Home » rate increase » Recent Articles:

Charter’s “Merger Benefit” for 2018: Sweeping Rate Hikes for Ex-Time Warner, Bright House Customers

Phillip Dampier December 27, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 7 Comments

Charter Communications cable TV customers will soon see sweeping rate increases on their cable bills as the cable company announces its 2018 “rate adjustments” that will begin to take effect as early as next month in some markets.

For many customers, it is the second substantial rate increase in a year. Among the most notable are a dramatic hike in equipment rental costs and surcharges.

As Charter Communications took control of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks and introduced Spectrum packages and pricing in 2016 and 2017, company spokesman Justin Venech promised that Spectrum packages were “a better value” for customers, in part because equipment rental fees were substantially lower. But the gap between what Time Warner Cable charged in early 2016 and what Spectrum customers will pay in 2018 is quickly narrowing.

In early 2017, a Spectrum set-top box was priced at $4.99 a month. In mid-2017, the company raised the price to $5.99 a month and starting next month, that rental price is increasing to $6.99 a month per box. Other equipment is getting more costly as well. Time Warner Cable introduced digital transport adapters (DTAs) for secondary analog television sets at $0.99 a month. In 2018, that equipment will cost $4.99 a month. DVR service also increases $1 to $12.99 a month.

Spectrum’s original bundled TV, phone and internet packages — Select, Silver, and Gold were priced at $109.94, $129.94, and $149 a month respectively in 2016, according to the Orange County Register. Los Angeles was among the first markets in the country to obtain new Spectrum packages and pricing in the fall of 2016. Just 15 months later, customers can now expect to pay rates starting at $139.99 for Select, $159.99 for Silver, and $179.99 for Gold.

The company’s hated Broadcast TV Surcharge, which applies to all promotional and regular-priced television packages is also being hiked from $7.50 a month to $8.85.

Among the first markets to see the 2018 rate hike is Lexington, Ky.,  which has had a year-long running battle with Charter Communications.

The mayor is not happy.

“I’m outraged,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “This is the second rate hike for Spectrum’s cable subscribers in a single year. And considering Spectrum’s record of poor customer service, it just confirms my decision to bring competition and more options to Lexington for cable TV services along with high-speed internet.”

Lexington residents will soon have a third option for cable service in addition to Spectrum, AT&T or CenturyLink: MetroNet — which promises to wire the city with fiber to the home service over the next 3-4 years.

Prices for internet and phone service are unchanged for now, but Charter has often announced rate hikes for those services later in the year, so do not expect rates to remain unchanged throughout 2018.

Spectrum 2018 Cable TV Rate Increases

  • Limited Basic TV service: Current price: $15 New Price: $20
  • Expanded Basic TV service: Current price: $54.99 New Price: $49.99
  • Spectrum Receiver: Current price: $5.99 New Price: $6.99
  • Broadcast TV Surcharge: Current price: $7.50 New Price: $8.85
  • DTA: Current price: $4.00 New Price: $4.99
  • Single DVR Service: Current price: $11.99 New Price: $12.99
  • Sports Pass: Current price: $10.00 New Price: $12.00
  • Movie Pass: Current price: $10.00 New Price: $12.00
  • Triple Play Select: Current price: $129.99 New Price: $139.99
  • Triple Play Silver: Current price: $149.99 New price: $159.99
  • Triple Play Gold: Current price: $169.99 New Price: $179.99

Happy Holidays 2018 Rate Hike from Cox

Phillip Dampier December 13, 2017 Consumer News, Cox 1 Comment

Cox Communications, which spent much of 2017 implementing data caps and overlimit fees on its broadband customers, is back for more with plans for sweeping rate increases that take effect Jan. 7, 2018.

According to a bill notification received by a DSL Reports reader, a long list of video packages will increase from $1-5 a month, with lower amounts for slimmed down TV packages and higher increases for Contour TV packages. Cox will collect even more from a big boost to its Broadcast TV Surcharge, rising from $4 a month to $7.50. Only one channel — Playboy — will see a significant rate cut (from $19.95 to $15.99).

Cox TV Package Rate Increases (effective Jan. 7, 2018)

Flex Watch will change from $40.00 to $41.00.
TV Economy will change from $34.99 to $38.00.
TV Essential will change from $75.99 to $79.99.
Contour TV will change from $79.99 to $84.99.
Contour TV Ultimate will change from $161.99 to 166.99.
Contour TV Preferred will change from $91.99 to $96.99.
Contour TV Premier will change from $105.99 to $108.99.
Advanced TV Ultimate will change from $158.99 to $161.99.
Advanced TV Ultimate with 4 Premiums will change from $167.99 to $170.99.
Advanced TV Ultimate with 4 Premiums and Record 6 DVR will change from $165.99 to $168.99.
Paquete Latino will change from $35.00 to $36.00.
El Mix will change from $52.49 to $53.49.
Super Mix will change from $89.99 to $94.99.
Flex Watch Latino will change from $13.51 to $14.51.
TV Economy Latino will change from $44.99 to $48.00.
Contour TV Latino will change from $89.99 to $94.99.
Contour TV Latino Preferred will change from $101.99 to $106.99.
Contour TV Latino Ultimate will change from $175.99 to $178.99.
Entertainment Package with 3 Premiums will change from $138.24 to $143.24.
Entertainment Package with 4 Premiums will change from $149.74 to $154.74.
CableCARD will change from $2.00 to $2.99.
Playboy will change from $19.95 to $15.99.
The Broadcast Surcharge will change from $4.00 to $7.50.

Substantial rate hikes are also forthcoming for Cox’s internet packages, rising $2-4 a month when bundled with at least one other service.

Cox High Speed Internet Rate Increases

Starter will change from $34.99 to $36.99.
Essential will change from $52.99 to $55.99.
Preferred will change from $67.99 to $71.99.
Preferred 100 will change from $72.99 to $76.99.
Premier will change from $79.99 to $82.99.

Cox is also risking losing customers for its digital phone service, which often gets targeted for cancellation when there are sweeping rate hikes. Cox seemed undeterred, boosting some basic plan prices while dropping others.

Cox Digital Telephone Rate Increases

Starter will change from $13.99 to $14.99.
Economy will change from $18.50 to $18.39.
Starter Lifeline will change from $10.99 to $11.74.
Essential Lifeline will change from $21.99 to $21.74.
Premier Lifeline will change from $31.99 to $31.74.
An Additional Telephone Line will change from $13.99 to $14.99.
The FCC Access Fee will change from $7.10 to $6.00.
The Cost Recovery Fee will change from $1.49 to $1.60.
Toll Restriction will change from $1.49 to $1.60.

A Cox spokesperson said the rate increases were to cover increased programming expenses, as well as recovering some of the investments Cox has made to improve its equipment and broadband service. Customers on a promotional rate plan are unaffected by the rate increases until their current promotion expires.

Netflix is Raising Their Rates

Phillip Dampier October 5, 2017 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video 1 Comment

Most Netflix customers in the U.S. will be paying $1-2 more a month to the online streaming service starting in November.

Mashable reports Netflix is raising prices on its Standard plan (currently $9.99/mo) by $1 and those on its Premium plan (now $11.99) will pay $2 more a month. The basic $7.99 plan remains unchanged for now.

“From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience to help members find something great to watch even faster,” Netflix said in a statement.

Most of the extra money will likely be spent on content creation and acquisition for subscribers. Netflix is expected to spend $7 billion on content in 2018.

Netflix plans are differentiated based on video quality and the number of concurrent streams. Here are the respective features of each plan. Customers and downgrade or upgrade at any time.

Prices reflected are prior to the impending rate increase.

The last Netflix rate increase was announced in 2014, but did not take full effect for all customers until 2016.

The End of Google Fiber Expansion: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

Alphabet, the parent company of Google Fiber, has lost interest in expanding its fiber to the home service and is showing signs of pulling the plug on its cable television alternative while it drags its feet on keeping promised rollout commitments.

The first sign of trouble for the upstart fiber network came as early as 2015, when without warning Google co-founder Larry Page suddenly unveiled Alphabet, a new holding company that would be at the heart of Google and its many ventures, including Google Fiber. The concept was tailor-made to please Wall Street and investors, because it would better expose which Google projects were earning money and which were hemorrhaging cash with no sign of profitability. But an equally important event occurred in May with the hiring of Ruth Porat, who would become Alphabet’s chief financial officer.

Known inside by some at Google as “Ruthless Ruth,” Porat is Wall Street’s definition of a proper executive that keeps shareholder interests first in mind. Porat lead Morgan Stanley’s technology banking division at the heart of the first dot.com boom in the late 1990s, served as an adviser to the Treasury Department on the taxpayer bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and was chief financial officer at Morgan Stanley by 2010. Her mission at Google: put an end to expensive innovation for innovation’s sake. If a project did not show signs of making money for shareholders, it would face intense scrutiny under her watch.

“She’s a hatchet man,” a former senior Alphabet executive frankly told Bloomberg News.

Porat

Her key priorities are “discipline” and “focus,” something Google never had to be concerned with while earning truckloads of ad-click cash. Google’s reputation for cool innovation and free services earned the company a lot of goodwill with the public, but that left money on the table for investors who want the company to step up shareholder value. Google’s founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page had enjoyed a long run innovating and announcing new projects, including scanning every printed book on the planet, giving away e-mail and office apps, and laying fiber optic cables to deliver the kind of internet service big phone and cable companies were not delivering. The company also acquired other innovators, including Nest Labs — which made connected thermostats and Webpass, which provides wireless high-speed internet access.

But for all of its success, Google also had several high-profile failures that cost billions, setting the stage for future project accountability.

One of the biggest failures was its Google Glass wearable tech project. The first edition, dubbed Explorer, was a flop and received terrible reviews. But the device also clashed with a country increasingly preoccupied with personal privacy. Not everyone appreciated Google Glass’ always-watching camera pointing in their direction, and some wearing the device were derided as “glassholes.”

“I was a Google Glass Explorer, and the experience was horrible from the start. Google Glass now sits in my office museum of failed products,” said Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies Inc. in this post at re/code. “The UI was terrible, the connection unreliable and the info it delivered had little use to me. It was the worst $1,500 I have ever spent in my life. On the other hand, as a researcher, it was a great tool to help me understand what not to do when creating a product for the consumer.”

Google Glass: a major misstep

Google’s other experiments weren’t exactly pulling in a lot of money either. The company’s vision of driver-less cars met the reality of real world driving conditions (some accidents were the result) and traffic planning and safety regulators were cautious about giving a green light to the concept on American streets and highways. A long-time favorite project of Brin and Page, Project Loon — sending 100,000 balloons, blimps, and/or drones into the sky to deliver internet access is still seen by conventional wisdom as weird. These and other experimental projects lost $3.6 billion of Google’s revenue in 2016, almost twice as much as they lost the company in 2014.

After “Ruthless Ruth” entered the picture, as Bloomberg News documented, it appeared the open door to the experiment lab was closed and an exodus of project leaders and engineers began:

Six months after Teller’s rousing speech, Loon’s Mike Cassidy stepped down as project leader. Around the same time, Urmson, the self-driving car engineer, left Alphabet, as did David Vos, the head of X’s drone effort, Project Wing. Vos’s top deputy, Sean Mullaney, left the company as well. Other recent departures: Craig Barratt, chief executive officer of Access, its telecom division; Bill Maris, the CEO of its venture capital arm, GV; and Tony Fadell, the CEO of smart-thermostat company Nest, who was also working on a reboot of Google Glass. That project, now called Aura, also lost its leads of user design and engineering.

Barratt: The former head of Google Access.

The bean counters also arrived at Google Access — the division responsible for Google Fiber — and by October 2016, Google simultaneously announced it was putting a hold on further expansion of Google Fiber and its CEO, Craig Barratt, was leaving the company. About 10% of employees in the division involuntarily left with him. Insufficiently satisfied with those cutbacks, additional measures were announced in April 2017 including the departure of Milo Medin, a vice president at Google Access and Dennis Kish, a wireless infrastructure veteran who was president of Google Fiber. Nearly 600 Google Access employees were also reassigned to other divisions. Medin was a Google Fiber evangelist in Washington, and often spoke about the impact Google’s fiber project would have on broadband competition and the digital economy.

Porat’s philosophy had a sweeping impact on Alphabet and its various divisions. The most visionary/experimental projects that were originally green-lit with no expectation of making money for a decade or more now required a plan to prove profitability in five years or less. Wall Street was delighted and Alphabet’s stock was up 35% since “Ruthless Ruth” arrived, winning praise for remaking Alphabet/Google into a conventional American corporation using familiar corporate principles.

But Alphabet’s transition seems to break a promise Google co-founders Brin and Page made when Google became a public company in 2004.

“We do not intend to become one.”

Both men promised Google would never focus on short-term profitability and would encourage employees to devote 20% of their working hours on exactly the kinds of innovative projects and product developments Porat was intent on cutting or killing. Porat even has a willing army of helpers — executives were paid bonuses to kill their projects before expenses got out of hand. This helped halt development of Tableau, a project to create enormous size TV screens originally championed by Brin.

Porat also had a major hand in slashing the budget at Google’s Nest Labs division. Google spent $3.2 billion acquiring the home thermostat and smoke alarm company in 2014. Nest CEO Tony Fadell came along as part of the deal and was initially considered a major asset, having been the former Apple engineer who built the original iPod prototype. But Fadell clashed with Google’s culture and reports surfaced he was a tyrannical boss comparable to Steve Jobs at his nastiest. Google executives expected more products out of the Nest division, and didn’t get them. Fadell blamed employees and ruthless budget cuts that broke Google’s commitment to allow Nest to lose up to $500 million annually for the first five years under Google’s ownership. Even when Nest managed to generated $340 million in revenue in 2015, Porat wasn’t pleased. The higher-ups expected more considering the amount of money Google spent buying Nest Labs.

Google Fiber was launched knowing it would take billions of dollars and years to pay off for Google. Laying fiber optic cable is expensive, time-consuming, and frequently bureaucratic. Google projects that still have support from Brin and Page are usually protected from Porat’s red pencil, but if either’s optimism waivers, Porat is likely to start cutting.

By the time Barratt tried to jump-start excitement for the slowly progressing fiber service by announcing a series of new launch cities, Page appeared to have lost interest. Former employees say Page became frustrated with Google Fiber’s lack of progress.

“Larry just thought it wasn’t game-changing enough,” says a former Page adviser. “There’s no flying-saucer shit in laying fiber.”

Charter Communications took out newspaper ads trumpeting Google’s abandonment of some of its potential fiber customers in Kansas City.

Left unprotected, Porat’s budget cutters invaded and further fiber expansion has been suspended, except in areas where Google was already committed to provide the service. But the cutbacks have been so significant, cities are now complaining Google is dragging its feet on its commitments.

In Kansas City — the first to get Google Fiber, the network remains incomplete. In March 2017, Google signaled it was likely to remain incomplete indefinitely after returning hundreds of $10 deposits — many paid years earlier — to residents who were informed Google Fiber would no longer expand into their neighborhoods. In the last two years, Google has become very conservative about the neighborhoods where it will expand service. In most cases, the company now targets multi-dwelling units like condos and apartments, which are cheaper to serve than single family homes.

In late September, Atlanta noticed Google Fiber was stalled in the city and nearby Sandy Springs and Brookhaven. A clear sign Google had effectively suspended construction was a sudden end to construction permit applications around six months ago. Google Fiber denies it is pulling out, but city officials notice work progress has slowed to a crawl.

“Google Fiber is currently available in over 100 residential buildings in the metro Atlanta area and in several neighborhoods in the center of the city. We’re working hard to connect as many people as possible, and encourage people to sign up for updates on our website,” a Google Fiber spokesperson said.

There have been similar problems with Google Fiber expansion in several Texas cities. Some neighborhood residents complained about shoddy installation work because of poor quality third-party contractors, and expansion has slowed down markedly in many areas.

Ironically, AT&T may have been responsible for helping kill Page’s enthusiasm for Google Fiber, serving as a regular obstacle to Google Fiber’s expansion in states like Tennessee where it has been delayed by bureaucratic pole attachment disputes, some resulting in legal action. For Ma Bell and its progeny, a five-year delay is nothing for a company that has been around since the early 1900s and took decades to build out its original telephone network.

Google Fiber Huts – Nashville, Tenn.

Utilities employ a small army of workers that do nothing but deal in a world of tariffs, permit applications, and various filings to regulatory bodies that still govern parts of their operations. For a dot.com company in a hurry, filing permit applications, negotiating pole attachment agreements, hiring subcontractors that can meet regulated specifications, and dealing with incomplete or inaccurate infrastructure maps could be hell on earth. But for phone and cable companies, it is just another day on the job, and their “concern trolling” over the danger of allowing a neophyte like Google to mess with existing electric, phone, and cable wiring to make room for fiber did give some local officials pause.

Page’s hurry to accomplish his fiber dreams were effectively dashed by AT&T’s very close relationship with local officials and its ability to generate a mountain of regulatory and legal paperwork. As a result, Google admitted with great frustration that in Nashville, after months of work, it had only upgraded 33 telephone poles out of 88,000 in the city. The delay also took its toll on a Nashville-based subcontractor helping to build out Google Fiber in the city. Phoenix of Tennessee declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September with liabilities between $1-10 million. It also laid off 70 employees. The reason? Google Fiber is stalled in the city.

One Alphabet employee mischaracterized the end effect of the dispute in comments to the Wall Street Journal last year, “Everyone who has done fiber to the home has given up because it costs way too much money and takes way too much time.”

Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Project summarized the situation more succinctly for Gizmodo: “the new guy gets screwed.

Yet it would be more accurate to say companies with short attention spans and an evolving commitment away from innovation and towards Wall Street and its fixation on short-term results will have more difficulty than other companies and communities that have successfully built fiber networks with a patient focus on the future.

Porat has been defending Alphabet’s increasingly conservative spending plans and pull-backs.

“As we reach for moonshots,” she told investors on a financial results conference call, “it’s inevitable that there will be course corrections along the way.” She called some of the shifting priorities and cutbacks “taking a pause” in some areas of business to “lay the foundation for a stronger future.”

For Google Fiber, that is coming in a number of different directions.

The company this week announced it is pulling back on offering cable television service in its new markets, including Louisville, Ky., and San Antonio, Tex., and is raising rates $20-30 a month for bundled customers in areas where television service is still being sold.

“The cost of providing TV programming continues to rise,” the company said in an email notifying customers of the rate increase. The price change will hit existing customers paying $130 a month for Fiber 1000Mbps service + TV. Current customers will pay $150 a month going forward. New customers will pay $10 more for the bundle – $160 a month.

“We’re not afraid to try new things as part of our normal way of doing business, focused on the end goal of getting superfast internet into people’s homes,” wrote head of sales and marketing for Google Access Cathy Fogler in a blog post.

Google Fiber has been a minor player in the cable television business, according to analysts, attracting around 54,000 customers nationwide as of December — only 24,000 more than it had in 2014.

As for the future, with Porat in charge of finances, it is likely Google will downscale expectations and rely on its acquisition of Webpass for future expansion, providing high-speed wireless internet to multi-dwelling apartments, condos, and businesses in dense urban areas. That eliminates costly fiber expansion to individual homes or businesses and is much less expensive to install and maintain.

Any plans for a major Google Fiber push in the future seems unlikely, considering Wall Street’s demands for Return On Investment are not easily tempered. That leaves independent local overbuilders with established ties to their communities the most likely to pick up where Google Fiber has left off. But even those are in short supply. Like any major project of this scope, the best option for getting fiber optics in your community, assuming the local cable or phone company isn’t doing it already, is to treat it as a public infrastructure project like water, sewer, roads or sidewalks.

Most cities were all too happy to compete for Google’s attention (and infrastructure investment). But now that is no longer likely, and many communities will have to decide for themselves which side of the digital divide they want to live in — the side without 21st century broadband or the side that has elected to control their own broadband future and not wait for someone else to get the job done.

American Cable Association Wants Ban on TV Blackouts During Disasters

Phillip Dampier October 3, 2017 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

Polka

The nation’s trade association for independent cable companies wants the FCC to prohibit broadcasters from blacking out TV stations during disasters and local emergencies.

The American Cable Association applauded the FCC’s intervention in the recent retransmission consent dispute between Dish Networks and Lilly Broadcasting, which resulted in the satellite provider losing access to a Caribbean-focused station for viewers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

“The commission should find it intolerable for a broadcaster seeking to leverage higher retransmission consent fees to block viewers in a state of emergency from accessing critical, and potentially life‐saving, information,” wrote ACA president Matthew Polka. “It is no answer in such a situation for the broadcaster to suggest that viewers should switch providers or install antennas in order to access this information.”

ACA members, often small cable companies providing service in rural areas, also face station blackouts during tough contract renegotiation talks at a time when many stations are asking for unprecedented rate increases — sometimes 100% or more — in return for a carriage renewal agreement. Some stations have used whatever leverage they can find to pressure cable operators to agree to their terms, without disclosing to viewers just how much some stations are asking to renew those contracts. Most cable operators have passed those fees on to subscribers, which can easily add $5-7 a month to a cable television bill just for three or four local stations.

Lilly’s decision to blackout its One Caribbean TV channel left English-speaking viewers in Puerto Rico without an important news source. Most broadcast outlets on that island broadcast for the much larger Spanish-speaking population. The station was quickly returned to Dish’s lineup after it became a political issue.

Polka wants to make sure a similar situation does not happen in the future, so he’s asked the FCC to consider adding a requirement to the FCC’s “good faith” rules that govern acceptable behavior during retransmission consent negotiations forbidding stations from pulling their signal anywhere the FCC has activated its Disaster Information Reporting System, and to guarantee those signals will remain accessible for the duration of the event.

“We urge the commission to propose and seek comment on such a rule change as soon as possible in order to avoid consumer harm in future emergencies,” Polka told the FCC.

Search This Site:

Contributions:

Recent Comments:

  • Steve: The article states that Greenlight May find competition tough since Spectrum will soon be offering faster internet offerings. The article ignores one ...
  • Earl Fleer: Apparently many on this thread don't understand the technicalities of TV. An example is the reference to a power of .44 watts output of the transmit...
  • OYoung: They must have pulled the wool over Mr Golisano's eyes pretty well. I'm all for the competition but this company is sketchy. Contractors showed up i...
  • Conan: Perhaps more important than speed is the probability that Charter will institute usage caps as TWC tried to. They have agreed not to for a period of ...
  • TimmyT: Maybe this will help them expand faster than the snails pace they are on now....
  • FredH: We need this across all of Upstate NY....give Spectrum some legitimate competition in it's entire service zone....
  • LG: I've been trying and in several cases getting friends and family to dump those bundle services and cut that cord. The only real problem is that these...
  • jelabarre: Ironically enough, I'm finding I'm even watching Netflix less than even when we dropped CableTV some 18 months ago. These days it's all Crunchyroll (...
  • LG: I left Massachusetts 4 years ago for Florida. Hearing about corruption in my home state is nothing new. Recently, a letter showed up at a family memb...
  • L. Nova: Charter bribed this guy Larkin....
  • Keith: I concur...First, the programs available are junk and riddled with ads. Most subscribers might find 1-3 channels that they would watch but for most, G...
  • BobInIllinois: Did you ever consider that your ideas are great, but some companies just don't have the people, the skills, and $$ to make it all happen?...

Your Account: