Home » Competition » Recent Articles:

Charter/Spectrum Sweetens Deal for New Customers With $500 Contract Buyout Offer

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

Even as millions of Spectrum subscribers began paying higher rates for programming and equipment this month, Charter Communications has sweetened the deal for its new customers by offering free DVR service with their triple play bundle of TV Select, internet, and voice service for $89.97/mo during the first year. The cable company will also reimburse customers up to $500 to cover any early termination/contract buyout fees for canceling their satellite or telephone company video package.

Charter’s “Strategic Accounts” department is handling the promotion, and it will benefit customers where there is significant competition between Spectrum and AT&T and Verizon or satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish Networks. Spectrum does not cover early termination fees from cell phone companies, and you must have subscribed to a “comparable level of service,” which disqualifies competitors like Hulu, Netflix, DirecTV Now, and Amazon.

Like the rebates Time Warner Cable used to offer customers, there is a specific process to submit documentation to qualify for this rebate, and skipping a step means… no rebate and no recourse. In addition to this FAQ, Stop the Cap! has this advice:

  1. You must install and keep current a qualified Spectrum triple play package from the time you submit the rebate request until the day you receive a check.
  2. You cannot have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days, something we’ll explain below.
  3. Your account must not be past due.
  4. You must submit a copy of your provider’s final bill showing itemized early termination fees actually billed to your account. Bank/credit card statements showing charges are not eligible.
  5. You must complete the “Charter Contract Buyout Form” in full and submit it by e-mail or by mail to: Spectrum, 7800 Crescent Exec. Dr., Charlotte, NC 28217, ATTN: Strategic Accounts Dept. with your documentation. Try to make sure the names on both accounts match.
  6. Your rebate request must be received by Charter within 60 days of installation of a Charter triple play package or within two weeks of the date listed on the competing provider’s final bill, whichever is later.
  7. Charter will only reimburse you for the actual amount of the early termination fee, up to a maximum of $500. Cash the check within six months or lose it.

Charter insists customers who have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days cannot qualify for this rebate. This is an effort to close a loophole where an existing Spectrum customer cancels their regularly-priced cable service, switches to a competitor for a few weeks, and then promptly switches back to a Spectrum package at the new customer price, which also leaves Charter on the hook for paying the early termination fee charged by the other company. To avoid this, a customer would have to cancel Spectrum service, switch to a competitor for at least 31 days, and then switch back to Spectrum. That is likely to be a hassle for most people.

Customers who have participated in these rebate schemes in the past also warn that companies can reject a rebate if you do not have a “comparable” level of service with a competitor. In other words, if you signed up for a $20 basic video package and then head to Spectrum for a $90 triple play package, the company may not consider that “comparable.” “Comparable” can mean the dollar amount of the video package you have with a competitor or the combination of a satellite package with one provider and a broadband package with another. You can contact Charter directly and check if your existing package(s) qualify. If the representative says yes, write down the name of the person and keep it handy in case your rebate request is later rejected.

Charter says you won’t have long to wait for a rebate rejection or a check.

“When you submit your information to the Contract Buyout Team, your information goes through a verification process, which can take up to 5-7 business days. After approval, your check will arrive within 10 business days,” the company reports.

Other factors to consider:

  • Cable TV equipment is required and costs extra ($5.99/mo per HD box or DVR for new customers).
  • You will receive Spectrum’s base internet package, which is 60Mbps or 100Mbps in former TWC Maxx service areas. A $199 upgrade fee applies for faster speed.
  • Installation fees apply. You can avoid them with a self-install kit which can be mailed or picked up at a Spectrum retail store at no extra charge.
  • Fees and surcharges apply. The most important is the Broadcast TV Fee, which usually adds around $7.50 a month to your TV bill.
  • Rates reset to Charter’s regular price at the end of one year. There is no contract, so you can cancel anytime.

Deutsche Telekom: We’ll Build a Nationwide Fiber Network If You Let Us Monopolize It

German Chancellor Angela Merkel examines fiber optic telecommunications cables.

Germany has an internet access problem not very different from the one afflicting the United States and Canada. The national phone company, still partly owned by the government, remains mostly dependent on a decades-old wireline telephone network to deliver landline and DSL broadband service. The only way Deutsche Telekom will invest adequately to replace it with optical fiber is if they get assurances from the federal government they will be allowed to monopolize access to it.

According to the business weekly WirtschaftsWoche, a sister publication of Handelsblatt, Telekom executives have agreed to build a fiber-optic network everywhere in Germany provided that it is excluded from European anti-monopoly rules so that Deutsche Telekom wouldn’t be forced to open its network to competition.

The proposal from the German telecom giant was particularly audacious because many in the country blame it and its uncompetitive behavior for creating Germany’s slow broadband problem, but that did nothing to stop the company from asking to be shielded from competition.

“A fundamental departure from the kind of logic that viewed regulation of Deutsche Telekom (DT) as the normal state in the last 20 years is urgently needed,” the company said in a filing with the German Federal Network Agency, which regulates the internet in the country.

For most Germans, DT is the problem. The phone company has proven itself a formidable competitor across many parts of eastern Europe, where it bought control of privatized telecommunications companies that used to operate as government monopolies. But back home in Germany, it has been happy to continue offering DSL service that the rest of Europe cannot get rid of fast enough. In certain larger cities like Munich and Cologne, upstart fiber to the home providers have filled the broadband gap and have wired significant parts of both cities, and DT has responded with a fiber offering of its own without complaining about the cost of building a fiber network or the return on its investment.

Oberbürgermeister Wolff

But in smaller towns and villages across Germany — particularly in the eastern states, broadband has been terrible for years and under DT’s “leadership” it has not gotten much better, allowing other countries in the EU to sail past Germany in broadband rankings. Like AT&T and Verizon in the U.S., DT claims that where it has not upgraded its network, there is either no demand for fiber fast internet speed or inadequate return on investment. Also like in the U.S., DT has spent its money on other technologies, notably wireless, while investment in landline networks has not kept up.

Some German communities like Bretten, fed up with inaction, have taken charge of their own broadband future and are building their own fiber to the home networks. Martin Wolff has dreamed of a digital economy boost for his town of 28,000 located near Karlsruhe in western Germany.

As mayor, he has begged and pleaded with DT to give Bretten something beyond lackluster DSL service, which is now too slow to handle the kind of 21st century internet applications that better wired communities take for granted. Mayor Wolff wants Bretten known as a gigabit city. DT, in contrast, wants to leave Bretten as a forgotten digital backwater. The phone company had repeatedly told the community the broadband it gets now is more than good enough and nobody should hold their breath waiting for something better. DT’s few competitors, including Britain’s Vodafone, weren’t interested either. Bretten is too small… too… irrelevant to matter to their investors.

“They are only interested in serving the cream of the crop in the cities and don’t come to rural areas,” the mayor said.

Like in North America, Germans are asking themselves who should be in charge of their digital future — investor-owned telecom companies or the community itself. The country’s continued embarrassing showing in European broadband rankings has become an issue of national pride and has sparked a loud debate between established telecom companies and the public that wants faster and better broadband.

The noise of the debate has attracted the politicians, and the issue of German broadband has now taken center stage in the parliamentary elections, which will be held Sept. 24. Handelsblatt reports the issue of inadequate broadband now interests German voters more than the latest economic policy position paper or how Germany will manage to deal with U.S. President Donald Trump for the next three years. Many Germans have plenty of time for these kinds of offline debates, because online, it can take a minute to load a webpage on some of the country’s dial-up like DSL connections.

“Germany is one of the most under-supplied countries in Europe, especially in terms of rural coverage,” wrote Bernd Beckert, an internet expert at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, in a recent study of European broadband. He said countries such as Switzerland, Spain and even tiny Estonia are far ahead of Germany. In fact, the Baltic states and many former Eastern bloc countries are moving towards a fiber future while Germany considers wrapping itself even tighter in copper wiring installed in the 1960s. More than 70% of German internet users get internet access through a DT-provided, ADSL-equipped landline. Many connect at just 1-6Mbps, about the same speed users were getting in the late 1990s when DT’s internet monopoly was abolished.

Since then, DT has done everything possible to encourage “competitors” to not build competing networks. In fact, most competing ISPs like 1&1, Versatel, Telefonica Deutschland, and Vodafone rent DT DSL-capable landlines to provision service to their customers. That means they cannot compete on speed and they are forced to rely on DT to maintain its wireline network. It is no accident that German adoption of fiber optics is stuck at only 1.8%, fifth from last place among the 35 member states of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In comparison, Japan and South Korea have more than 70 percent of their customers on fiber to the home connections.

Germany’s largest political parties that have been in government since 2005, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU) have tolerated DT and its anemic upgrade policies. Broadband stagnancy, many believe, would not be possible without acquiescence and appeasement by those in control of the country. That conspiracy theory is backed by many of Germany’s smaller political parties which believe it is time to change the government’s involvement with DT.

The Left Party’s platform supports nationalizing DT and returning it to a state-owned enterprise that will answer to the public policy priorities of the next government. The capitalist, pro-business Free Democratic Party wants to get the government completely out of its 32% remaining stake in DT and hope that free market solutions will emerge. In the meantime, that party proposes to use the proceeds of any sale to fund a national broadband subsidy fund to convince private telecom companies to upgrade their networks in underserved areas.

DT has not stayed quiet in the public policy debate either. After disappointing the German public by rejecting a proposal to build an open, nationwide fiber to the home network, the company has instead promised to upgrade existing DSL lines to newer technologies like VDSL and vectoring, which DT claims could deliver up to 100Mbps service. American phone companies like Verizon have been reluctant to head in a similar direction, admitting many of the next generation DSL technologies work better in the lab than in the field. Many of the technologies promoting the most dramatic speed improvements have also proved to be vaporware so far.

Deutsche Telekom HQ Bonn, Germany

“We are committed to vectoring, because it is the only way to provide people in rural areas with faster lines quickly,” Deutsche Telekom said in a blog post published in August. “If we are fixated on [fiber to the home], those in the countryside will remain left behind for years. It is simply impossible to roll out fiber lines to homes everywhere in the country. Neither the construction capacity nor the funding is available for that. Plus, there is quite simply no demand for it.”

Some of the other competitors in the market seem to agree with DT.

“No provider can achieve fiber optic expansion on its own,” said Valentina Daiber, a member of the board of Telefonica. Daiber said DT was already nearly $60 billion in debt. Daiber said she hoped a solution could be found after the election.

But just a week after Daiber made that claim Vodafone announced it will spend $2.4 billion on a new fiber to the premises network targeting 100,000 companies in 2,000 German business parks. The company will also spend up to $450 million partnering with municipalities to extend the network to about one million rural homes, in addition to boosting its current broadband speeds delivered to German cable customers to 1Gbps.

That announcement could cause DT’s DSL plans to eventually collapse, if Vodafone follows through on its fiber buildout.

Mayor Wolff has no intention of waiting to see how it all plays out. Wolff has convinced private fiber optics company BBV to install the fiber infrastructure and has a Dutch investor partner arranging $12 million in financing, which is always the biggest stumbling block to get fiber buildouts underway. Upfront construction costs often deter many municipalities and would-be competitors from launching. But for Wolff, where there is a will, there is a way to deliver fiber fast broadband, and he is making certain it happens sooner rather than later.

American Enterprise Institute’s Shallow Formula for Broadband Nirvana

AEI: If you bought broadband service, that means you like your service and don’t need or want anything better.

The American Enterprise Institute wants the FCC to judge to quality of America’s broadband based on what customers are able to buy today and how much they are willing to pay to get it.

Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires the FCC to report to Congress whether broadband “is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion.” As part of that process, the FCC must determine if Americans are getting internet connections capable of providing “advanced telecommunications capability.”

If the FCC reports to Congress that the country’s biggest telecom companies are letting their customers down with inadequate service or no service at all, that can create conditions for the FCC to step in and start insisting on more competition and oversight as well as setting benchmarks for providers to meet. If the report shows that broadband service is adequately provided, the FCC need not regulate, and in some cases such a finding will fuel calls to further deregulate the industry by getting rid of “unnecessary regulation.”

Not surprisingly, findings since 2001 have varied depending on which political party holds the majority on the Commission. Under President George W. Bush, the FCC consistently found broadband service was being adequately deployed to Americans. The FCC also set the bar pretty low on broadband speed, claiming anything at or above 4/1Mbps service constituted “broadband.” That definition comfortably accommodated DSL service from the phone companies.

Wheeler – Argued for better broadband and more competition.

During the Obama Administration, the FCC set the bar higher. With dissent from the Republican minority, the FCC raised the minimum speed that could be defined as broadband to 25/3Mbps, immediately excluding most DSL and wireless connections. In 2015, former FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler specifically excluded satellite and wireless connections from that formula, despite objections from FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. Particularly under Wheeler’s watch, the Democratic majority frequently complained about inadequate broadband and competition, and used Section 706 as its authority to override state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that placed onerous restrictions on municipal broadband networks. Wheeler felt such laws were anti-competitive, but the courts ruled the FCC exceeded its authority and overturned his pre-emption orders.

Under the Trump Administration, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai seems to be headed down a similar path taken during the Bush Administration, which was optimistic about the state of broadband service and, as a result, applied a lot less pressure on the telecommunications industry.

Chairman Pai is seeking to overturn current Net Neutrality regulations and seems ready to support efforts to undermine the broadband speed standard established by his predecessor. That would allow mobile/wireless companies to offer 10/1Mbps speed and have it qualify as broadband service. Even better, ISPs — wired or wireless — would be considered “competitive” in many cases, even if only one provider offered service in the area.

Pai’s proposal was met with serious objections from Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn who claimed even the current 25/3Mbps standard no longer met the definition of “advanced telecommunications capability.”

“The statute defines advanced telecommunications capability as broadband that is capable of ‘originat[ing] and receiv[ing] high-quality voice, data, graphics, and video telecommunications. High-definition video conferencing is squarely within the rubric of ‘originating and receiving high-quality… video telecommunications,’ yet the 25/3Mbps standard we propose would not even allow for a single stream of 1080p video conferencing, much less 4K video conferencing. This does not even consider that multiple devices are likely utilizing a single fixed connection, or the multiple uses of a mobile device.”

<

div id=”attachment_954762″ class=”wp-caption aligncenter”>

Pai: Wants broadband providers and the competitive marketplace to determine whether broadband is good enough.

AEI dismissed the entire debate, claiming the only people who will respond to the FCC’s request for comments on the subject will be “pundits, special interests, and companies with skin in the game.”

Instead, AEI proposes the FCC rely on watching customers navigate their broadband options — a monopoly for some, duopoly for many others — and only address problems if something unusual emerges. AEI’s test is to see if “a location or demographic is inexplicably different and purchases less than would be expected.”

If something odd does happen in a particular area, AEI argues there could only be two reasons for that:

  • Barriers to competition;
  • Outdated government regulations and policies standing in the way of progress.

Missing from AEI’s list of possibilities is the presence of an abusive monopoly provider, a comfortable duopoly among two providers with no interest from a third competitor to enter the market, or an area served by two lackluster providers that won’t invest in their networks.

AEI’s test depends entirely on gathering data about what internet services are available for sale in any particular area now and then study who is buying what. But this does not measure customer satisfaction or consider whether those speed tiers and prices are adequate.

Under AEI’s test, “if a geographic area does not have broadband, the FCC could use the results of its customer study to determine what customers in the area would likely find valuable. Then, the FCC could do a cost-benefit study and an economic feasibility study — and conduct a reverse auction if a subsidy is potentially needed — to determine what, if any, financial incentive might be appropriate for the area.”

In other words, the same think tank that has been on record for decades opposing government subsidies to private companies now wants to offer telecom companies government funding to build what would become largely unregulated privately-owned broadband networks that would run with little or no oversight.

AEI’s willingness to let “customers express their opinions through their purchases” is hardly an adequate replacement for current broadband policies designed to keep the U.S. competitive with the rest of the world and ensure adequate service and competition. As any cable subscriber knows, you can subscribe to Comcast or Charter/Spectrum and still loathe your options and want something better. AEI doesn’t appear interested in seeing you get those options, much less preserve what little oversight, consumer protection, and broadband benchmarks we have now. Neither does current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

Verizon Tells FCC Revealing Big Telecom Merger Details Irrelevant to Net Neutrality Proceeding

Verizon has told the Federal Communications Commission it should reject a bid from a consumer group to release confidential corporate merger information to the public so it can learn what economic incentives, if any, exist to begin charging content providers extra fees for internet fast lanes and zero rating.

Incompas, which advocates for increased competition in the wireless industry, asked the Commission in July to publicly disclose details of recent telecom mergers obtained in confidence from the companies involved to “interested commenters” in the Net Neutrality proceeding allowing consumers can obtain valuable insight into the “economic incentives and abilities of incumbent broadband providers to curb competition, including through their control of residential broadband connections.”

The group specifically called out AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, Comcast’s failed merger with Time Warner Cable, and Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. All of the entities involved either operate wireless networks themselves or partner with a provider that does. Incompas believes a document release will show increased concentration and market power and the marked impact that can have on what consumers pay for service and how those companies plan to treat competing traffic.

The information disclosure sought by the group was vehemently opposed by Verizon, which doesn’t want its business secrets revealed to the public.

“There is no legal justification or sound policy basis to justify making this highly sensitive business information available in the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding,” Verizon countered in its filing. The phone company does not want to publicly release details about its connection agreements with other companies or exactly how many customers it serves. “[N]othing has changed since the adoption of these protective orders that warrants the Commission weakening these protections by allowing this sensitive business information to be disclosed to potentially millions of ‘interested commenters’ in the Restoring Internet Freedom proceeding.”

While some Net Neutrality critics have sought to dismiss the more than 13 million comments received so far by the FCC on Net Neutrality as confused ranting, Verizon takes an opposite position saying the Commission is already bogged down with quality comments on Net Neutrality and does not need more, claiming it would only add to a flood of analysis on Net Neutrality. Verizon claimed among the submissions received by the FCC are “millions of comments, thousands of pages of expert testimony and declarations and hundreds of substantive analyses and submissions with detailed economic, legal and policy arguments.”

Charter Communications did not appreciate the proposal either, claiming it was unfair.

“Such an outcome would eviscerate the core protection of the commission’s protective orders, thereby unfairly punishing Charter’s past compliance and threatening the commission’s ability to obtain sensitive information from private parties in the future,” Charter officials wrote.

Frontier Employees: Company is Adrift as Management Obsesses Over Stock Price

Frontier Communications employees continue to send unsolicited news tips and insider gossip about a phone company in decline, not only losing customers but middle management that have either left voluntary or been asked to leave in a frantic effort to cut costs.

Earlier this year, Frontier CEO Dan McCarthy ended a long-term effort heralded by former CEO Maggie Wilderotter that gave significant autonomy to local and regional managers to handle problems in their respective service areas without having to consult a centralized bureaucracy. McCarthy elected instead to adopt more rigid company-wide policies and practices that often require consultation with senior management. For many mid-level managers already frustrated with the company, that change proved a bridge too far that and several are now working for Frontier’s cable competition.

One of the senior managers responsible for Frontier’s web presence became so frustrated with Frontier’s corporate roadblocks, he dropped his Frontier service in favor of the competition because accomplishing almost anything on Frontier’s website proved frustrating and often impossible.

“Instead of focusing their leadership on ways to turn the company around they seem to be doubling down on their efforts to get as many employees to leave the company as possible,” a Frontier insider tells Stop the Cap!

Some of the employees likely to leave are Frontier’s telecommuting workforce. Senior executives now want many of those workers back in the office.

“[The new policy says] if we live less than 50 miles from a Frontier Office, we have to be in the office every day and could no longer work at home,” our source tells us. “There are employees who had Permanent Work At Home status by HR who are [now] being told they have to relocate to another city [or] come into an office or they will be let go.”

Frontier’s network continues to be criticized as great for some, lousy for everyone else. Our source notes a few years ago Frontier was speed-limiting some of its DSL customers in congested areas because they were using too much broadband and slowing down the network for others. While Frontier’s legacy copper areas continue to endure copper-based DSL with its inherent capacity and speed limitations, Frontier is planning a feast for its acquired FiOS fiber customers, including free automatic speed upgrades.

Less technically conscious customers pay more. In addition to a $4.50 convenience fee that now applies to customers phoning customer care centers to make a payment, our source warns Frontier is about to launch a paper billing fee, reportedly $1 a month, in an attempt to convert customers to electronic paperless billing.

“We are so at a loss as to the direction this company is taking and there is zero vision from senior leadership that is being passed down,” our source said, noting executives are preoccupied with their compensation plans and bonuses. “The directions we’re given change daily, projects and promotions only seem to be reactionary to try to stop the bleeding, but Frontier is in need of major surgery starting with the CEO and every single member of our executive leadership.”

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • LG: It is now Sept. 23rd, and the same is true. I am using a neighbor's satellite internet while my Comcast is still out. Many promises of "by 7pm if n...
  • LG: (Sorry i wrote 911 twice)...
  • LG: Yes, I agree this "HD fee" is hysterical. It would be even funnier if people knew their picture is barely HD or not at all. There isn't enough bandw...
  • Brian: Let me tell you a little story about cable companies, they like to charge their customers even when there are no service to be had, well I learned a l...
  • Geroge: 100mbps is now base speed in many areas that aren't maxx...
  • Ed: I find it amazing that anyone expected Frontier to do anything differently...they have never been an invest and build company...they have always been ...
  • kim collins: i work for Frontier. And i have to say there is alot of people who still need their landlines because cell service is not available to them. Frontie...
  • Lee: Those who own the land leased to cell towers, they should NOT have sold the land, need to get good legal council on the terms of the lease if the comp...
  • Rex: The lights in your home (whether incandescent, CFLs or LEDs) emit far more electro-magnetic radiation (over the course of a day) than you could ever g...
  • Adam: That's pretty unfair to Frontier... Obviously AT&T and Verizon sold off big chunks of their wireline operations because they saw the end of profi...
  • Pat: That's just damn sloppy engineering... There's no excuse for them not having backup generators in junctions that serve large numbers of customers. Th...
  • Chuck: Cellular carriers are having a big come-down now that almost everybody has a cell phone. No more new customers to grab, all you can do is steal from ...

Your Account:

%d bloggers like this: