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Sticker Shock for Time Warner Customers: A Review of Comcast’s Rates & Packages

comcast twcShould a deal to merge Time Warner Cable with Comcast be approved by regulators, Time Warner Cable customers can expect a number of changes to their cable, Internet, and phone service because of Comcast’s much more involved rate plans¹.

Customers should expect to pay significantly higher prices for a package comparable to what Time Warner Cable offers today, especially for cable television.

Broadband speeds will be faster with Comcast, but also likely usage-capped at 300GB a month, with overlimit fees applied to “heavy users.”

A sample Comcast bill

A sample Comcast bill

Customers may also be surprised to discover Comcast levies a number of ancillary fees that Time Warner does not, especially for various tasks completed by a Comcast customer service representative.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have very different operating philosophies. Comcast is quickly moving customers to all-digital cable television service, so those Time Warner customers without set-top boxes or CableCARDs should be ready for a rapid transition to all-digital TV. Time Warner Cable, in comparison, has moved slowly towards digital service and uses a stop-gap technology that delivers some digital channels to neighborhoods only when being watched as a bandwidth conservation measure. Comcast will likely scrap that technology in favor of an all-out drive to switch to digital service.

Comcast’s television packages are very different from what TWC customers are used to buying. Time Warner customers can expect significant channel losses with Comcast’s nearest equivalent basic cable service. If you enjoy a lot of sports or old movies, Comcast will make you spend nearly $20 more on a higher-cost tier to get back the networks that Time Warner used to bundle as part of their basic cable service. But Comcast makes adding “whole home” DVR service look a lot more affordable than the $30+ unbundled fee Time Warner Cable has traditionally charged for the equipment and service.

In general Time Warner Cable customers should expect a higher bill for cable television, unless they want to downgrade service (for which Comcast also charges a service fee).

Broadband service from Comcast is also very different from what Time Warner Cable has offered. Most TWC customers now get 15/1Mbps service. Most Comcast customers get 25/5 or 50/15Mbps service. However, TWC doesn’t force usage caps on customers and Comcast is systematically reimposing them on theirs city by city, usually 300GB a month. The tradeoff with Comcast is faster advertised speed that comes usage-limited vs. slower speeds you can use as much as you want. Comcast also charges the highest modem rental fees in the country — now $8 a month in most places. Customers can and should buy their own modems. Those Time Warner Cable customers who already have better double-check to make certain Comcast will still support that equipment.

Phone service isn’t much different between the two companies, so we’re not covering it here.

Television Packages

Comcast offers a bigger variety of television packages than Time Warner Cable. Comcast likes to bundle premium channels into some of their higher end packages. Time Warner Cable’s prefers an a-la-carte approach with HBO and other similar networks.

tvComcast customers start with Limited Basic service, comparable to Time Warner Cable’s Broadcast Basic package. It primarily features over the air local television stations and often runs under $10 a month. Effective this year, there is also a $1.50/month Broadcast TV surcharge applicable to all cable TV customers.

A new concept for Time Warner Cable customers is Comcast’s Digital Economy package that includes Limited Basic, Digital Economy channels, and a standard definition cable box and remote. Consider this barely promoted tier the economy bare bones basic cable package. In addition to local channels, Digital Economy offers a lineup of home shopping channels, CNN, HSN, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, History, A&E, E!, Comedy Central, Spike TV, USA Network, Fox News Channel, The Weather Channel, Food Network, Animal Planet, TLN, BET, TV Guide Network, Discovery Channel, Comcast Network, CSPAN, EWTN, Jewelry Television, and Music Choice. This package is $40 a month, although promotions may cut the cost. For some, this may be more than enough.

But most Comcast cable TV customers choose the Digital Starter package that also includes Limited Basic, Expanded Basic, MoviePlex, and Music Choice. The lineup includes just over 80 channels. This $69.95 package is still smaller than what Time Warner Cable offers its digital cable customers, leaving out networks including Cloo, CNBC World, Al Jazeera America, Discovery Fit & Health, Disney XD, DIY, a range of ESPN’s extra networks, EWTN, Fine Living, Fox Business News, Great American Country, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime Real Women, Military Channel, MLB, most of MTV’s extra networks, NBA, National Geographic Channel, NFL Network, NHL Network, most of Nickelodeon’s extra networks, OWN, Oxygen, Sundance, Turner Classic Movies, The Science Channel, and VH1′s extra networks. There are other channels left out of the lineup as well. But Digital Starter customers do get the full lineup of Encore movie channels, for which TWC charges extra. However, sports and old movie fans will be dismayed to find so many sports networks and Turner Classic Movies excluded. Comcast customers have to pay more to get them back in the lineup.

Those who can’t live without sports networks and TCM, among other networks noted above, will have to pay for Comcast’s 150+ channel Digital Preferred package. This tier brings back the cable channels you used to get with Time Warner Cable (plus Encore), but it costs an extra $17.95 a month. Check your current Time Warner Cable TV bill. Compare it against Comcast’s total combined charge of $87.89 a month for a comparable lineup. How much is your cable TV bill going to increase after Comcast takes over?

special reportFor those who want even more, Comcast offers Digital Premier, with more than 190 channels. This package includes Digital Preferred, HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and Comcast’s Sports Entertainment Package. It adds an extra $57.45 a month on top of the $69.95 Digital Starter package. That is $127.40 a month just for television service.

Time Warner customers looking for a DVR will probably be mystified by the way Comcast charges for DVR service. Comcast markets “whole house” DVR service much more aggressively than TWC. This service, dubbed AnyRoom, lets customers watch recorded shows on any set-top box-equipped television in the home, along with managing recordings. DVR service with Comcast costs an extra $8-10 a month, but Comcast also charges an “HD Technology Fee” of $9.95 a month to enable “whole house” service. Many higher end bundled packages incorporate the DVR service into the package, along with the Technology Fee.

At regular prices, a Comcast triple play customer should expect to pay $141.99 for the most bare bones TV, phone, and broadband package, $154.99 for the most popular package without premium channels, and $164.99 a month for a bundle that brings along a similar lineup to what TWC offers, along with Starz. Comcast’s nearest equivalent to Time Warner Cable’s $200 Signature Home service costs $239.99 a month and offers no better Internet speeds than what “regular” customers get.

Internet Plans

comcast-splash-internetComcast does offer faster Internet service than what Time Warner Cable has sold for the last 3-4 years, but it will likely come with a usage cap of 300GB per month, with overlimit fees applied to those who exceed their allowance. Internet-only customers are going to find higher prices for broadband service than what Time Warner Cable charges. Comcast prefers bundled service customers, and deters cord-cutters with extremely high Internet-only pricing.

Comcast’s Internet Tiers (The first price is for Internet-only service followed by the price, when different, for customers subscribing to more than broadband)

  • Economy: 1.5Mbps/384kb (N/A)
  • Economy Plus: 3Mbps/768kbps ($39.95 $29.95)
  • Performance Starter: 6/1Mbps ($49.95)
  • Performance: 25/5Mbps ($64.95 $51.95)
  • Blast: 50/15Mbps ($74.95 $61.95)
  • Extreme 105: 105/20Mbps ($114.95 $99.95)

Modem fees are extra unless you buy your own equipment.

Other Comcast Fees You Better Know About

fine printComcast charges a number of extra fees and surcharges that raise customer bills without affecting Comcast’s advertised prices. The ones we have not already covered are included below. Among our favorites: Comcast charging $20 to hound you at your front door for a past due payment, charging shipping/handling and other fees for “self-install” kits that save Comcast money not having to dispatch a technician to your home, installation -and- activation fees for extra outlets, and that $249 “go away” service charge for their 105Mbps broadband tier. It is important to note not everyone will pay these fees and promotions often waive some of them. Customer service representatives will also drop some of them when asked, and may remove them from your bill if you complain loudly enough.

Ancillary Service Fees You May Encounter

  • Reactivation fees: Shut off for non-payment or vacation? Comcast charges $5 to reactivate Internet service, $5 to reactivate a phone line, and $1.99 to turn back on your cable television;
  • Field Collection Charge: If Comcast sends someone to your residence to collect a past due balance or pick up unreturned equipment, there is a $20 charge per visit;
  • Returned Payment Fee: $20 per returned payment;
  • Late Fee: 5% of your account balance;
  • Name Change Fee: $1.99;
  • Pay by Phone Convenience Fee: Making a payment by phone with a customer care representative will cost $5.99 per payment;
  • Copy of Bill: For bill statement copy requested by phone or in person, there is a $5 charge per bill;
  • Unreturned/Damaged Equipment: Charged at the suggested manufacturer’s replacement cost.

Common Equipment Fees

  • Signal Amplifier: $35/each
  • Self-Install Kit Convenience Fee: $40
  • Self-Install Kit Shipping & Handling: $9.95 (Standard Delivery)
  • Self-Install Kit Shipping & Handling: $29.95 (Priority Mail)
  • Remote Control Replacement by Mail (Separate Shipping): $5.95/each
  • other chargesVoice/Data Modem (Used for customers with phone and Internet service): $8/mo²
  • Wireless Gateway (Provides Wi-Fi service): $8/mo²
  • Cienna 3931 Modem & Netgear Wireless Router: $19.95/mo
  • Wireless Adapter (each, one-time charge): $30.00
  • Limited Basic Only Service Converter: $1/mo
  • Digital Converter: $2.50/mo
  • Remote Control: $0.18/mo
  • HD Digital Converter (Limited Basic Only): $2.20/mo
  • Digital Adapter (Limited Basic Only): $0.50/mo each
  • CableCARD: 1st card is free, each additional is $1/mo
  • Customer-Owned Video Equipment Credit: $2.50/mo

Installation and Service Calls (May vary with promotions)

  • Installation fee for one product: $32
  • Installation fee for two products: $80
  • Installation fee for three products: $90
  • In-Home Service Call: $32.10
  • Service Charge for Custom Installation Work: $33.20/hr
  • Installation fee for additional outlets: $13.35/ea at time of new customer visit, $32.15/ea for existing customers
  • Activation fee for additional outlets: $5.60/ea for new customers, $22.05/ea for existing customers
  • Relocation fee for additional outlets: $13.60/ea for new customers, $28.55/ea for existing customers
  • VCR/DVD Connection Charge: $7.90 for new customers, $16.35 for existing customers
  • Upgrade/Downgrade Service Fee (no in-home visit required): $1.99 per instance
  • Upgrade/Downgrade Service Fee (in-home visit required): $26.30 per instance of an upgrade, $12.05 per instance of a downgrade
  • payment centerUpgrade Standard Definition DVR or HD DVR Service: $26.30

Broadband-Specific Installation/Service Charges

  • Additional IP Address (first): $4.95/mo
  • Additional IP Addresses (second and/or third) $9.00/mo each
  • Professional Internet Installation: $99.95
  • Wireless Networking On-Site Professional Set-up (up to 4 devices per trip): $49.95
  • Wireless Networking On-Site Professional Set-Up (extra trips): $99.95/ea
  • Wireless Networking On-Site Professional Set-Up (each additional device over 4): $29.95/ea
  • Broadband-related In-Home Service Visit: $40/per trip
  • Extreme 105Mbps Broadband Professional Installation/Activation Surcharge: $249.00

¹The rates and services quoted in this piece were taken from Comcast’s current rate card for Cambridge, Mass. Rates and services may vary slightly in other markets. The rate card was effective June 2013.
²Comcast charges $7 a month for their modem rental in certain other markets.

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From the Frying Pan Into the Fire: Time Warner Customers to Be Burned by Comcast Buyout

Phillip "Ouch!" Dampier

Phillip “Ouch!” Dampier

Spending the day watching cable business news channels gush approval of last night’s surprise announcement that Comcast would acquire Time Warner Cable is just one excellent reason this deal should never be approved.

CNBC, owned by Comcast, particularly fell all over itself praising the transaction. Some of the reporters — many Time Warner Cable customers — actually believed Comcast would be a significant improvement over TWC. It is, if you want higher modem rental fees, higher cable TV bills, and faster broadband speeds you can’t use because of the company’s looming reintroduction of usage caps. CNBC didn’t bother to mention any of that, and why should they? CNBC reporter David Faber was the first to break the story of the merger last evening and among the first this morning to score an extended, friendly interview with the CEOs of both Comcast and Time Warner Cable, pitching softball questions to the two of them for nearly 15 minutes.

That’s a problem. How often do you hear news reports that include the fact the parent company of the channel has an ownership interest in one of the players. Do you think you are getting the full story when a Comcast employee asks Comcast’s CEO about a multi-billion dollar deal on a network owned and operated by Comcast. Incorporating Time Warner Cable and its news operations into Comcast only makes the problem worse.

As far as cable business news networks and the parade of Wall Street analysts are concerned, this is a fine deal for shareholders, consumers, and the cable business. Ironically, several on-air reporters and commentators defended the merger claiming it isn’t an antitrust issue because Comcast and Time Warner Cable never compete with each other. They never asked why that is so.

They're here!

They’re here!

Comcast is hoping the government will give its merger a pass with few conditions for the same reason, without bothering to note the cable industry has existed as a cartel in the United States for decades, each company with a territory they informally agree not to cross. With this deal, Comcast’s fiefdom will now cover about half of all cable subscribers in the U.S., covering 43 of the 50 largest metropolitan markets, and have about a 30% total market share among all competing providers — by far the largest. An 800 pound gorilla is born.

Three million current Time Warner Cable subscribers will not be coming along for the ride and will likely be auctioned off to Charter or another cable operator in a token gesture to keep Comcast’s total market share at the 30% mark the FCC formerly insisted on as an absolute ownership limit — before Comcast successfully sued to have that limit overturned.

The rest of us can say goodbye to our unlimited broadband plans and get ready to pay substantially more for cable and broadband service. Despite claims from remarkably shallow media reports, an analysis of Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s rates clearly show TWC charges lower prices with fewer “gotcha” fees.

Reviewing some recent promotional offers for new customers, Comcast customers pay nearly $35 more for a triple play package than Time Warner customers pay:

Time Warner Cable's Rob Marcus gets a $56.5 million golden parachute after 43 days on the job as CEO.

Time Warner Cable’s Rob Marcus gets a $56.5 million golden parachute after 43 days on the job as CEO.

The Comcast Starter plan costs $99 per month for the first 12 months with a 2-year agreement that includes a nasty divorce penalty. After 12 months, your price increases to $119.99 for the remaining year. The $99 plan accidentally doesn’t bother to mention that customers renting a Comcast cable modem/gateway will pay an extra $8 a month, which raises the price. Since many cable subscribers also want HD DVR service, that only comes free for the first six months, after which Comcast slaps on a charge ranging from $16-27 a month for the next 18 months. Assuming you are happy with the limited channel lineup of the Starter package (and many are not), you will pay up to $154 a month. Oh, we forgot to mention the Broadcast TV surcharge just introduced that increases the bill another $1.50 a month.

Time Warner Cable’s new customer promotions typically cost around $96 a month, including their annoying modem rental fee. DVR service can range from free to $23 a month depending on the promotion, making your monthly rate around $119 a month for 12 months, with no contract and no penalty if you decide to cancel.

“It is pro-consumer, pro-competitive, and strongly in the public interest,” said Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, defending the deal.

Actually, it is in Comcast’s interest. If approved, the biggest investment Comcast will make is spending $10 billion — not to upgrade Time Warner Cable systems — but to launch a major stock buyback program that will directly benefit shareholders.

“On a personal level, it’s never easy to cede control of a company,” said Rob Marcus, Time Warner Cable’s chief executive. “However in this case, it just makes too much sense.”

Before reaching for a Kleenex to wipe any tears away, consider the fact Marcus will do just fine giving up his leadership of TWC just over a month after taking over. His generous goodbye package is worth $56.5 million, not bad for 43 days of work. Time Warner Cable employees won’t share that bounty. In fact, with $1.5 billion in promised savings from the deal’s “synergies” — code language for layoffs, among other things — a substantial number of Time Warner Cable employees can expect to be fired during the first year of the combined company.

The biggest impact of this deal is a further cementing of the duopoly of cable and phone companies into their cozy positions. Instead of encouraging competition, Comcast’s new size-up will guarantee fewer competitors thanks to the concept of volume discounts. The largest providers get the best prices from cable programmers, while smaller ones pay considerably more for access to CNN, ESPN, and other popular channels. Comcast will benefit from reduced pricing for cable programming, which we suspect will never reach customers through price reductions. But any potential startup will have to think twice before selling television programming at all because the prices they will pay make it impossible to compete with Comcast.

Another satisfied customer

Another satisfied customer

Frontier discovered this problem after acquiring FiOS systems from Verizon in Indiana and the Pacific Northwest. When Verizon’s volume discount prices expired, Frontier’s much smaller customer base meant much higher programming costs on renewal. They were so high, in fact, Frontier literally marketed FiOS customers asking them to give up fiber optic television in favor of satellite.

Unless you have pockets as deep as Google, offering cable TV programming may be too expensive for Comcast’s competitors to offer.

Broadband is already immensely profitable for both Time Warner Cable and Comcast, but now it can be even more profitable as Comcast persuades customers to adopt their wireless gateway/modems (for a price) and imposes a usage cap of around 300GB per month. Yes, Comcast will deliver speed increases Time Warner Cable couldn’t be bothered to offer, but with a pervasive usage cap, the value of more Internet speed may prove limited. It’s a case of moving away from Time Warner’s argument that you don’t need faster Internet speed to Comcast’s offer of faster speed that you can’t use.

Customers hoping for a better customer service experience may have been cheered by this misleading passage in today’s New York Times:

Nonetheless, about 8 million current Time Warner Cable customers will become Comcast customers. That may be a good thing for those customers, as Comcast is seen as an industry leader in terms of providing high-quality television and Internet services, while Time Warner Cable has a reputation for poor customer service.

It may be seen as an industry leader by Comcast itself, but consumers despise Comcast just as much as they hate Time Warner Cable. In fact, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index found Comcast was hardly a prize:

  • ACSI’s lowest rated ISP
  • Second-lowest ranked TV service
  • Third-lowest ranked phone service

Comcast consistently scores as one of the lowest rated companies across all the segments it participates in. It has the dubious description of being the lowest rated company in the lowest rated industry.

So why the near universal disdain for ISPs? Even cable companies have to compete with satellite providers. That’s not the case here. Add to that the relatively few companies, regional near-monopolies, high costs, and unreliable service and speed and you have a recipe for bad customer service and little incentive to improve it.

Customers particularly dislike their experiences with call centers, and the range and pricing of available plans.

Higher prices, usage caps, surcharges, and fewer channels for more money. What’s not to love about that?

Just about a week ago, Rob Marcus unveiled his vision of an upgraded Time Warner Cable that looked good to us, and retained unlimited use broadband service. Apparently this is all a case of “never mind.”

The fact is, a merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will only benefit the companies, executives, and shareholders involved, while doing nothing to improve customer service, expand broadband, increase speeds, cut prices, and give customers the service they want. It is anti-consumer, further entrenches Comcast’s enormous market power (it also owns NBC and Universal Studios), and gives one company far too much control over content and distribution, particularly for customers who don’t have AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS or a community-owned provider as an alternative.

This deal needs to be rejected. When T-Mobile found itself out of a deal with AT&T, it survived on its own even better than expected. So can Time Warner Cable, with the right management team.

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Comcast Reaches Surprise Agreement to Acquire All of Time Warner Cable for $44 Billion

timewarner twcComcast will announce later this morning it has reached an agreement to acquire all of Time Warner Cable in an all-stock deal worth $44 billion.

If approved by regulators, Comcast will dramatically increase its size as the nation’s largest cable operator with over 33 million subscribers — vastly outnumbering every other cable company in the country. It also likely means Time Warner Cable broadband subscribers will eventually be subject to Comcast’s usage caps and overlimit fees, now being market tested around the country.

The offer of $159 a share for Time Warner Cable stock – $1 less than what TWC CEO Rob Marcus demanded for a buyout – is far higher than the $133 a share in cash and stock offered earlier by Charter Communications.

Tonight’s revelation that Time Warner Cable and Comcast reached a deal, first reported by CNBC, likely caught Charter by surprise. Charter had tried to acquire Time Warner Cable for months, going as far as nominating candidates for TWC’s board of directors that could have influenced a sale of the company. At the same time, Charter thought it was negotiating a friendly deal with Comcast to divide Time Warner Cable territories between the two companies.

Comcast-LogoTime Warner Cable management offered no clues they were negotiating with Comcast and delivered a presentation to shareholders last week promising major upgrades for Time Warner customers and future success as a standalone cable operator. All of those plans are now in doubt.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable reportedly believe the deal will quickly pass any antitrust review before the end of the year because neither company competes in the same markets, but Comcast will offer to divest a token three million subscribers from the combined company, according to sources.

The FCC formerly limited cable companies from owning or controlling more than 30% of the cable industry, but Comcast successfully sued to have that ownership cap overturned. A belief the deal would present looming antitrust problems could be grounds for the U.S. Department of Justice to oppose the deal, likely terminating it.

monopolyConsumer groups hope the deal gets derailed as soon as possible.

“In an already uncompetitive market with high prices that keep going up and up, a merger of the two biggest cable companies should be unthinkable,” said Free Press president Craig Aaron. “This deal would be a disaster for consumers and must be stopped. No one woke up this morning wishing their cable company was bigger or had more control over what they could watch or download. But that — along with higher bills — is  the reality they’ll face tomorrow unless the Department of Justice and the FCC do their jobs and block this merger. Stopping this kind of deal is exactly why we have antitrust laws.”

“It is simply dangerous for a large proportion of our nation’s critical communications infrastructure to be in the hands of one provider,” said Public Knowledge staff attorney John Bergmayer. “It is already the nation’s largest ISP, the nation’s largest video provider, and the nation’s largest home phone provider.  It also controls a movie studio, broadcast network, and many popular cable channels. An enlarged Comcast would be the bully in the schoolyard, able to dictate terms to content creators, Internet companies, other communications networks that must interconnect with it, and distributors who must access its content.”
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Arris Launching Six Tuner Mega Whole House DVR for Time Warner Cable

Phillip Dampier February 12, 2014 Consumer News, Time Warner Cable 1 Comment
The Arris IP805-M DVR, produced for Time Warner Cable

The Arris IP805-M DVR, produced for Time Warner Cable

Time Warner Cable customers in New York City and Los Angeles will get a major set-top box upgrade from a next generation DVR allowing six programs to be recorded and once and viewed anywhere in the home.

Arris filed papers with the Federal Communications Commission seeking certification of its new IP805-M set-top, branded with the Time Warner Cable logo.

The new device includes six internal tuners, 1TB of recording space, and a “whole house” platform that will let customers watch recordings from other televisions or portable wireless devices within the home. The new DVR is capable of transcoding traditional QAM channels into IP video.

Time Warner Cable will unveil the new box later this year as part of plans to upgrade service in New York City and Los Angeles under the TWC Maxx project. Customers in other cities may have to wait for the device to become available.

Time Warner has fallen behind many other cable operators, satellite providers and phone companies that offer superior DVR equipment.

Arris’ newest piece of equipment, caught by FierceCable, is just one of the upgrades the company announced last week.

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Time Warner Cable Cuts Off Super Bowl in SoCal; Get Your Credit

Phillip Dampier February 4, 2014 Consumer News, HissyFitWatch, Time Warner Cable, Video 2 Comments

twc laTime Warner Cable will provide a free pay-per-view movie or a $5 gift card to Los Angeles-area customers after the cable company lost the Standard Definition signal of Fox affiliate KTTV for about an hour during the Super Bowl on Sunday.

KTTV’s signal was lost just before halftime in and around Los Angeles County from Hacienda Heights and Hancock Park all the way to Santa Monica, as well in parts of Ventura County. Blank screens prompted a deluge of complaint calls to Time Warner Cable’s customer service line, many met with repeated busy signals.

“I’d rather have cable in North Korea than Time Warner Cable,” tweeted Paige Graham. “Time Warner Cable: Your customer service is worse than Denver’s defense,” added Alex Stein.

twcGreenAlthough analog cable customers were forced to watch a Spanish language channel’s coverage of the game, those viewing KTTV’s HD signal on Time Warner Cable were unaffected by the disruption.

For the frustration, Time Warner Cable is offering what they call “a gift of appreciation.”

“Although most of our customers didn’t experience an interruption, we want to express our sincere apologies to all Time Warner Cable TV customers in the Los Angeles area,” said Deborah Picciolo, senior vice president of operations at Time Warner Cable. “Digital TV customers will receive a credit for the cost of an On Demand movie once purchased, and analog customers will receive a $5 gift card. These will be provided automatically; no customer action is necessary.”

Customers should contact customer service if their free pay-per-view movie credit doesn’t appear on a future bill or if the gift card never arrives.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KTLA Los Angeles Time Warner Cable Resolves Service Outage 2-2-14.flv

KTLA in Los Angeles covered Super Bowl parties in Southern California and frustrated Time Warner Cable subscribers that lost the game for about an hour. (2:22)

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Time Warner Cable Plans to Triple Broadband Speeds (If They Survive a Hostile Takeover)

Time Warner Cable today announced major improvements in its service, including a tripling of broadband speeds and equipment upgrades that will first arrive in New York City and Los Angeles.

With the cable company facing a hostile takeover effort by Charter Communications with Comcast’s help, CEO Rob Marcus sought to appease shareholders that worry the cable company’s recent lackluster results originate from outdated technology, poor customer service, and broadband speeds that are well below the cable industry average.

Time Warner Cable will have to increase capital spending to pay for the upgrades, expected to cost $3.8 billion annually for the next three years.

nycla enhancements

CEO Rob Marcus calls the effort a “transformation of the Time Warner Cable customer experience.” The upgrade program is called TWC Maxx for now inside Time Warner Cable, but will have its own brand when it publicly launches later this year.

Here are some highlights:

Marcus

Marcus

TV Service

  • Network infrastructure upgrades to enhance reliability
  • New advanced set-top boxes
  • A six-tuner DVR
  • A cloud-based interface and navigation
  • An expanded on-demand library

Internet

  • Dramatic free speed boosts for all customers
  • A new Ultimate speed tier of 300/20Mbps

Unfortunately, customers outside of Los Angeles and New York will have to wait up to two years for the upgrades to reach their community.

twcmax

“With ‘TWC Maxx,’ we’re going to essentially reinvent the TWC experience market–by-market,” said Marcus. “We’ll triple Internet speeds for customers with our most popular tiers of service, add more community WiFi, dramatically improve the TV product and, perhaps most importantly, we’ll set a high bar in our industry for differentiated exceptional customer service. We’re focused on providing the features and benefits that matter most to our customers.”

The most noticeable improvement will be free broadband speed upgrades. Customers with Standard or above Internet service will also receive the latest generation cable modems including Advanced Wireless Gateways for customers with Turbo to Ultimate tier service. Marcus did not say whether the company is ending is monthly equipment fees for cable modems.

Here are the new speed tiers:

  • Everyday Low Price - Currently 2/1Mbps – New 3/1Mbps
  • Basic - Currently 3/1Mbps – New 10/1Mbps
  • Standard - Currently 15/1Mbps – New 50/5Mbps
  • Turbo - Currently 20/2Mbps – New 100/10Mbps
  • Extreme – Currently 30/5Mbps – New 200/20Mbps
  • Ultimate - Currently 50/5Mbps – New 300/20Mbps

nyla

New York and Los Angeles Upgrade Schedule

The first four network hubs scheduled for upgrade are those in West Hollywood and Costa Mesa, Calif. and portions of Woodside (Queens) and Staten Island, N.Y. The rest of both cities will be upgraded by the end of this year.

Los Angeles customers will also see analog cable television service discontinued in favor of digital later this year. New York City has already been converted to all-digital television. Customers in both cities will be able to schedule same-day appointments and one-hour service windows.

Who Gets Upgraded Next?

Analysts expect Time Warner Cable will upgrade cities where they face competition from U-verse and FiOS after completing NYC and LA.

Analysts expect Time Warner Cable will upgrade cities where they face competition from U-verse and FiOS after completing NYC and LA.

Analysts say Time Warner Cable’s upgrade plans are more aggressive than initially anticipated and many expect the company to move quickly, especially in competitive markets, to boost subscriber numbers and cut customer defections to help convince shareholders it is worthwhile to reject Charter’s hostile takeover bid.

The most likely markets to be targeted for upgrades after New York and Los Angeles are those facing stiff competition from Google Fiber and Verizon FiOS. Cities where AT&T U-verse delivers competition are likely to come next, and those cities where Time Warner Cable only faces competition from telephone company DSL service will likely be the last to be upgraded. However, long before that, Time Warner Cable could be sold off to other cable operators that will make these upgrade plans moot.

Marcus today reiterated his rejection of Charter’s latest $132.50 a share offer. Marcus said the cable company is only interested in an offer above $160 a share, and that at least $100 of that must be in cash, with the balance in Charter stock. Charter will have trouble delivering that amount of cash without the assistance of other cable operators.

Craig Moffett with MoffettNathanson Research isn’t sure Marcus’ plans are enough to keep TWC from being sold. He expects Charter to soon increase its offer above $140 with the help of Comcast, which is willing to pay cash for Time Warner Cable systems in New York, New England, and North Carolina after a deal with Charter is complete.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Rob Marcus Interviewed 1-30-14.flv

Robert Marcus, chief executive officer of Time Warner Cable Inc., talks about the cable company’s fourth-quarter earnings and its forthcoming upgrades, and Charter Communications Inc.’s $37.4 billion buyout bid. Time Warner Cable beat fourth-quarter profit estimates and forecast subscriber growth. Marcus speaks with Betty Liu on Bloomberg Television. (8:38)

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Cable’s Newest Triple Play: Time Warner Cable, Charter, and Comcast

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg New Triple Play TWC Comcast Charter 1-28-14.flv

Bloomberg News reports Time Warner Cable may face a proxy fight to force a sale of the company to Charter Communications. In turn, Comcast will pay Charter billions to take control of Time Warner Cable subscribers in the northeast and North Carolina. Industry analyst Craig Moffett predicts Comcast’s deep pockets may infuse billions in cash to sweeten Charter’s offer. It also means Comcast is not interested in buying all of Time Warner Cable itself. (3:11)

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Comcast Seeking Buyout of Time Warner Cable Customers in N.Y., New England, and N.C.

Comcast-LogoComcast Corporation and Charter Communications are actively working on a deal to let Comcast acquire Time Warner Cable subscribers in New York, New England, and North Carolina, according to sources reporting to CNBC.

The split-up of Time Warner Cable is contingent on a successful takeover bid by Charter Communications, which would quickly sell the systems in the three regions to Comcast for an undisclosed sum.

CNBC reports Comcast and Charter are close to agreeing on terms, but Time Warner Cable and Charter remain far apart on the terms of Charter’s takeover bid.

Charter_logoComcast’s involvement in the deal could inject much-needed cash into a takeover bid financed largely by debt. It might also prompt Charter to sweeten its offer for TWC.

Comcast’s interest in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region is not surprising. The cable company already has a large presence in eastern Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. Time Warner Cable is the dominant cable company in New York, western and northern New England, and North Carolina.

Charter would likely keep Time Warner Cable’s operations in Texas, California, the midwest and south for itself if it succeeds in a takeover.

Charter has reportedly has hired Innisfree M&A, a proxy solicitor, to prepare for a possible proxy fight with Time Warner. Innisfree specializes in convincing shareholders to agree to proposed mergers and acquisitions.

Liberty Media, which has a substantial ownership interest in Charter Communications, is also appealing directly to Time Warner Cable stockholders and is planning to run its own slate of candidates for Time Warner Cable’s board of directors. Should Liberty-nominated candidates attract a majority of votes at the annual shareholder meeting in May, the new board members are expected to quickly approve a sale of the cable company.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Bloomberg Comcast Charter Near Pact on Time Warner Assets 1-27-14.flv

Comcast Corp. is near a deal to buy New York, North Carolina and New England cable assets from Charter Communications, Inc. if shareholders approve Charter’s takeover bid for Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said. Alex Sherman reports on Bloomberg Television’s “Money Moves.” (3:28)

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Time Warner Cable Moves Al Jazeera America Out of Channel Siberia

Phillip Dampier January 27, 2014 Consumer News, Online Video, Time Warner Cable 2 Comments

aljazeera-time-warnerTime Warner Cable customers looking for Al Jazeera America in New York are forgiven if they can’t find it. Time Warner Cable initially exiled the network to Channel Siberia — Channel 181 — between Univision Deportes and Shop Zeal, a shopping network that couldn’t draw flies.

But starting this week Time Warner has agreed to move the news network to Channel 57, evicting a Manhattan public access channel relocated elsewhere. Al Jazeera America’s new neighbor is HLN – home of Nancy Grace and a more irreverent light news lineup.

The contrast between HLN and Al Jazeera America could not be more clear. While HLN and other news channels spent hours covering last week’s arrest of pop star Justin Bieber, Al Jazeera America mentioned the arrest only in passing, noting the network is dedicated to hard news, increasingly hard to find on other cable news channels.

Al Jazeera America’s ratings are still a fraction of other news outlets on the cable dial, but the network is planning a promotional blitz to introduce itself and explain the difference in coverage.

Time Warner Cable currently carries the news channel on its cable lineup only in New York and Los Angeles, but subscribers nationwide can watch the channel on TWC’s TV Everywhere app – TWC TV, available for home computers, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Roku, XBox 360 and Samsung Smart-TVs.

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Time Warner Cable Technician Dozes Off Waiting on Hold… for Time Warner Cable

Phillip Dampier January 23, 2014 Consumer News, Time Warner Cable 1 Comment
Cat nap while holding.

Cat nap while holding.

A Time Warner Cable technician replacing a defective cable modem was left on hold with the cable company so long, he fell asleep on the customer’s couch.

While the customer waited in another room, he could hear the technician calling Time Warner Cable’s customer service line to register and activate the new modem.

“I could hear the hold music from his call because he had it on speaker and eventually after about 15 minutes of listening to it from the other room, I walked out to find him like that,” writes the Reddit user DrinkingWhiteRussian. “Before doing anything, I grabbed my phone and snapped the pic, and then said ‘Excuse me?’ He startled a little bit, pointed to his phone and said ‘Sorry man, still on hold.’”

About 10 minutes later, a representative finally appeared on the line and presumably activated the modem. Only after the technician left did the customer realize nobody bothered to register the all-important MAC address in Time Warner’s system, which forced the customer to call and start the process all over again. After more lengthy hold time, a national Time Warner rep transferred the call to a local Time Warner office, which promptly transferred the customer back to the national call center.

“The guy that I got this time saw that they had never deactivated the original modem that was replaced,” says the disgruntled customer. “I despise Time Warner.”

One former Time Warner Cable tech explained many Time Warner Cable techs now call the same customer service line you do, and if you have ever been left on hold forever, so have the company’s own technicians and installers.

“I’ve spent up to an hour on hold after I completed a job just waiting to talk to someone in the call center so they can flip the switch and turn on your equipment,” wrote the former technician.

It isn’t known if the napping technician is a Time Warner Cable employee or one of their contractors.

Thanks to our regular reader PreventCAPS for the news tip.

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