-AM DOCSIS 3.1 modems during these early days of gigabit service. There will likely be others offered in the future.
  • Customers can expect speeds to approach 940Mbps of download speed and close to 40Mbps for uploads if they own gigabit capable routers and reasonably modern computers. Expect wireless speeds to be significantly lower — sometimes by more than half, depending on the device, distance from the router, and the router itself. Spectrum technicians will probably strongly recommend the use of one of their routers.
  • Faster speeds were noticeable downloading large files and streaming very high bandwidth multimedia, but average users may not notice a dramatic difference from gigabit speed while doing basic web browsing and other similar activities. But the larger installed base of gigabit-capable consumers will likely inspire future applications built to take advantage of that higher bandwidth.

Earthlink from Charter/Spectrum is Dead: No New Customers Allowed

Phillip Dampier December 27, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News, Earthlink 29 Comments

Charter Communications has ended more than a decade-long relationship between Earthlink and Time Warner Cable by quietly pulling the plug on Earthlink’s cable broadband service.

As far back as November, Spectrum customer service agents have begun turning down customer requests to enroll in the alternative broadband service distributed by Spectrum/Time Warner Cable’s network and charged to monthly cable bills. With the exception of e-mail service, Earthlink over Time Warner Cable (and later Spectrum) was indistinguishable from cable company internet service and traveled over the same network. But customers used to enjoy significant savings by bouncing between new customer promotions from Earthlink and the cable company. Charter officials first closed that loophole by forbidding Earthlink from extending promotional pricing to existing Spectrum or Time Warner Cable broadband customers. Charter has since stopped enrolling new customers altogether.

Existing Earthlink customers can keep their service until further notice. Most are enrolled in 15-20 Mbps slower speed tiers originally identical to those offered by Time Warner Cable, but pay less than Spectrum’s standard $65 standalone broadband pricing.

“Spectrum now has absolutely no reasonable competition in the N.Y. Capitol District,” complains Stop the Cap! reader Jan Pedersen, who reported Spectrum told him Earthlink was no longer an option.

Earthlink does still resell AT&T DSL service in AT&T landline markets.

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  • Chris: Im in Tri-Cities, WA and just caught wind of the upgrade. Charter said they'd be doing this at some point over the last year and it finally happened f...
  • JayS: It will be interesting to see how companies in Utility-Monopoly like markets (Cable Tv, Electric, Wired Internet) treat the "tax rate windfall". Then...
  • Adam Bryant: Please give us any updates you have on this! I received an approval letter on 11/29/2017 12:16 PM sayign they would be sending a check within 10 busin...
  • jgbbmodelrailroad: New York State has a weird law that means Internet Service Providers pay they same taxes on infrastructure regardless of how many customers it serves,...
  • nanaki: If your on a 100mbit card you will not see a full 100 mbit but do to over head will see between 70 and 85 90 if your computer and network are brand ne...
  • Jose: I can strongly relate to your frustration. My elderly neighbors were having issues with their Spectrum phone line always going down. It took about 6...
  • Jose: I believe there is some truth to the price of the cable box. Before my next door neighbors switched over to a Spectrum plan, they were paying about $...
  • Phillip Dampier: Charter has not fully converted former Time Warner Cable customers to its legacy Charter website and support platform, which is why TWC customers ente...
  • Phillip Dampier: Folks, I should have been more clear that this list is for approved CUSTOMER-OWNED modems for Charter/Spectrum customers. It does not include modems s...
  • Curious George: use this list too the ubee is on this list under Modems offered by Spectrum https://www.timewarnercable.com/en/support/internet/topics/modems.html#/...
  • Josh: sigh Capitalism, whee!...
  • EJ: Yep, yep they have essentially created another way to profit off of their shotty lower up time network. Give the guy that thought of this a big fat ra...

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