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N.Y. Attorney General Overcomes Charter’s Legal Objections to Slow Internet Lawsuit

Phillip Dampier February 20, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 6 Comments

Charter Communications will have to face a courtroom to answer accusations the cable company intentionally sold internet service at speeds it knew it could not provide to its customers in New York.

New York State Supreme Court Justice O. Peter Sherwood rejected a motion by the cable company to dismiss New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s 2017 lawsuit accusing Time Warner Cable (now owned by Charter) of systematically shortchanging as many as 640,000 New York internet customers by falsely advertising internet speeds it knew it could not deliver, often with at least 900,000 outdated company-provided cable modems incapable of supporting the higher speeds the company promoted.

“Today’s decision by the New York Supreme Court marks a major victory for New York consumers — rejecting every single argument made by Charter-Spectrum in its attempts to block our lawsuit,” said Schneiderman. “This decision ensures that our office can continue to hold Charter-Spectrum to account for its failure to deliver the reliable internet speeds it promised consumers, ripping you off by promising internet speeds it simply could not deliver.”

Charter’s Defense: Spectrum’s Ad Claims for Fast Internet Service are: “Prototypical instances of non-actionable puffery.”

Charter’s lawyers attempted a variety of legal strategies to get Schneiderman’s lawsuit tossed, including undermining the cable company’s own marketing efforts. Lawyers argued the court should ignore Charter’s claims it sold a “blazing fast, super-reliable connection” that could “stream Netflix and Hulu movies and shows effortlessly” as nothing more than “prototypical instances of non-actionable puffery.”

Scheniderman’s office claimed it was much more than that.

N.Y. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

“Spectrum-TWC failed to maintain enough network capacity in the form of interconnection ports to deliver this promised content to its subscribers without slowdowns, interruptions, and data loss,” stated Schneiderman. “It effectively ‘throttled’ access to Netflix and other content providers by allowing the ports through which its network interconnects with data coming from those providers to degrade, causing slowdowns. Spectrum-TWC then extracted payments from those content providers as a condition for upgrading the ports As a result, Spectrum-TWC’s subscribers could not reliably access the content they were promised, and instead were subjected to the buffering, slowdowns and other interruptions in service that they had been assured they would not encounter.”

Charter also claimed it was not legally responsible for meeting its own advertised speeds because the company only sold speeds “up to” a level, without guaranteeing customers would get the speeds it advertised.

Even if a judge found Charter lacking in its legal defense, lawyers for the company more broadly argued that under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s net neutrality order, state courts and regulators had no power to regulate or oversee broadband providers because “regulation of broadband internet access service should be governed principally by a uniform set of federal regulations, rather than by a patchwork of separate state and local requirements,” according to Charter’s attorney Christopher Clark.

Justice Sherwood uniformly rejected all of Charter’s arguments to dismiss the case:

  • Improper state venue for the lawsuit: “Spectrum-TWC fails to identify any provision [of law] that preempts state anti-fraud or consumer-protection claims, or reflects any intention by Congress to make federal law the exclusive source of law protecting consumers from broadband providers’ deceptive conduct.”
  • False advertising: “This court finds that, contrary to defendants’ contentions, the FCC’s goal of promoting competition through [the Internet Transparency Rule], the FCC stated that the rule was intended to ensure consumers had the “right to accurate information, so [they] can choose, monitor, and receive the broadband internet services they have been promised. New York’s Executive Law and Consumer Protection Act […] require that [providers] refrain from fraud, deception, and false advertising when communicating with New York consumers.
  • Netflix/YouTube slowdowns: The issue of interconnection agreements between content providers and Spectrum-TWC are matters for the court to consider because it is not an attempt to regulate those agreements. “Rather, the complaint simply alleges that Spectrum-TWC misled subscribers by claiming that specific online content would be swiftly accessible through its network, while it was simultaneously deliberately allowing that service to degrade […] and failing to upgrade its network’s capacity to meet demand for this content.”
  • “Up to” speeds: Spectrum-TWC claimed that advertising speeds “up to” a certain level was not misleading because consumers understood this to mean the maximum speed, not average speed. In Spectrum’s argument, it claimed “reasonable consumers understand this is not a promise of ‘minimum’ performance, but rather ‘maximum’ performance.” But the judge disagreed. “Defendant’s theory is contrary to New York law regarding ‘up to’ claims” when those speeds are “functionally unattainable as a result of the defendants’ knowing conduct.”

Schneiderman’s office is seeking civil fines and restitution from Spectrum-TWC for customers in New York.

YouTube TV Gets Turner Networks and More Sports Channels… and a $5 Price Hike

Phillip Dampier February 14, 2018 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, YouTube TV No Comments

YouTube TV is adding seven new basic cable networks owned by Time Warner/Turner Broadcasting to its lineup along with NBA TV and the MLB Network.

The new TW/Turner Network channels — TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies, along with more sports programming, will also mean a $5 a month rate hike for the streaming service, effective March 13.

Existing YouTube TV customers and those signing up before the rate increase takes effect will be spared the price increase, paying $35 a month for the service instead of the $40 rate charged new customers next month.

YouTube TV has focused much of its attention in the last year on getting local broadcast stations on its lineup, and now has a complete assortment of NBC, CBS, ABC, and FOX affiliates in dozens of TV markets. One of the reasons cord-cutters are reluctant to cancel their cable subscription is the loss of local stations, but YouTube TV has managed to overcome that roadblock for many subscribers.

The service has spent much of its annual budget on sports channels, which are usually the most costly basic cable networks. The addition of Time Warner, Inc./Turner Broadcasting cable networks came as a result of subscriber demand. Time Warner, fighting the Department of Justice over its proposed acquisition by AT&T, will likely use the new agreement as additional evidence the company is not withholding popular cable programming from AT&T’s competitors.

YouTube TV offers a 7-day free trial, after which subscribers are charged $35 a month. If interested in the service, now is the time to subscribe before it costs $60 more a year.

Charter/Spectrum: We’ll Offer Gigabit Speed Nationwide by the End of 2018

Spectrum markets where gigabit speed is already available.

Charter Communications is accelerating the deployment of the next generation cable broadband standard DOCSIS 3.1 so that it can offer almost every customer gigabit download speed by the end of this year.

“We plan to be 1 Gbps everywhere and marketing 1 Gbps everywhere this year, which is [also includes] taking up a significant portion of our business to minimum speeds of 200 Mbps at the same price we were charging for 60 Mbps a year ago,” said Thomas Rutledge, CEO of Charter Communications, on a Feb. 2 investor conference call. “And we plan to do that as quickly as we can, but because of the all-digital rollout and some of the other operational issues we have, we haven’t fully planned out [200 Mbps speed for] the whole country yet.”

Charter’s biggest challenge is expected to be swapping legacy modems inadequate for the task of delivering 200 Mbps and higher speeds to residential customers. Many Charter customers are still using modems originally provided by Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, generally considered adequate for supporting top speeds only between 50-100 Mbps. But Charter is planning to offer faster internet speeds to position itself as a viable broadband competitor in markets where fiber competitors have poached subscribers and the future threat of 5G speeds up to 1 Gbps are on the horizon. That could require a substantial modem exchange program, especially in cities that were never upgraded to Time Warner Cable Maxx before Charter acquired Time Warner Cable.

Charter’s migration for Time Warner Cable/Bright House customers continues, while Charter Legacy markets stall

In 2017, Charter intentionally focused most of its time and money integrating its acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks customers into Charter’s billing, provisioning, service, and retention systems. This came, Rutledge admitted, at the expense of long-time Charter customers who saw new product launches and upgrades delayed because of the ongoing integration effort.

It will take until 2019 to fully integrate all of Charter’s customers onto a single platform that will no longer distinguish if a customer was a long-standing Charter customer or a former TWC or BH subscriber.

Customers willing to abandon their legacy Time Warner Cable or Bright House plans in favor of a Spectrum plan are also dragging their feet. As of the end of 2017, 51% of TWC and Bright House customers were still sticking with their original plan, refusing to switch to Spectrum pricing and packaging. As customers face Spectrum’s new plans, some are canceling service. Time Warner Cable residential video customers dropped by 2.5% over 2017. Charter Legacy customers dropped by 1%, while legacy Bright House customers declined by 0.5%.

Legacy Charter areas saw subscribers running out of patience. The company lost 10,000 video customers in the last quarter versus a gain of 20,000 customers a year ago. Company officials blame the complications associated with absorbing millions of acquired customers for the results.

“In 2016 and 2017, we delayed a number of new product launches through the integration, particularly at legacy Charter within our fundamental structured operating model and business rules now in place, we will more aggressively launch new products nationwide,” said Rutledge.

Charter is also spending a considerable amount of its financial resources buying back its stock. During the fourth quarter, Charter accelerated its buyback program repurchasing 13.5 million shares in Charter Holdings stock totaling $4.7 billion at an average price of $347 per share. For all of 2017, Charter bought back $13.2 billion worth of its own stock.

Digital television conversions drag on…

Charter did not restart its digital television conversion program until June of 2017, and 30% of Time Warner Cable and 50% of Bright House Networks customers are still watching analog cable television as a result. Company officials promise digital conversion will be completed nationwide by the end of this year, the first step the company will take to make dramatic broadband speed increases possible.

“Our video products in those markets will improve,” Rutledge said. “Internet speeds will increase further and all-digital will drive more efficient operations in the field including electronic disconnects, self-installation and a reduction of unauthorized connections.”

Among the most significant improvements is the introduction of the Worldbox set-top box, which will be available nationwide by the end of 2018, but generally only to new video customers. The new box runs faster and is less expensive than the traditional set-top box, and better integrates on-demand and streaming video services.

Worldbox will also highlight Spectrum’s new Spectrum Guide, an improved on-screen program guide and content portal. The new guide will also include support for third-party streaming services like Netflix.

Charter has also begun to deploy an improved Wi-Fi router known as Wave 2, which claims to offer faster speeds and better signals throughout a customer’s home. Availability is reportedly spotty, but improving.

Charter Spectrum Updates Approved Modem List for New Speed Tiers

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

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

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

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

Gigabit (940 Mbps) Tier

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

400 Mbps

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

300 Mbps

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

100 Mbps

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

60 Mbps

Vendor Model
ARRIS SB6120
ARRIS SB6121
Netgear CDM31T

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

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

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

Phillip Dampier January 2, 2018 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 6 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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  • jeff: if u tell the system u want to be a new customer it will let u add the choice option after selecting internet only. if current customer with tv it do...
  • EJ: Kaniki we all know what is happening. They charge that because they can. In most areas there one competitor is inferior so they can charge to much and...
  • Todd: And 300M to Charter/Spectrum is peanuts. They increased ELP Internet from $14.99 to $19.99. I'm not a math major, but let me see if I have this righ...
  • Todd: I got called with this offer yesterday, actually. The problem with this, is yes, at $22, it seems like a good deal, and I'd almost consider it. Exce...
  • Quinn: Spectrum is awful. I very much preferred dealing with them when it was just Time Warner. At least if I spent some time I could get myself a good promo...
  • kaniki: and yet, they still do nothing about the things that people need more.. Like an internet service that they can afford.. Cable is a luxury, but, a lot ...
  • L. Nova: In the long run it is cheaper for CenturyLink to partner with streaming providers Netflix, Amazon, Sling TV & HULU and the hardware streaming box ...
  • Frances: Currently we only get 100Mpbs which is the new standard to my understanding. So I contacted spectrum about if that was the standard why are we being ...
  • KevinS: The service failed for the basic fact that CenturyLink fails to provide any form of broadband internet to bundle with the service and phone. Or..is t...
  • Matthew: They are making huge improvements. Gig speeds are coming soon for WNY. Time Warner would even upgrade WNY to 300 meg. Node splits are going on ever...
  • RochMN: Tried calling Charter Business to update the service from 60 Mbps. Was told it will be $99.99 for upgrade and then $199.99 per month after! I cannot b...
  • Racerbob: As an almost 20 year user of Time Warner/Spectrum internet service, I have seen it all. But right now, in my home, Spectrum is providing me a superior...

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