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Cable One Raking It In With Rate Hikes: 47% Margin Highest in the Cable Industry

Cable One, the Phoenix-based mid-sized cable operator serving some of the poorest communities in the country is charging some of the nation’s highest prices for broadband service, raking in an unprecedented 47% margin in the fourth quarter of 2017, the highest in the cable industry.

That growth has come courtesy of CEO Julie Laulis, who has doubled down on data caps — automatically enrolling customers in higher priced plans if they exceed data caps three times in any 12-month period, raised prices, and ended most new customer and customer retention promotions in favor of ‘take it or leave it‘ pricing, especially on broadband service. Laulis has also decided to devote most of Cable One’s marketing efforts on selling broadband service, while de-emphasizing cable television. As a result, customers dissatisfied with Cable One’s lineup are encouraged to leave quietly.

Because video programming is costly to provide and broadband is relatively cheap to offer, the more the company can extract from its internet customers, the higher the profits earned. In 2011, cable television represented 49.1% of Cable One’s $779 million in revenue, with residential and commercial broadband comprising 34%. Today, 57% of Cable One’s $960 million in revenue comes from selling internet service. Cable One not only de-emphasized its video business, it also raised prices on internet service to further enhance earnings.

New customers coming to Cable One can subscribe to an entry-level broadband plan of 100 Mbps with a 300 GB monthly data cap for $55 a month. There are no discounts or promotions on this plan. But Cable One also requires customers to lease ($10.50/mo.) or buy an added-cost cable modem, raising the price higher. To prevent customers from taking advantage of promotions on higher speed products, Cable One requires customers to disconnect from service for a full year before being considered a new customer once again.


Cable One has been able to raise prices and attach stingy usage caps to customers primarily because there are no good alternatives in the rural markets it prefers. One analyst said 77% of Cable One’s customers are in largely rural areas of Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma. But prices are clearly getting too high for some, because the company lost more video and phone customers that it gained in new broadband subscriptions during the fourth quarter of 2017.

The fact Cable One broadband is now considered by many subscribers to be “too expensive” is also reflected by the extremely anemic broadband growth at Cable One. In 2017, the company added just 1.5% to its residential broadband customer base, despite very limited competition from phone companies.

MoffettNathanson’s Craig Moffett has complained all winter that Cable One is sacrificing broadband subscriber growth in favor of profits from price increases.

“[Cable One has] the most limited broadband competition of any publicly traded operator, and they have the lowest starting penetration,” Moffett told his investors. “Should they not be growing broadband the fastest of anyone? If price elasticity is greater than anyone thinks, how long is the runway, not just for Cable One, but for any operator choosing a strategy of price increases rather than unit growth?”

Cable One is also squeezing its newest customers at its latest acquisition – NewWave, which now features pricing very similar to Cable One. It recently started to turn over past due NewWave customers to collections after going 40 days past due. Previously, it was 90 days before account holders were threatened with cancellation and collections.

For now, NewWave’s introductory offer remains: 100 Mbps High-Speed Internet is $39 for the first three months before these rates kick in:

100Mbps 150Mbps 200Mpbs 200Mpbs 200Mpbs
Monthly Price* $55 $80 $105 $130 $155
Download Speed Up To 100 150 200 200 200
Upload Speed Up To 3 5 10 10 10
Best for # of Household Devices 5 8 10 10 10
Data Plan 300GB 600GB 900GB 1200GB 1500GB
Household Needs Download files/music
Power surfing
Occasional gaming
Mulitple surfers
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Serious gaming
Mulitple devices & users
Home Wifi Included* Included* Included* Included* Included*
Streaming Video HD Video Multiple HD Video Multiple HD Video Multiple HD Video
iTunes Downloads of 45 minute show 15.6 seconds 10.8 seconds 7.8 seconds 7.8 seconds 7.8 seconds

*Plans & pricing for new customers. Rates do not include optional modem fees of $10.50 per month. Rates subject to change. Taxes and fees not included.


Viacom Launching Ad-Supported Streaming Service This Year

Phillip Dampier March 7, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

Viacom is preparing to launch its own direct-to-consumer streaming service later this year that will include more than 10,000 hours of on-demand programming from Viacom’s extensive library of content going back several decades.

Bob Bakish told investors at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in San Francisco last week that Viacom’s plans to launch a service at least as large as CBS’ All Access Pass began in 2016 when the company quietly started to pull back on licensing its content to third party streaming services to build an attractive menu of options for its own streaming service.

Viacom has extensive media and cable holdings, including Paramount Pictures and Paramount Television, which has been in the television show production business since 1967. Viacom’s cable networks are also household names, including BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, and TV Land. The service is expected to contain a deep catalog of shows from these and other cable networks under the Viacom umbrella.

“It’s going to be significant, and it’s going to also be differentiated from what’s in the marketplace today,” said Viacom chief financial officer Wade Davis, adding that it was only possible because “we kind of built and husbanded [our] library to be able to use for our own strategic purposes.”

Analysts expect the service will include a mobile app and desktop viewing options and will be ad-supported. Similar services generally sell for around $5-6 a month, but Viacom has been purposely vague about the exact terms and pricing of the service.

The news did not seem to interest investors as much as recent developments about a possible merger between Viacom and CBS, which theoretically could mean a merger of the future Viacom streaming service into the CBS All Access Pass.

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.


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.

Verizon and Samsung Partner Up to Provide 5G Services, Starting in Sacramento

Verizon Communications has selected Samsung Electronics as a major supplier of the wireless company’s forthcoming 5G wireless service, launching first in Sacramento, Calif., in the second half of this year.

Samsung will be a major vendor supplying Verizon and its customers in Sacramento with 5G equipment, including wireless modems and routers. In 11 other cities where Verizon is testing 5G service, Ericsson AB, another 5G network vendor, has supplied much of the equipment. Samsung is currently a small player in the 5G networking business, but hopes to ramp up its business and cross-promote its smartphones and tablets with future 5G users.

Verizon’s wireless customers in Sacramento will be the first to receive invitations to switch their home broadband accounts away from AT&T, Frontier, Wave Broadband and Comcast — the four largest incumbent providers in the greater Sacramento area. Verizon claims its 5G service can support speeds up to 1Gbps. Verizon has been testing 5G service in 11 U.S. cities, but has kept pricing details to itself. The issue of data caps has been repeatedly raised and most industry analysts predict Verizon will usage cap its 5G service at around 200GB a month. Whether the company plans to offer an unlimited use plan is unknown.

Kim Young-ky, president of Samsung’s networks business, told the Wall Street Journal that 5G is a reality and it will be much more than just an upgrade from 4G service.

“The average U.S. consumer uses about five gigabytes of mobile data a month,” said Kim. But after 5G becomes more ubiquitous in the next few years, he believes consumers will eventually use closer to 100GB monthly on new services such as virtual or augmented reality programs—or even from driverless cars, the newspaper added.

Kim expects the first 5G capable smartphones won’t appear until sometime in 2019, leaving 5G primarily as a wireless home broadband replacement during its initial rollout.

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

Phillip Dampier January 2, 2018 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 12 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.

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