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Investigation: Spectrum’s Best Discounts Go Only to Areas With Robust Competition

Spectrum customers living in areas wired for fiber optics get substantially better discounts for longer periods of time than those living in areas where anemic phone company DSL service is the only competition.

Charter Communications, like many cable operators, asks all prospective customers to enter their complete mailing address, claiming prices “vary per location.” What the company does not say is that it maintains a database of addresses where fiber-fast competition is currently available and only offers the best deals to those locations.

In Rochester, N.Y., Spectrum competitor Greenlight Networks has made headway installing fiber to the home service in select neighborhoods in the city and suburbs. As fiber service becomes available, some Spectrum customers start switching to Greenlight, which markets 100/20 Mbps service for $50/mo, 500/50 Mbps for $75/mo, or 1,000/100 Mbps for $100/mo. In response, to keep customers, Spectrum offers 24 months of reduced pricing on its internet package. But your address must match Spectrum’s database as being within a competitive service area. Otherwise, the deals will not be so good.

Stop the Cap! found dramatic differences in prices between addresses nearly across a street from one another – one wired for Greenlight Fiber, the other not.

Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL, Greenlight fiber-to-the-home service)

Spectrum Ultra (400 Mbps): $44.99/month for 24 months (free upgrade from Standard 100 Mbps package)

All promotions last 24 months

Free Wi-Fi Service

No installation or set up fee*

Non-Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL)

Spectrum Standard (100 Mbps): $44.99/month for 12 months (for Ultra 400 Mbps, add $25/mo)

All promotions last 12 months

Wi-Fi Service is $5/month

$49.99 professional installation fee required for Ultra 400 Mbps service*

In Greenlight service areas, Spectrum now undercuts Greenlight’s pricing by offering Spectrum Ultra 400 Mbps service for $5 less than what Greenlight charges for 100 Mbps.

“Racerbob,” a DSL Reports reader in Webster, N.Y., discovered the same “enhanced offers” as an ex-Spectrum customer. He switched to Greenlight three months ago. He discovered if he added a Spectrum cable TV package, the price for 400 Mbps Ultra internet service dropped even lower, to $39.99 a month for two years.

In all, a sample package he assembled delivered dramatic savings, but only if a robust competitor like Greenlight was also offering service to his address:

Addresses used for comparison were in zip code 14618, with verified access to Greenlight at a street address to represent the “competitive” service area and verification Greenlight was not available at the address used for “non-competitive” service area. *-Although a setup fee was found on the final checkout page in both competitive and non-competitive service areas, it was only actually charged in non-competitive service areas during our investigation.

Huge Spectrum Outage in Central Florida Causes Crowds to Swell at Area Cable Stores

Phillip Dampier September 10, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Video 4 Comments

Downdetector shows a major service outage for Spectrum customers in Central Florida.

A widespread service outage affecting Spectrum customers in central Florida that began Sunday caused a crowd of 100-150 customers to turn out at a Spectrum office on Semoran Boulevard in Orlando this morning to switch cable boxes or cancel service.

Customers lost television service Sunday evening and the outage continues in many areas, leaving thousands without service for more than 14 hours. Orange County Public Schools spent this morning without internet service, also provided by Spectrum. The school district e-mailed parents:

“OCPS families, we want to make you aware that throughout our community the internet and networks are down throughout due to issues with Spectrum. This outage is impacting many of our schools. At this time, Spectrum cannot provide a timeframe for restoration of service. We want to make you aware that contacting schools may be limited due to the outages. We also want to assure you our digital classrooms are always prepared to adjust to such circumstances as they can use blended methods for learning so instruction can continue regardless of problems with the internet. Thank you for your support. We will update you as we get new information.”

Many customers are angry about what they perceive as a deterioration in service after Charter Communications acquired Bright House Networks.

“It seems like since Spectrum has taken over from Bright House, every time the wind blows, the cable and the boxes go out and you have to come down here and stand in a line to change a box. It’s a waste,” Spectrum customer George Roberts told WFTV.

Communities affected include: Orlando and surrounding suburbs, Cape Canaveral, Sanford, Daytona Beach, Sky Lake, Palm Coast, and beyond.

“The storms last night caused damage to operations impacting customers in the Central Florida region,” said Spectrum spokesperson Joe Durkin. “I won’t speculate on completion but as Spectrum engineers are working to restore full video services to our customers and as time goes on – some areas are coming back. We confirm there’s no internet outage at all that could still be affecting Orange County Public Schools.”

Spectrum, like most cable operators, will not issue a service outage credit unless customers specifically request one. The best way to do that is to login to Spectrum’s website and use online chat or call your local cable office and ask for a service outage credit.

WFTV in Orlando reports angry crowds gathered at a Orlando Spectrum cable store to switch boxes or cancel service because of a service outage impacting Central Florida. (2:08)

 

Missouri, California, Oklahoma, and Virginia Big Winners in Rural Broadband Fund Auction

Telecom companies in four states will receive almost 50% of the $1.488 billion the FCC has set aside in support to expand rural broadband service in unserved areas of 45 states.

Missouri ($254,773,117.90), California ($149,026,913.20), Oklahoma ($113,599,113.70), and Virginia ($108,923,612.60) were the only states to win more than $100 million each to expand internet access to a total of 257.436 residents, and many of the award winners are planning to offer fixed wireless service.

The FCC claims 713,176 homes and businesses will get internet service over the next six years from 103 different providers as a result of the auction, with half getting the option of 100 Mbps. An additional 19% will have gigabit service available. All but 0.25% will have at least 25 Mbps service available, meeting the FCC’s current broadband definition. Many of the providers will charge substantially for faster speed service, however. Some wireless ISPs offering fixed wireless service currently charge up to $999.95 a month for 100/100 Mbps service.

“The successful conclusion of this first-of-its kind auction is great news for the residents of these rural communities, who will finally be able to share in the 21st-century digital opportunities that broadband provides,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “By tapping the mechanisms of the marketplace, the Phase II auction served as the most appropriate and cost effective way to allocate funding for broadband in these unserved communities, bringing the highest-quality broadband services to the most consumers at the lowest cost to the ratepayer.”

The winners are a mix of phone, cable, satellite, and fixed wireless companies and several rural utility co-ops. The biggest recipient is Wisper ISP, a Mascoutah, Ill. company awarded over $220 million to expand its fixed wireless service in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Other significant auction winners include California’s Cal.net, a fixed wireless provider serving rural areas east of Sacramento as far as South Lake Tahoe and Commnet Wireless, LLC which provides cell service and fixed wireless in rural Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming.

Providers must build out to 40 percent of the assigned homes and businesses in a state within three years and increase by 20 percent in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. In addition to the funding that will provided by this auction, the Commission is working toward the launch of a $4.53 billion Mobility Fund Phase II auction to expand 4G LTE wireless coverage throughout rural America. And the Connect America Fund is in the midst of providing over $9 billion over a six-year period for rural broadband in areas served by large carriers.

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Frontier’s New Ad Campaign Criticizes Slow Broadband, Like What It Offers Its Own Customers

With friends like these…

In an effort to attract new business, Frontier Communications has launched a new nationwide brand platform it claims will help customers “facing challenges and frustrations navigating today’s internet services market.”

The “Don’t Go it Alone” campaign advertises Frontier as your friend on the digital frontier.

In one ad, a balladeer laments customers trying to use a home internet connection that is too slow and unreliable to depend on for working from home. The ad shows customers flocking to nearby coffee shops “looking for bandwidth” they do not have at home.

While the ads claim Frontier’s FiOS network is faster than its competitor — Charter Spectrum, many Frontier customers living outside of a FiOS service area will likely find Frontier’s ads ironic. That is because Frontier has a poor track record achieving the promised speeds it advertises to its large base of DSL customers. The 2016 FCC Report, “Measuring Fixed Broadband” (the annual reports were discontinued by the Trump Administration’s FCC in early 2017), found Frontier a poor performer. Even its fiber network Frontier FiOS was measured losing ground in delivering advertised speeds and performance.

Minnesota Public Radio reports hundreds of complaints about Frontier Communications have prompted statewide public hearings about the company’s alleged poor performance. MPR shares the stories of two frustrated Frontier DSL customers paying for service they do not get. (3:28)

“Our internet here is horrible, our provider is Frontier,” Monica King Von Holtum of Worthington in southwest Minnesota, told Minnesota Public Radio. “It’s infuriating.”

Her service is so bad, she can tell if a neighbor starts using the internet or another family member starts browsing.

“If I’m literally the only person using the internet, it’s fine,” said King Von Holtum. “As soon as we have one or more people using different devices it just tanks and we can’t get anything done.”

She is hardly alone. In Minnesota, the Public Utility Commission has received more than 400 complaints and comments about Frontier’s frustrating performance. Customers report service interruptions lasting up to a week and internet speeds slower than dial-up.

One customer said Frontier lacks “common decency” because of the way it treats its customers, often stuck with only one choice for internet access in their rural service areas.

A speed test showing 0.4 Mbps from 2013 shows this is an ongoing problem.

King Von Houltum showed MPR the results of a speed test while being interviewed.

“We have 0.4 megabits per second,” said King Von Holtum, who pays Frontier for 6 Mbps service. “And our upload is pretty much nonexistent.”

Melody Webster’s family makes regular 5-mile trips into the town of Cannon Falls to use their local library’s Wi-Fi service. It is the only way her children can complete their school assignments, because Frontier’s DSL struggles to open web pages. Webster has called Frontier again and again about the speed problems, but told the public radio station she gets “lied to or pretty much laughed at.”

That’s a story Frontier’s balladeer is not likely to put to song.

Frontier spent an undisclosed amount hiring the ad agency responsible for the new advertising.

“A brand campaign must be creative and memorable. It also has to drive a client’s business forward,” said Lance Jensen, chief creative officer of Hill Holliday, which created the campaign. “The Balladeer is a fun and accessible character who brings humanity and humor to the frustrating experience of dealing with internet and TV service. We can’t wait to put him to work for the Frontier brand.”

The campaign launches this week in Frontier markets nationally and includes broadcast, radio, online video, out of home, digital and social components.

An “affable balladeer” sings about the frustrations of internet users who do not get the internet service they paid for, in this new 30-second ad from Frontier Communications. Ironically, slow speed is the most common complaint about Frontier’s own DSL service. (0:30)

Minnesota Candidate for Governor Proposes 100 Mbps State Border-to-Border Broadband

Murphy

Every Minnesota resident would receive access to high-speed internet service under a new proposal that would fund broadband expansion with sales tax revenue earned from out-of-state internet purchases.

The Connect MN plan, backed by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) candidate for governor Erin Murphy, would offer rural and underserved Minnesotans 100/20 Mbps broadband service by 2026. To pay for the expansion program, Murphy proposes to invest $100 million annually in Minnesota’s Broadband Development Grant Program, which would provide funding to public and private providers to incentivize expansion into areas currently unprofitable to serve.

“For too long, we have talked about the importance of broadband at the Capitol without the investment needed to address the scope of the challenge,” said Murphy. “When I am Governor, we will move forward with a strategic plan that will connect every Minnesotan with the high-speed internet they need to succeed.”

Funding for the broadband expansion would come from new sales tax collections on out-of-state online purchases that have largely gone uncollected in the past. With the recent Supreme Court decision, South Dakota v. Wayfair, out-of-state retailers would be compelled to collect Minnesota’s sales tax when shipping items to a Minnesota address and remit the proceeds to the state government. The U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates more uniform collection of sales tax on out-of-state purchases will collect an extra $132-206 million for Minnesota annually. Dedicating much of that money to improve broadband service in the state could result in extending service to 550,000 unserved households — more than 26% of the state — within eight years.

Colored sections show areas lacking at least 25/3 Mbps broadband.

That level of investment would put Minnesota in the same league as New York, where in 2015 Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $500 million investment by the state in rural broadband expansion in an effort to achieve statewide broadband access by 2018. Cuomo’s plan is still under construction, and has been criticized for missing its end goal of universal coverage, with about 1-2% of state residents left with the option of satellite-delivered internet access.

Murphy’s plan would dramatically expand on her predecessor’s own broadband initiatives. Incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton’s (DFL) 2018 plan proposed to invest $30 million and reach 11,000 homes and businesses. Since taking office, Gov. Dayton claims to have secured enough funding to expand broadband access to 33,852 households, 5,189 businesses, and 300 community institutions in Greater Minnesota since taking office in 2011. Reaching the half million still unserved homes would take decades at current funding levels.

Murphy’s proposal also goes far beyond rural broadband expansion programs in other states. Tennessee currently offers a $45 million investment in rural broadband over three years — with less than $30 million specifically designated for rural broadband hookups. In West Virginia, a state ranked 43rd in wired broadband by the FCC’s 2018 Broadband Deployment Report, less than $2 million was available this year for rural broadband expansion, combining available funds from a Community Development Block Grant program with leftover money originally set aside for water and sewer projects.

Murphy claims universal access to broadband spurs innovation and drives economic development, education, healthcare and quality of life. One study indicates that a community will see a $10 return on investment for every $1 invested in broadband.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make progress on an issue holding back too many Minnesotans in communities all over the state,” said Murphy. “It’s a critical step in ensuring that everyone in Minnesota can build a bright future for themselves and their families.”

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  • john doe: The market is kind of saturated. Whoever wanted internet have already subscribed to Comcast/Charter. Beside this Verizon strategy is doomed to failure...
  • Coin: While its possible the connections are being throttled, I think its more likely that the cell network is overwhelmed. I live in a hurricane prone are...
  • Dylan: Just isn’t that nice? I would drop them quickly if they told me that my plan was too “low” and I needed to upgrade and pay more for better service. Wh...
  • Dan: Nice job Verizon first throttle first responders then hurricane victims. Fcc step in oh wait. Ajuit pia is worse than useless he is anti consumer....
  • LG: I didn't hear these speeches, and really don't know if what he said was incendiary or hateful, but I do know the left-wing media cannot be trusted to ...
  • Dylan: 20gigs? Abysmal. I would use that in a couple of hours. Even 50. I’m certainly fortunate to have unlimited internet with Spectrum....
  • EJ: I wonder if they are going to extend service based on demand. That system is used by many telecommunication companies that are coming into a new area ...
  • Phillip Dampier: Just to clarify, I think they are throwing in a free or discounted dish, which isn't such a big deal if you can find a promotion that does the same. I...
  • EJ: Well I guess I should of scrolled down first lol. Question answered by the Verizon article. Good job Phillip. Note to self scroll down a few articles ...
  • EJ: My question is what exactly is HughNet doing with the money? They already offer free installation in most areas so what is this money going towards? A...
  • Mark Wilkinson: This is a nightmare. Life was good until Verizon sold us to Frontier. Our service has been cut off twice for non-payment of an "non-returned equipme...
  • Don: I don't even have Greenlight available yet at my address. I am in Gates and Greenlight is taking orders for my address so I look up to see what would ...

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