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Charter Running Ads Welcoming Time Warner, Bright House Customers to “Spectrum”

spectrumIf your reputation precedes you, a virtual makeover with a quick name change may be all a company can do to help smooth customers’ ennui about the news one cable company they heard wasn’t very good was taking over for the one they hate with a passion. After all, joining a new family isn’t necessarily good news if their last name happens to be Frankenstein, bin Laden, or Manson.

Charter Communications began running commercials this week on Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cable systems “welcoming” customers to the Charter family. Except the Charter logo was nowhere to be found. Like Comcast’s virtual image makeover effort/attempt with its XFINITY brand, Charter is hoping for a “reset” with customers who have heard bad things about Charter from their relatives by using its “Spectrum” brand instead. That logo is expected to appear on cable trucks, billboards, billing statements, and television spots.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Charter Communications Transaction with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks from Charter 5-23-16.mp4

Charter Communications has completed the transactions with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and soon you’ll get to know us by the name, Spectrum. We are proud to be the fastest growing TV, Internet, and Voice provider in the United States and are committed to bringing you the most advanced products and services for your home and business.

Exciting changes are in the works, but for now, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Charter Spectrum will continue offering their current suite of services to customers in their markets. In the coming months you’ll hear more from us as it relates to network, product and service improvements. Whether it is new ways to enjoy more shows with unrivaled picture quality, better service, or faster internet speeds, we cannot wait to show you what’s next. (1:04)

opinionWe offer three facts to ponder:

Charter’s Internet speeds are not any faster than what a Time Warner Cable Maxx customer can buy today — up to 300Mbps. Charter “Spectrum” tops out at 100Mbps in most of its markets.

Charter may consider its service “unrivaled,” but customers don’t, rating it only a mouse whisker better than Time Warner Cable.

Many customers of both Time Warner and Bright House are indeed concerned with what Charter has in store for them, particularly after conditions preserving cap-free Internet expire.

Time Warner Cable Quotes One of Our Readers $31,885 to Install Service

twcGreenStop the Cap! reader Geoff W. lives in Liberty Township, Ohio — 35 miles east of Columbus, the state capital. But he might as well live in Cuba, because High Speed Internet is a digital pipe dream for him and his immediate neighbors. Despite living just a few houses away from other Time Warner Cable customers, the cable giant has quoted him $31,885 to install broadband service at his home.

A Time Warner Cable representative told Geoff the thirty grand plus would cover installing 531 feet of overhead cable, 1,800 feet of underground coaxial cable, and three pole permits.

“It’s time to consider High Speed Internet access a utility,” Geoff said.

Who Actually Does Qualify for Time Warner’s $300 Rebate Card?

Phillip Dampier April 12, 2016 Consumer News, Time Warner Cable, Video No Comments
Three years after we first covered this story, getting Time Warner to honor your rebate request is still like pulling teeth.

Three years after we first covered this story, getting Time Warner to honor your rebate request is still like pulling teeth.

One of the most frequent complaints we hear about Time Warner Cable is the company’s unwillingness to honor its rebate offers.

In the last five years, Stop the Cap! has received at least 50 complaints from consumers who were told they qualified for $200-300 in rebates, only to never receive them. A story from Raleigh’s WTVD-TV this week illustrates the problem has not gone away.

Alex Dydula was convinced to give up 15 years of satellite television to sign up with Time Warner Cable. The company’s ongoing $300 Visa card rebate offer sweetened the deal.

Except he never got the gift card, just a Time Warner Cable runaround:

“You qualify for a $300 Visa card, all you have to do is wait for the redemption code to come in the mail,” Alex said he was told by a rep.

Alex says he followed the instructions that the rep gave him in order to get the $300.00 Visa card.

“We waited for the redemption code, it never came,” Alex said.

With no redemption code, Alex went online and did an online chat with a TWC rep and through the chat was informed how to register for the reward. Alex also called Visa.

“‘Yeah you qualify, you should get this. I’ll take care of it for you,'” he said.

Alex kept waiting.

“Only to get a call back from the Visa rewards folks to say ‘you don’t qualify. You don’t have the right package, the wrong codes are in the system. I don’t care, I can’t do anything,'” he said he was told by a rep who handles the reward program.

Stop the Cap! has reported on Time Warner’s rebate offers since 2013, and the company has done little to address the concerns of customers who felt cheated out of the rebate for reasons that seem to shift with the desert sands:

  • You are ineligible
  • The promotion is over
  • The agent wasn’t authorized to offer us the promotion
  • There is no record of the offer
Just a sample of Time Warner's terms and conditions.

Just a sample of Time Warner’s terms and conditions.

The rules for Time Warner’s rebate programs are byzantine and missing even one of them, or negotiating certain discounts or service credits that cut the cost of your package can invalidate the offer. But the only way you find out is after your submission is rejected and the rebate program has ended.

  1. Time Warner Cable customers qualified for a rebate must first wait for a “rebate redemption code” to arrive, typically two weeks after installing or upgrading service. But most customers complaining about rebate problems report they never received the code. You may be able to find it from Time Warner’s rebate website.
  2. With code in hand, customers are qualified to register for the reward on the company’s rebate website. But since Time Warner requires the rebate to be submitted within 30 days of installation, that two-week wait for a “redemption code” may leave customers with as little as 14 days to register.
  3. Customers are then required to maintain and pay on time for cable service for at least three months. Even one late payment can invalidate the rebate.
  4. After 90 days of service and on time payments, the company will start processing the rebate application, which takes an extra 1-2 months.
  5. The rebate card should arrive in your mailbox within 14 days after mailing.

300 rewardThis year, promotions vary depending on your location and the conditions under which you were offered a rebate. We have learned there are rebate programs for “win-back” promotions that convince customers not to switch to another provider, but only under certain conditions. It is easy for customers to apply for the wrong rebate. For example, a current customer will not qualify if they fill out a rebate form intended for customers just signing up for the first time. Other rebate offers apply only in selected geographic areas.

For instance, a $300 rebate offer targeting broadband-only customers who agree to buy a Triple Play bundle of services at $89 or higher is only valid if they are in California, New York City, the Hudson Valley or New Jersey.

If you are not disqualified already, there are many other ways to run afoul of the offer:

  • Existing customers with any level of video service are not eligible;
  • You must prove you had/have video service with another provider or you are not eligible;
  • Online only video services are not eligible;
  • Customers who don’t maintain fully paid-up service for at least 90 days are not eligible;
  • Customers who don’t register for the rebate within 30 days of installation are not eligible;
  • Customer names and addresses must exactly match with both the old provider and Time Warner or you are not eligible;
  • Customers complain more than 60 days after of the end of the promotion about missing rebate cards or eligibility problems will not be considered.

If you do not use the card quickly, service fees kick in after five months, except the terms and conditions note that some cards may be pre-activated as much as two months before they were mailed, giving you only 90 days to spend the money before a $2.50 monthly service fee begins. Replacement fees also apply if the card fails to work, is lost or stolen. We recommend immediately using the card at a grocery store for a few weeks or buy something like Amazon gift cards, which do not expire and carry no service fees. The longer you leave the card lying around, the higher the chance you will forget about it or find it depleted by arbitrary service fees.

A very active thread on Time Warner Cable’s discussion forum features more than five pages of complaints about missing rebates.

If you are affected by a missing or rejected rebate, the easiest way to resolve it is to ask Time Warner Cable to convert it into a $300 service credit instead. The alternative is waiting as Time Warner officials tell the third-party rebate processor to override a rebate rejection, which can cause delays lasting weeks. Getting $300 off your cable bill is much easier and faster. You can appeal directly to the Office of the President of Time Warner Cable by filling out this contact form or filing a complaint against your nearest Time Warner Cable office with the Better Business Bureau. Your goal is to speak to a senior customer specialist authorized to grant your $300 credit request. Either method should work.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WTVD Raleigh NC Time Warner Cable deal gives Raleigh man the runaround 4-8-16.flv

An “I-Team” reporter for WTVD-TV helps a Raleigh man get the $300 rebate he was originally promised by Time Warner Cable. (2:08)

Verizon Workers Set to Strike Company Starting Wednesday

Phillip Dampier April 11, 2016 Consumer News, Verizon, Video 1 Comment

verizon strikeAfter ten months of informational picketing and on-the-job protests for a new contract agreement, nearly 40,000 Verizon workers from Massachusetts to Virginia will go on strike starting at 6:00am Wednesday, April 13 if a settlement cannot be reached.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) argue Verizon has dropped the ball on customers and employees, refusing to negotiate in good faith and not investing in better broadband and phone service for millions of its customers.

The two unions are among the strongest proponents of forcing Verizon to further expand its FiOS fiber-to-the-home service, which has been effectively on hold for several years as the company pours resources into its vastly more profitable wireless division – Verizon Wireless.

In addition to refusing further upgrades, unions accuse Verizon of gutting job protection, outsourcing an increasing amount of work, freezing pensions, closing call centers, and offshoring jobs to Mexico and the Philippines. While customers endure months-long phone outages and poor DSL broadband service Verizon has only grudgingly improved, the company made $39 billion in profits over the last three years, and $1.8 billion in profits over the first three months of this year. But it won’t spend the money on expanding FiOS or its workers.

Trainor

Trainor

“The company’s greed is disgusting. [CEO] Lowell McAdam made $18 million last year—more than 200 times the compensation of the average Verizon employee,” the CWA said in a statement. “Verizon’s top five executives made $233 million over the last five years. Last year alone, Verizon paid out $13.5 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to shareholders. But they claim they can’t afford a fair contract.”

The union says Verizon’s priorities are all wrong.

“It’s not just workers who are getting screwed,” the CWA wrote. “Verizon has $35 billion to invest in the failing internet company, Yahoo, but refuses to maintain its copper network, let alone build FiOS in underserved communities across the region. And even where it’s legally committed to building FiOS out for every customer, Verizon refuses to hire enough workers to get the job done right or on time.”

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 vice president Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

Members of CWA District 1/Local 13500.

Members of CWA District 1/Local 13500.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been a close ally of the CWA and has supported the union’s fight with Verizon. The CWA has returned the favor, encouraging the Vermont senator to stay in the race against Hillary Clinton.

Verizon workers complain they are being treated like servants by the company.

“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Va., who’s been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”

A strike could have a significant effect on service calls and maintenance of Verizon’s infrastructure, particularly its deteriorating copper wire network still in service across much of its territory outside of the largest cities in the northeast and mid-Atlantic region. Particularly vulnerable areas include upstate New York, Maryland, suburban and rural Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and western Virginia.

Verizon recently completed a sale of its landline service areas in Florida, California, and Texas to Frontier Communications, and these three states will not be affected by a walkout.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CWA Verizon Poster Child for Corporate Greed 4-2016.mp4

The CWA released this ad depicting the income disparity between average Verizon workers and its CEO. (30 seconds)

Big Headaches for Frontier Takeover of Verizon Landlines/DSL/FiOS in Texas, Florida, and California

As of late Monday afternoon, Downdetector.com still shows widespread outages for Frontier customers in North Texas, western Florida and parts of California.

As of late Monday afternoon, Downdetector.com still shows widespread outages for Frontier customers in North Texas, western Florida and parts of California.

Despite promises this past weekend’s transition from Verizon Communications to Frontier Communications would result in little more than “a logo change,” countless customers in the affected states of Florida, Texas, and California reported long service outages, website problems, and long holds waiting to talk to customer service representatives about when service would be back.

The outages were most widespread on Friday morning, April 1, when many subscribers awoke to discover they no longer had phone, television, or broadband service. A blitz on social media directed at Frontier quickly followed on Facebook and Twitter, many summing up their first experience with Frontier to be like “dealing with a third-rate phone company.”

Louise Thompson called the transition “a total fiasco” and some businesses lost thousands of dollars on Friday alone. The “Happy Grasshopper” was one of them, after losing Internet and phone service.

“We have 20 employees who can’t get any work done here today,” said owner Dan Stewart.

Gerard Donelan, a real estate appraiser who works from home in South Tampa, was still without service Friday afternoon. “I talked to customer service about 10:30. … He told me service was down in the Tampa Bay area, and he didn’t know when it was coming back, and there was nothing he could do,” Donelan told the Tampa Tribune. “What a joke. These guys were telling us just yesterday how seamless this was going to be. My next phone call is to Bright House.”

welcome frontierThe popular Zudar’s sandwich shop downtown was still unable to swipe credit cards or take phone or Internet orders at mid-afternoon. “It’s having a terrible effect on business,” said owner Eric Weinstein. “It’s absolutely an epic failure on their part. An amazing lack of customer service and communication.”

frontier texasThe City of Plano (Tex.) lost its website in the transition. Frontier shared its failure with AT&T mobile customers in parts of Florida, who found cell service not working because Frontier also took control of fiber links connecting many of AT&T’s cell towers to AT&T’s network. Many of those were down too.

“During the early morning of April 1, 2016, a technical issue occurred during the integration of the systems Frontier acquired from Verizon that impacted service to some enterprise and carrier customers in Florida, Texas and California.  As of 9:30 am eastern, the issue was resolved,” the company’s statement said.  “In addition, an unrelated fiber cut occurred that impacted customers in the Tampa market.”

Across all three states, Frontier officials hurried to downplay the impact of the service outages, which are continuing to this day for some customers. In some statements, Frontier claimed only about 500 business customers lost service, and there were no widespread problems. But many of the 3.7 million customers in Texas, Florida and California enduring the transition say those outages and problems affect residential accounts.

“There is ‘absolutely nothing widespread going on?'” asked Eric Petty, an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College. “What a bunch of liars. How stupid do they think their customers are?”

One of the biggest problems customers are encountering is the procedure to transition their online access from Verizon to Frontier. To begin that process, customers need a new Frontier ID, but that is easier said than done if you lack landline service. As part of the registration process, customers need to enter the account PIN number usually displayed on landline bills, but often missing from broadband-only service bills.

frontier floridaLee Allen of Dallas was one of many frustrated customers. He spent an hour trying to manage the Frontier MyAccount registration process and when he tried to sync his Verizon and Frontier account together, it was a flop.

Two calls to Frontier customer service and still no joy reports the Dallas Morning News.

“I’m in limbo,” he said Friday afternoon.”I’m self-employed and work from home. They are supposed to be a technology company. They should have been ready.”

Frontier says they are aware of this problem and are working on a solution.

In Los Gatos, Calif., it was an Internet-free weekend for most of the city’s former Verizon Internet customers, who also lost service on Friday. As of Sunday morning, they still didn’t have service, according to the San Jose Mercury News:

Los Gatos customers were assured the transition on April 1 would be smooth with no interruption to service. But that hasn’t been the case, said Beau Graeber, Fenesy’s neighbor who’s helping him contact the company and reconfigure his Internet.

“It’s a little frustrating,” Graeber said, adding that Verizon — now Frontier — is the only option for Internet and telephone service in Los Gatos, outside of cable or satellite providers. “For Ralph and some of my other neighbors, it’s a terrible inconvenience.”

frontier californiaConcerned customers with bills due this week are finding they don’t have enough access on Frontier’s website to arrange payment of their bill. Frontier says not to worry – “Until this process is completed on April 8th, you will only have very limited account access, even with a Frontier ID,” Frontier reports. “You can still use your Frontier ID to download the Frontier TV App, HBO GO, Watch ESPN, Disney and other popular entertainment Apps. If your bill is due during this period, rest assured that all late fees will be waived.”

Beyond total service outages and interruptions, other customers are reporting various problems with Frontier’s version of FiOS TV:

  • Frontier began migrating their 100,000 title On Demand library to FiOS on April 2. The process was supposed to be complete Saturday afternoon, but some customers are still having problems. Frontier: “We understand how important Video on Demand is to our customers. We apologize for the inconvenience and are working diligently to ensure the content is available as soon as possible. If you get a message that the service is ‘temporarily unavailable,’ you should reboot your set-top box to refresh the VOD service. To reboot, unplug your set-top box, wait at least 10 seconds, and then plug it back in. Please note, a reboot can take up to 3 minutes as the system refreshes your settings. If you continue to experience any issues accessing VOD, please call our Tech Support team at 1-877-600-1511.”
  • The Nickelodeon Jr. FiOS TV Widget/App was retired by Nickelodeon on March 31 prior to the transition to Frontier. It is, therefore, not available. Customers can still watch Nick Jr. on their home television. Customers can also access Nick Jr.’s programming via the web, at www.nickjr.com, or through Nickelodeon’s mobile apps for iOS and Android.
  • When searching for a Video on Demand title with the FiOS TV remote, customers may notice due to the transition from Verizon to Frontier, many of the movies and TV shows are not appearing in either “New Releases” or “Collections”. However, they can be found by scrolling down to “By Title” and then selecting “All” in order to find your choice. You can also search for your VOD by selecting the “B” button on your FiOS TV remote.

frontier new logoFrontier promised regulators things would go better for new Frontier customers after the company botched a similar transfer of AT&T customers in Connecticut that went so poorly, the company had to offer $50 service credits to affected customers.

“We have lessons to learn,” Frontier spokeswoman Kathleen Abernathy told Connecticut regulators at the time.

“They didn’t learn a thing,” said Stan Rogers, a transitioned Frontier customer outside of Allen, Tex. “I was there for the Connecticut switchover two months before I moved down here and now I get to experience the same thing all over again. To give you an idea of where Frontier is on the technology curve, they have sent me information about how to transition my Verizon e-mail address to AOL. Hello!”

North Texas resident Larry Allen agrees, “I didn’t think anything could drive me back to Comcast, but Frontier may do it. TV issues, email issues, Frontier can’t process my information to set up an account, horrible/outdated selection of movies on demand, [and] Frontier [is] not responding to emails for assistance.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WTSP Tampa Frontier transition not as smooth as promised 4-1-16.mp4

WTSP in Tampa reports Florida area customers didn’t get the easy transition from Verizon to Frontier they were promised. (2:22)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/KTVT Dallas Frontier service problems persist for some 4-3-16.mp4

KTVT in Dallas reports Frontier service outages created headaches for customers across North Texas. (2:08)

Employees at Altice-owned SFR Smash Difficult Customer’s Phone Live on Periscope

SFR

This SFR retail store is part of the Altice telecom empire

Two customer service representatives at Altice-owned SFR, a wireless carrier in France, may not have understood that the video they broadcast over Periscope showing the destruction of a difficult customer’s cell phone wasn’t just for their friends’ viewing pleasure.

France is buzzing today about the wider release of the video, showing the two employees complain that despite the fact the customer’s phone was being repaired, “he’s breaking our balls this morning. You know what we’ll do to his phone?”

The miracle of Periscope, which let’s you “explore the world through someone else’s eyes,” means everyone watching quickly found out as they obliterated the smartphone by repeatedly throwing it to the ground.

Their evil plan, shared with countless viewers, was first to prove it was not a dummy phone they were destroying, and then claim it was the condition of the phone as it was received.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/SFR Workers Destroy Customer Cell Phone Live on Periscope 3-31-16.mp4

These two SFR employees apparently misunderstood that more than their friends would be watching Periscope as they destroyed a difficult customer’s cell phone. (French) (1:54)

broken phoneAfter the first 10,000 views of the video-that-went-viral, SFR’s damage control team moved in… to rescue SFR’s reputation. The company tweeted it had identified the culprits, (later independently identified as employees of the SFR shopping center in Villeneuve d’Ascq) and they would be “severely punished.” Within hours, both men were fired.

But customers of this Altice-owned operation consider it business as usual. As Altice continues to fight for approval of its acquisition of Cablevision, its largest wireless holding in France is fighting to to be taken seriously by its dwindling customer base.

On Wednesday, the French Association of Telecom Users (AFUTT) released its 2015 Report on Complaints and Customer Dissatisfaction, and no company disappointed more than SFR.

Despite repeated assurances from Altice and SFR-Numericable executives that things were improving, the report found the exact opposite. SFR-Numericable (the combination wireless and cable operator) was the subject of 36% of all complaints against all French telecom companies among Internet users, despite only having a 21% market share. It was the only telecom operator in France to further decline in the ratings, for a second year in a row.

“We can assume the acquisition of SFR by [Altice-owned] Numericable resulted in some initial disruptions to the quality of their service,” the AFUTT report speculates. “The first reports of this appeared in 2014 and have continued and grown in 2015.”

That may be bring pause to New Yorkers and state regulators currently reviewing Altice’s application to acquire Cablevision. Several consumer groups and unions have specifically called out the management methods of Altice founder Patrick Drahi as responsible for many of the problems, noting his demands for forcible cost cutting, squeezing supplies, and exasperating unions have caused many employees to depart.

39% of all complaints about telecom companies in France are directed against Altice-owned SFR-Numericable.

36% of all complaints about telecom companies in France are directed against Altice-owned SFR-Numericable, claims AFUTT.

Verizon Takes N.Y. Landline Customers to the Cleaners: Finds $1,500

Phillip Dampier March 28, 2016 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Verizon, Video No Comments

ShakedownVerizon’s loyal landline customers are subsidizing corporate expenses and lavish spending on Verizon Wireless, the company’s eponymous mobile service, while their home phone service is going to pot.

Bruce Kushnick from New Networks Institute knows Verizon’s tricks of the trade. He reads tariff filings and arcane Securities & Exchange Commission corporate disclosures for fun. He’s been building a strong case that Verizon has used the revenue it earns from regulated landline telephone service to help finance Verizon’s FiOS fiber network and the company’s highly profitable wireless service.

Kushnick tells the New York Post at least two million New Yorkers with (P)lain (O)ld (T)elephone (S)ervice were overcharged $1,000-$1,500 while Verizon allowed its copper wire network to fall into disrepair. Kushnick figures Verizon owes billions of dollars that should have been spent on its POTS network that provides dial tones to seniors and low-income customers that cannot afford smartphones and laptops.

Verizon’s copper network should have been paid off years ago, argues Kushnick, resulting in dramatically less expensive phone service. What wasn’t paid off has been “written off” by Verizon for some time, Kushnick claims, and Verizon customers should only be paying $10-20 a month for basic phone service. But they pay far more than that.

To ensure a proper rate of return, New York State’s Public Service Commission sets Verizon’s basic service charge of regulated phone service downstate at $23 a month. Deregulation has allowed Verizon to charge whatever it likes for everything else, starting with passing along taxes and other various fees that raise the bill to over $30. Customers with calling plans to minimize long distance charges routinely pay over $60 a month.

Unregulated calling features like call waiting, call forwarding, and three-way calling don’t come cheap either, especially if customers choose them a-la-carte. A two-service package of call waiting and call forwarding costs Verizon 2-3¢ per month, but you pay $7.95. Other add-on fees apply for dubious services like “home wiring maintenance” which protects you if the phone lines installed in your home during the Eisenhower Administration happen to suddenly fail (unlikely).

verizonIn contrast, Time Warner Cable has sold its customers phone service with unlimited local and long distance calling (including free calls to the European Community, Canada, and Mexico) with a bundle of multiple phone features for just $10 a month. That, and the ubiquitous cell phone, may explain why about 11 million New Yorkers disconnected landline service between 2000-2016. There are about two million remaining customers across the state.

New York officials are investigating whether Verizon has allowed its landline network to deteriorate along the way. Anecdotal news reports suggests it might be the case. One apartment building in Harlem lost phone and DSL service for seven months. Another outage put senior citizens at risk in Queens for weeks.

“They don’t care if we live or die,” one tenant of a senior living center told WABC-TV.

Verizon claims Kushnick’s claims are ridiculous.

“There is absolutely no factual basis for his allegations,” the company said.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WABC New York Seniors vent against Verizon after phone service outage 3-9-16.flv

WABC’s “7 On Your Side” consumer reporter Nina Pineda had to intervene to get Verizon to repair phone service for a senior living center that lasted more than a month. (2:50)

Frontier Launches ‘Vantage’ Brand Bundles of TV, Broadband, and Phone

Phillip Dampier March 24, 2016 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Frontier, Video 6 Comments

vantage tvFrontier Communications customers lucky enough to live in an upgraded or recently acquired service area may soon be getting Frontier Vantage, a new suite of enhanced products including a multichannel TV package, faster broadband, and phone service.

Frontier Vantage started life in Frontier’s fiber to the home market trial in Durham, N.C., and is set to accompany, not replace, the Frontier FiOS and U-verse brands, starting in a wide rollout in Connecticut. Much like the XFINITY brand today co-exists with Comcast, Frontier intends its new Vantage brand to signify a premium experience. It is part of Frontier’s larger plan to introduce IPTV service in more than 40 of its larger markets across the country over the next four years, with an even larger presence in former Verizon service areas in Texas, Florida, and California.

In all, Frontier expects to offer the enhanced service to more than eight million of its customers after upgrades are finished.

Frontier’s biggest challenge will be getting Vantage service to customers in its legacy service areas, where its reliance on ADSL and its slow broadband speeds are often inadequate for a shared broadband and IPTV platform. In upgraded service areas, other challenges are appearing, including firm rejections of Vantage in multi-dwelling units where complex owners have signed multi-year exclusivity contracts with cable operators.

frontier new logo“As far as Durham goes, some of the initial learnings are that we were locked out in many cases of securing long-term contracts with some of the apartments and condominium owners in the market because we didn’t have a video product other than a mini head-end that was using satellite, which was not the preferred solution,” said Frontier CEO Dan McCarthy in February. “In the first several weeks of introducing the product, we’ve already secured new contracts that would be substantial units right out of the gate. Our door-to-door sales process has been very successful so far, but we’re in the early days — it’s only been really about a month or so.”

McKenney

McKenney

Much of the door knocking is taking place in Connecticut, where Vantage started replacing the older Frontier TV/U-verse platform on set-top boxes starting last Monday. Former AT&T customers have transitioned through three brand changes. Originally served by AT&T U-verse, Frontier’s acquisition of AT&T’s wireline facilities in the state introduced customers to Frontier U-verse/FrontierTV. As of this week, it is now VantageTV.

The new firmware introduces a Netflix “on-demand channel” (Ch. 800 in Connecticut) where subscribers can access Netflix content without having to use separate hardware like Chromecast or Roku. This is the first of several “apps” that Frontier will offer, allowing customers to reach Facebook, Twitter, home shopping, weather, and games over their set-top box.

Frontier also plans a ‘start-over’ feature that allows viewers to start at the beginning of a show already in progress, an enhanced on-screen program guide and easier access to a list of upcoming shows. A video-on-demand library will also be on offer, and Frontier claims it will include over 100,000 movies and TV shows.

Customers will also get a whole-home DVR that can record four shows at once on a 1TB hard drive. A limited number of markets will also be offered 4k video service.

Accompanying the TV package will be phone service and Internet access at speeds starting as 12Mbps up to 1,000Mbps, depending on the market and available infrastructure.

“This is the perfect time for Frontier to launch our premier products,” said Cecilia K. McKenney, executive vice president and chief customer officer and head of corporate marketing at Frontier. “‘Vantage’ conveys the ultimate customer experience and represents products and services that deliver value, solutions, and choice.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Frontier What is Vantage TV 3-24-16.mp4

Frontier introduces Vantage TV to customers in Connecticut formerly served by AT&T U-verse. This introductory video shows Frontier’s new set-top box firmware includes direct support for Netflix. (2:16)

Comcast Abandoning Over-the-Air TV for South Boston; Will You Need Cable for NBC Shows?

whdhFor more than 20 years, Boston residents have watched NBC for free on WHDH-TV Channel 7. But if Comcast gets its way, at least four million Beantown viewers may have to subscribe to pay cable television service to keep watching.

This morning, WHDH filed suit against the cable giant in federal court in Boston alleging Comcast broke federal and state laws and an agreement it signed with antitrust regulators when it announced it would not renew WHDH’s affiliation contract with NBC. Comcast acquired NBC in 2011, after agreeing to conditions preventing the cable company from engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

Media observers say Comcast has made no secret of its desire to buy WHDH or another Boston over the air station, to build its network of affiliates directly owned and operated by the cable company. Station owner Ed Ansin isn’t selling, at least not at Comcast’s current asking price. But eyebrows were raised when Comcast announced it would end its affiliation agreement with WHDH – a well-known, high-powered television station – and move NBC programming to New England Cable News (NECN), a low-rated Comcast-owned cable channel.

Comcast-LogoUnless something changes, NECN will disappear on Jan. 1, 2017, replaced by a new “NBC Boston” cable channel. The decision will also strand WHDH without a major network affiliation, which is likely to significantly cut the station’s value and ratings.

“Comcast has a reputation for pushing the envelope wherever they can but they’ve just done an awful lot of things wrong here,” said Ansin.

In an effort to limit the damaging optics of Comcast forcing free network television programming to pay cable, Comcast announced it would also relay its NBC Boston cable channel over a UHF channel in another state now showing Telemundo programming. Those without cable will have to adjust their antennas carefully to receive WNEU-TV Channel 60, in Merrimack, N.H, the new home of NBC for Boston-area cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

WNEU's coverage area only reaches 50% of the Boston television market.

WNEU’s coverage area only reaches 50% of the Boston television market.

That may be good news for New Hampshire residents in Concord or Nashua that may have had trouble watching NBC shows over WHDH, but very bad news for about four million people inside Greater Boston who live where WNEU’s signal doesn’t reach, including those in primarily minority communities like Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Brockton. Those residents, along with other areas in southern Boston, will likely have to call Comcast and buy cable TV to keep watching NBC starting this January.

WNEU60WHDH’s lawyers have now pushed back:

When Comcast, the largest cable company in the world, acquired NBC in 2011, there was widespread concern about the impact this unprecedented accumulation of power in the television industry would have on viewers and other market participants. Particularly in markets like Boston, where Comcast is the dominant cable provider, citizen groups, industry participants and government agencies expressed concern that Comcast would seek to leverage its cable holdings and in the process degrade its broadcasting presence and diminish the important public service role that broadcast television stations historically have played.  To address those concerns, Comcast promised its NBC affiliates (including WHDH) that it would negotiate affiliate extensions in good faith such that over the air access would be maintained, and cable interests would not influence those negotiations.  As part of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, the FCC adopted these same conditions in order to protect the public interest.

WHDH believes that Comcast has violated these conditions.  It also believes that Comcast’s actions violate Massachusetts law prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices.  Finally, WHDH believes that Comcast’s actions violate federal and state antitrust laws because they have enabled Comcast to increase its monopoly power in the Boston television market, and the resulting decrease in competition will harm consumers, advertisers and other broadcasters.

In its suit WHDH is seeking an injunction and an order requiring Comcast to comply with its obligations under its agreement with WHDH and the FCC order. WHDH will also seek damages.

WHDH also accuses Comcast of stringing it along on the renewal of its affiliate agreement, claiming they were told discussions about an extension would begin “when the time was right.” WHDH says Comcast was plotting to launch its own cable network alternative all along, and didn’t negotiate in good faith. In July 2013, NECN ad sales representatives began telling advertisers it would soon become the local NBC affiliate. After WHDH protested to Comcast, the cable company claimed NECN’s statements were untrue.

“No major national broadcaster has ever terminated its relationship with a successful independent affiliate in a major market to build its own local affiliate from scratch,” WHDH lawyers wrote.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WHDH Boston Major announcement involving NBC and WHDH-TV 1-7-16.mp4

WHDH in Boston informed viewers back in January that Comcast was not going to renew its affiliation agreement with NBC. Today, WHDH’s lawyers took Comcast to court. (3:27)

Net Neutrality/No Zero Rating Enforced in India: Telecom Regulator Hands Setback to Facebook

TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma

TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma

A plan by Facebook to deliver free limited Internet access to India’s poor and rural communities was delivered a blow this morning after the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) declared the plan would violate Net Neutrality and banned it.

TRAI’s ruling focused on the fact the proposed plan would only allow customers to access Facebook and other partnered websites the social network elected to let users access over its free service. The regulator declared no service provider in India will be allowed to offer or charge discriminatory rates for data services based on content.

The regulator relied heavily on the ISP License Agreement in its ruling, which requires subscribers to have “unrestricted access to all the content available on Internet except for such content which is restricted by the Licensor/designated authority under Law.” TRAI went further in its Net Neutrality declaration than regulators in the U.S. and parts of Europe, proclaiming price-based differentiation “would make certain content more attractive to consumers resulting in altering online behavior.” Under those terms, India has effectively banned the practice of “zero rating,” which exempts certain so-called “preferred content” from metering charges or counting against a customer’s usage allowance.

free basics“This is a big win for Indian consumers and Net Neutrality,” said Independent MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar. “This is a very powerful and positive first step taken by TRAI. The days of telcos controlling regulations and regulatory policy is over and it is consumers to the fore.”

Facebook’s Internet.org and its companion free mobile web service, now dubbed Free Basics, offers stripped-down web services without airtime or usage charges, targeting basic so-called “feature phones” that were common in the U.S. before smartphones. Facebook has targeted the free service on about three dozen developing countries including the Philippines, Malawi, Bangladesh, Thailand and Mongolia. India would have been Facebook’s largest market for Free Basics, until the telecom regulator effectively banned it.

In India, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s frequent entries into the debate, including a passive-aggressive OpEd widely panned in India, was seen by many as arrogant and counter-productive. Facebook’s ongoing campaign to enlist users’ active support of the project for the benefit of India’s telecom regulator created a row with the Office of the Prime Minister, that dismissed Facebook’s public relations defense of Free Basics “a crudely majoritarian and orchestrated opinion poll.

A misleading astroturf campaign only infuriated the government more after Facebook users (including some in the U.S.) were greeted with an invitation in their timelines to support “digital equality,” sponsored by Facebook. Regulators were flooded with form letters, only later to be informed many were misled to believe it indicated their support for Net Neutrality.

Facebook users across India (and some in the U.S.) were invited to defend "digital equality," which critics define as "opposing Net Neutrality".

Facebook users across India (and some in the U.S.) were invited by Facebook to defend “digital equality,” which critics define as “opposing Net Neutrality.”

“Facebook went overboard with its propaganda [and] convinced ‘the powers that be’ that it cannot be trusted with mature stewardship of our information society,” said Sunil Abraham, of the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore.

Initially, Internet.org included Facebook and a handpicked assortment of content partners, including the BBC, that were allowed on the free service. Net Neutrality proponents accused Facebook of creating a walled garden for itself and its preferred partners, disadvantaging startups and other companies not allowed on the service.

Unlike in the United States where Net Neutrality was a cause largely fought by netizens, websites, and consumer groups, major media organizations in India helped coordinate the push for Net Neutrality. The Times of India and its language websites like Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Ei Samay and Nav Gujarat Samay appealed to other broadcasters and publishers to remove themselves from Internet.org. NDTV, a major multi-lingual broadcaster running multiple 24-hour news channels, often promoted Net Neutrality on the air and encouraged Indians to support it.

Like in the United States, Indians faced a telecom regulator more accustomed to dealing with government officials and telecom companies. TRAI was quickly swamped with over one million comments in support of Net Neutrality, so many that invitations for future comments were moved to another government website that made it harder for consumers to address regulators. The unexpected level of support for Net Neutrality also led Facebook to change its Internet.org service and relaunch Free Basics as “an open platform.”

But websites included in the service still cannot contain data intensive product experiences, such as streaming video, high-resolution images and GIFs, videos, client or browser side caching or file and audio transfer services.

“Facebook defines the technical guidelines for Free Basics, and reserves the right to change them,” adds the SavetheInternet.in coalition. “They reserve the right to reject applicants, who are forced to comply with Facebook’s terms. In contrast they support ‘permissionless innovation’ in the US.”

In India, the argument has boiled down to whether the country would prefer a usage-limited open Internet platform for the poor or an unlimited experience for a handful of websites. TRAI prefers enforcing rules guaranteeing users can visit any website they want, even if the free service used comes with a usage cap.

It’s a major blow for Facebook and the telecom operators that were some of the service’s biggest defenders.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/NDTV Net Neutrality India 2-8-16.mp4

Net Neutrality is now law in India, where the telecom regulator exceeded the United States by completely banning zero rated services, which allow users to avoid usage charges for certain applications or websites. (2:03)

Activists of Indian Youth Congress and National Students Union of India shout anti-government slogans during a protest in support of net neutrality in New Delhi on April 16, 2015. India's largest e-commerce portal Flipkart on April 14 scrapped plans to offer free access to its app after getting caught up in a growing row over net neutrality, with the criticism of Flipkart feeding into a broader debate on whether Internet service providers should be allowed to favour one online service over another for commercial or other reasons -- a concept known as "net neutrality". AFP PHOTO / MONEY SHARMA (Photo credit should read MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists of Indian Youth Congress and National Students Union of India shout anti-government slogans during a protest in support of Net Neutrality in New Delhi on April 16, 2015. (Image: MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

”COAI had approached the regulator with the reasons to allow price differentiation as the move would have taken us closer to connecting the one billion unconnected citizens of India,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). “By opting to turn away from this opportunity, TRAI has ignored all the benefits of price differentiation that we had submitted as a part of the industry’s response to its consulting paper, including improving economic efficiency, increase in broadband penetration, reduction in customer costs and provision of essential services among other things.”

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “Our goal with Free Basics is to bring more people online with an open, non-exclusive and free platform. While disappointed with the outcome, we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the Internet and the opportunities it brings.”

TRAI rejected industry claims that differential pricing will enable operators to bring innovative packages to the market.

India has 300 million mobile users but there are still nearly one billion Indians without Internet access. India is an important market for Facebook, with 130 million active Facebook users — second to only the United States.

Allowing Facebook to gain a foothold in rural India using zero rating was compared with British colonialism by Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of PayTM — an Indian mobile payment system. He called Free Basics a trojan horse — “poor Internet for poor people” and referred to it as the colonial-era East India Company of the 21st century.

“India, Do u buy into this baby Internet?” Mr Sharma tweeted in December. “The East India company came with similar ‘charity’ to Indians a few years back!”

“Given that a majority of the [Indian] population are yet to be connected to the Internet, allowing service providers to define the nature of access would be equivalent of letting [operators] shape the users’ Internet experience,” TRAI said in its release.

Telecom operators should be able to adapt to a market that bans zero rating, analysts believe.

“Telecom service providers may not be happy with this notification,” Amresh Nanden, research director at Gartner, told NDTV News. “However, they still have the ability and freedom to create different kind of Internet access packages; as long as content is not a parameter to provide or bar access to anyone. Such practices have already started elsewhere with products such as bandwidth on demand, bandwidth calendaring etc. to create premium products.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/AIB Save The Internet 1 4-2015.mp4

All India Bakchod produced several humorous mostly English language videos teaching Indians about Net Neutrality and why it’s important. It’s a familiar case for North Americans dealing with our own telecom operators. (9:07)

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An update from All India Backchod last summer alerted India to an astroturf campaign underway at Facebook and telecom operators to mislead Net Neutrality supporters. (8:02)

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