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Spectrum: No, You Aren’t Getting Automatic Credit for Hurricane Outages

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment

Charter’s Spectrum customers will be waiting a long time for service credit if their cable service has been out as a result of the recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

The cable company, while trying to fend off increasing criticism for its mysterious service restoration effort, is also in no mood to compensate customers for weeks-long outages, unless they specifically ask.

The Orlando Sentinel has joined the story the Miami Herald started writing a week earlier. Customers are not impressed with Charter’s response to Hurricane Irma and they want a refund and some answers.

The cable company, which dominates the central Florida cities of Orlando and Tampa that used to be Bright House Networks’ territory, is being blasted for “vague repair timelines” and a bad attitude.

The Sentinel:

Bob Rader went without service for a week after the storm ripped through the region early Sept. 11. Adding to the 80-year-old’s frustrations are the tough time he has had getting answers from the company, he said.

“At first, they made me feel optimistic because they seemed to know there were people in my neighborhood without service,” he said. “Then, every other time, I got wrapped into a maze of telephone button punching.”

Spectrum representatives have made it clear the only way customers are going to get credit for service lost during Irma is if they contact the company and ask for it, which is easier said than done.

Jenny Paterson told Stop the Cap! she has tried to call more than a dozen times, but the hold times are so severe, she is afraid her cell phone battery will die before she gets to talk to anyone.

“I am not using my minutes up waiting on hold with them and they never call you back,” Paterson claims. “I’ve tried just about everything and the local cable store wants you to call in too.”

Customers claim seeing one of these trucks is a rarity in central Florida.

She has been without service for more than a week and “nobody knows nothing about anything,” in response to questions about when she’ll get her service back.

“The impact of this monster storm was felt across Florida and in some areas worse than others,” Charter spokesman Joe Durkin offered shortly after the storm.

“Obviously,” responds Paterson. “I could tell you that. But what Mr. Durkin and I share in common is the fact neither one of us have any idea when the company he works for might be by my neighborhood to take a look and fix things. We’re more likely to spot a UFO than a Spectrum truck around here.”

The Sentinel notes a lot of business customers who bought Spectrum’s “business class” service are now regretting it as outages cost them customers.

Bob Patterson, who runs a Sunoco gas station in College Park, estimates he has lost $10,000 because customers leave when they find out he can only accept cash. His credit card terminals, which depend on Spectrum’s internet service, are not working. He has made an effort to collect some credit card numbers from customers and manually process the transactions from his home at the end of the night, but that isn’t a good substitute for a difficult situation.

What infuriates Patterson, who is not related to Ms. Paterson, is that the cable company is rubbing salt in his wounds.

“It doesn’t work all week, then you call their number and it says the best way to reach them is on the Internet,” said Patterson. “But guess what? We don’t have any Internet.”

Oddly and without any explanation, the FCC stopped asking utilities to report their outage numbers related to Hurricane Irma on Sept. 18, despite the fact its last report on that same day indicated at least 893,409 customers were without cable or phone service because of Irma. With the FCC no longer releasing outage data, service providers have refused to pick up the slack, claiming outage details are “proprietary business information.”

UAE Leads With 93.7% of Homes on Fiber Internet; U.S. Lags at 13.1%

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't No Comments

The United Arab Emirates now has the highest penetration of fiber optic broadband in the world, according to data from the FTTH Council Europe.

At least 93.7% of UAE homes are now hooked up to fiber-to-the-home internet service, and the country’s largest provider — Etisalat — promises it will spend millions more to further expand fiber connected home broadband and mobile services across the country.

In contrast, the United States has only wired 13.1% of its homes to fiber broadband, 11.8% in Canada. The countries with the highest percentage of fiber connections are the UAE, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan.

According to the World Bank, broadband internet is today seen as critical to the transition to knowledge-intensive economies across the world. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are accelerating their fiber broadband programs, believing the technology will prove transformational to remake or build their economies in a digital world. As many first world countries’ telecommunications networks are captive to large, for-profit corporate interests that have dragged out broadband expansion to protect profits, the developing world has a chance to leapfrog over countries in North America and Europe and launch new connected technology centers for the digital economy.

For the UAE, fiber optic broadband is a critical part of the country’s Vision 2021 strategy to invest vast sums in infrastructure and development programs to diversify the country’s economy away from its dependence on oil and gas reserves and guarantee future prosperity.

Charter/Spectrum Sweetens Deal for New Customers With $500 Contract Buyout Offer

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 1 Comment

Even as millions of Spectrum subscribers began paying higher rates for programming and equipment this month, Charter Communications has sweetened the deal for its new customers by offering free DVR service with their triple play bundle of TV Select, internet, and voice service for $89.97/mo during the first year. The cable company will also reimburse customers up to $500 to cover any early termination/contract buyout fees for canceling their satellite or telephone company video package.

Charter’s “Strategic Accounts” department is handling the promotion, and it will benefit customers where there is significant competition between Spectrum and AT&T and Verizon or satellite providers like DirecTV and Dish Networks. Spectrum does not cover early termination fees from cell phone companies, and you must have subscribed to a “comparable level of service,” which disqualifies competitors like Hulu, Netflix, DirecTV Now, and Amazon.

Like the rebates Time Warner Cable used to offer customers, there is a specific process to submit documentation to qualify for this rebate, and skipping a step means… no rebate and no recourse. In addition to this FAQ, Stop the Cap! has this advice:

  1. You must install and keep current a qualified Spectrum triple play package from the time you submit the rebate request until the day you receive a check.
  2. You cannot have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days, something we’ll explain below.
  3. Your account must not be past due.
  4. You must submit a copy of your provider’s final bill showing itemized early termination fees actually billed to your account. Bank/credit card statements showing charges are not eligible.
  5. You must complete the “Charter Contract Buyout Form” in full and submit it by e-mail or by mail to: Spectrum, 7800 Crescent Exec. Dr., Charlotte, NC 28217, ATTN: Strategic Accounts Dept. with your documentation. Try to make sure the names on both accounts match.
  6. Your rebate request must be received by Charter within 60 days of installation of a Charter triple play package or within two weeks of the date listed on the competing provider’s final bill, whichever is later.
  7. Charter will only reimburse you for the actual amount of the early termination fee, up to a maximum of $500. Cash the check within six months or lose it.

Charter insists customers who have had Spectrum Video service within the last 30 days cannot qualify for this rebate. This is an effort to close a loophole where an existing Spectrum customer cancels their regularly-priced cable service, switches to a competitor for a few weeks, and then promptly switches back to a Spectrum package at the new customer price, which also leaves Charter on the hook for paying the early termination fee charged by the other company. To avoid this, a customer would have to cancel Spectrum service, switch to a competitor for at least 31 days, and then switch back to Spectrum. That is likely to be a hassle for most people.

Customers who have participated in these rebate schemes in the past also warn that companies can reject a rebate if you do not have a “comparable” level of service with a competitor. In other words, if you signed up for a $20 basic video package and then head to Spectrum for a $90 triple play package, the company may not consider that “comparable.” “Comparable” can mean the dollar amount of the video package you have with a competitor or the combination of a satellite package with one provider and a broadband package with another. You can contact Charter directly and check if your existing package(s) qualify. If the representative says yes, write down the name of the person and keep it handy in case your rebate request is later rejected.

Charter says you won’t have long to wait for a rebate rejection or a check.

“When you submit your information to the Contract Buyout Team, your information goes through a verification process, which can take up to 5-7 business days. After approval, your check will arrive within 10 business days,” the company reports.

Other factors to consider:

  • Cable TV equipment is required and costs extra ($5.99/mo per HD box or DVR for new customers).
  • You will receive Spectrum’s base internet package, which is 60Mbps or 100Mbps in former TWC Maxx service areas. A $199 upgrade fee applies for faster speed.
  • Installation fees apply. You can avoid them with a self-install kit which can be mailed or picked up at a Spectrum retail store at no extra charge.
  • Fees and surcharges apply. The most important is the Broadcast TV Fee, which usually adds around $7.50 a month to your TV bill.
  • Rates reset to Charter’s regular price at the end of one year. There is no contract, so you can cancel anytime.

Verizon Abandoning Copper Network in Multiple Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Cities

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2017 Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Verizon No Comments

Verizon Communications will decommission its existing copper wire facilities in multiple markets in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia starting in 2018.

In a series of requests filed with the Federal Communications Commission, Verizon is asking to compel customers to switch service to Verizon’s FiOS optical fiber network or find another provider. While Verizon’s fiber network has a better reliability record than Verizon’s deteriorating copper facilities, some residential customers may be compelled to pay more for FiOS service than they used to pay for landline and DSL service over Verizon’s copper network. Their phone service may also no longer work in the event of a power failure.

“We will offer the service at a special rate for customers who migrate from copper to fiber as a result of the retirement of our copper facilities,” Verizon said, but the company did not guarantee that rate would not reset to regular priced FiOS service down the road.

Businesses may also have to invest in technology upgrades to switch to fiber optic service when Verizon pulls the plug on copper-delivered services.

The wire centers (central offices) where copper decommissioning is planned are disclosed in these company documents (click on links below to see if you are affected):

DELAWARE

MARYLAND

MASSACHUSETTS

NEW JERSEY

NEW YORK

PENNSYLVANIA

RHODE ISLAND

VIRGINIA

 

DirecTV Now Up to 155 Local Channels; Showtime Available for $8/mo

Phillip Dampier September 20, 2017 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV, Online Video No Comments

AT&T’s DirecTV Now is aggressively pursuing agreements to include local network stations in its online streaming platform.

This week, the company announced it added CBS and CW stations in more than 75 markets reaching over 70% of U.S. households, and now carries 155 local stations on its lineup. As part of that agreement, DirecTV Now also now offers customers the option of adding Showtime at what AT&T calls the cheapest price available from any streaming service — $8 a month. Access to the Showtime Anytime app isn’t ready yet, but will be “in the coming weeks,” claims AT&T.

Subscribers to the “Go Big” package will soon find CBS Sports Network added to their lineup. Those with at least the “Just Right” package will see Pop added as well. On Demand programming from CBS and The CW will begin in October.

Here’s the current lineup of TV markets and stations available on DirecTV Now as of late September:

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