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Spectrum Boosting Speeds in Parts of Western N.Y., Finger Lakes Region and Central Florida

Phillip Dampier December 15, 2020 Broadband Speed, Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 4 Comments

Spectrum customers still stuck with 100/10 Mbps Standard Internet speed may want to reboot their modems and check if they have gotten a free speed increase this week.

Stop the Cap! has heard from customers in the following areas, all reporting their Standard Internet speed has doubled to 200/10 Mbps:

  • Rochester, N.Y. and surrounding Finger Lakes region
  • Buffalo, N.Y., and parts of Western New York
  • Central Florida, including Winter Springs

Charter Communications has already upgraded just over half of their Standard Internet customers nationwide to 200/10 Mbps. Upgrading the remaining 40% of customers has taken over a year and is still a work in progress. Charter may have delivered these recent speed hikes in part to placate customers notified this month their broadband service was increasing an additional $5 a month.

Spectrum’s other speed tiers remain unchanged.

Frontier Announces “Holistic Transformation” Starting With Another New CEO; 2.9 Million Fiber Builds Over 10 Years

Phillip Dampier December 15, 2020 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Frontier, Rural Broadband 8 Comments


Nick Jeffery will be appointed president and CEO of Frontier Communications effective March 1, 2021, succeeding Bernie Han.

Frontier Communications today announced a “holistic transformation” of its business from a copper-based landline company to a fiber to the home internet service provider, with plans to eventually offer fiber to the home service to nearly six million residential customers, approximately three million already served by fiber networks acquired from Verizon and AT&T.

As part of that transformation, Frontier today announced yet another new CEO, Nick Jeffery, will take over from current CEO Bernie Han in March 2021. Jeffery was CEO of Vodafone UK, one of Great Britain’s largest mobile operators. Jeffery agreed to replace Han, who became CEO and president only a year ago, in return for a $3.75 million signing bonus, a $1.3 million annual salary, and eligibility for more than $8 million in annual bonuses and equity awards.

“I am honored to be appointed Frontier’s next CEO, and I am excited to lead the company in its next phase,” Jeffery said in a statement. “Frontier owns a unique set of assets and maintains a competitive market position. My immediate focus will be on serving our customers as we enhance the network through investments in our existing footprint and in adjacent markets while building operational excellence across the organization.”

Frontier has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since April 2020 and is being reorganized to eliminate about $10 billion in debt and another billion annually in debt-servicing interest payments. Frontier’s bankruptcy plan will give four investment firms — Elliott Management, Franklin Mutual, Golden Tree Asset Management, and HG Vora, effective control over Frontier. The four are reportedly behind the decision to install Jeffery as Frontier’s new CEO to protect their financial interests. He has a reputation of repairing damaged customer relationships and improving sales, while also being willing to cut costs and simplify services sold to customers. Jeffery will also be joined by former Verizon executive John Stratton, who has accepted a position of executive chairman of the board. Jeffery is expected to lead the company out of bankruptcy sometime in early 2021.

Frontier has repeatedly promised to retire significant parts of its copper wire network and expand fiber to the home service, but over the last decade most of Frontier’s fiber footprint has been acquired from other phone companies, notably Verizon and AT&T. Most of Frontier’s own fiber expansion has come from installing service in new housing developments and in rural areas where it received taxpayer or ratepayer-funded subsidies to expand service to unserved areas.

In a conference call held earlier today, Frontier executives signaled the company will not hurry to deliver fiber upgrades to Frontier customers. In some of the most opaque language ever uttered in a Frontier conference call, company officials warned some Frontier customers may actually find themselves sold to another service provider. The company plans to divide its copper customers into two categories: those destined to be a part of Frontier’s fiber future and those left stuck on copper or sold off after Frontier “strategically reevaluates individual state operating performance employing a virtual separation framework” — all to “optimize our returns on invested capital.”

Frontier emphasizes its planned total of “nearly 6 million fiber-enabled households” will come to fruition “over the long term.” In 2020, the company plans to bring fiber service to approximately 60,000 new households in six states, many in new housing developments Frontier was already expected to serve.

Frontier’s modernization plan will likely sell unprofitable service areas and selectively upgrade many customers over a ten-year period to fiber optics. (Source: Frontier Communications)

“We have completed construction of about 60% of our target locations and continue to ramp quickly and remain on target to reach our year-end goals,” said Han. “Although, it is still very early in the process, our offer is very appealing to customers. While we are successfully converting existing copper customers to fiber, most of our early gains are coming from winning net new customers. Early penetration and ARPUs are performing at or above targets.”

In 2021, the company announced it had “planning and engineering” underway for unspecified fiber to the home service upgrades in copper service areas “in select regions.” But most of Frontier’s fiber upgrades will take place over the next decade. Specifically, Frontier plans to wire up to 2.9 million homes with fiber using a combination of its own money and subsidy funds provided by the FCC. Frontier’s new owners have signaled they will not go out on a limb to finance rapid fiber upgrades, and you better live in a state where fiber upgrades are being given priority.

“Of the 2.9 million new fiber homes passed for the modernization plan, roughly 2.6 million of them are in […] California, Texas, Florida and Connecticut and […] West Virginia, Illinois, New York and Ohio,” Han noted.

“The modernization plan is expected to be completely self-funding […] and has been developed with strict return on capital hurdles, allowing for very attractive returns,” said Robert A. Schriesheim, chairman of the Frontier’s Finance Committee of the Board. “The expected shift in the subscriber base from the modernization plan will increase the percent of fiber subs from 45% today to 87% over the plan horizon and will drive a transformation of business mix that is expected to result in 75% of revenue coming from fiber products in the long-term as compared to about one-third today.”

Roku Removes Spectrum TV App from Its Channel Store Over Contract Dispute

Phillip Dampier December 14, 2020 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Online Video 12 Comments

The next generation of retransmission consent wars is here, as programmers and cable operators do battle with set-top box companies that increasingly seek compensation to allow content on their hardware platforms.

Once again, Roku has triggered a dispute after Charter Communications turned down a contract renewal offer permitting Charter’s Spectrum TV app in Roku’s Channel Store. The app allows customers to stream Spectrum’s cable TV lineup over Roku. Existing users tell Stop the Cap! that the app disappeared from the Channel Store, but previously installed versions still work over Roku. The problem, readers tell us, is there is no way to install or reinstall it on new Roku devices.

Charter noted the issue in a new support article explaining why the app disappeared:

Despite our best efforts to reach an agreement, Roku has not accepted Spectrum’s offer to continue our contract, which allowed customers to access the Spectrum TV app from Roku devices.

This change may prevent new downloads of the Spectrum TV app to your Roku device, but you can still access your full video library by downloading the Spectrum TV app to your Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox, smartphone or tablet.

If you already use the Spectrum TV app on Roku, your service shouldn’t be affected.

Be sure not to uninstall the app, but you can still add devices by signing in to your current account.

If you’re new to Roku, or if you have not yet downloaded the app, you can still access Spectrum programming on another device, or use your smartphone or laptop to screen mirror Spectrum content to your Roku TV.

Find out more about using the Spectrum TV app, or get help to troubleshoot common concerns.

Roku defended its decision but also admitted it now expects compensation from certain providers in return for allowing their apps on Roku’s Channel Store.

“As America’s #1 streaming platform we are committed to providing access to amazing streaming content at an exceptional value for our users,” Roku said in a statement. “Our contract with Charter for the distribution of the Spectrum TV [app] on the Roku platform expired and we are working together to reach a positive and mutually beneficial distribution agreement. All existing customers can continue to use the Charter app while we work together on a renewal.”

Roku’s willingness to battle with programmers became apparent this year as the company continued to keep HBO Max off of its platform. Other programmers that saw their apps temporarily blocked or unsupported include AT&T TV, FOX, and Comcast’s Peacock.

 

Spectrum Changing its On-the-Go Wi-Fi Service, Retiring “CableWiFi” Hotspot ID

Phillip Dampier December 3, 2020 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Wireless Broadband 2 Comments

Cable internet customers connecting to Spectrum’s large national network of Wi-Fi hotspots may have to make some adjustments on their mobile devices to keep those connections working.

CableWiFi® is a partnership between Altice USA, Comcast/Xfinity, Cox Communications and Charter/Spectrum allowing their internet customers to share access to those four cable operators’ extensive Wi-Fi hotspot networks while on the go. Once configured, customers coming in range of one will automatically connect, protecting their mobile data allowance.

For years, customers traveling outside of their own cable company’s service area typically connected to “CableWiFi” to access the service. But Spectrum is now dropping support for that and requiring customers to take additional steps to maintain their connection:

In order to connect to the same networks outside of the Spectrum Internet® service area, you will need the Spectrum Internet WiFi profile installed on your compatible device(s).

To install the Spectrum Internet WiFi profile on Android and iOS devices, download the My Spectrum App from the Play Store or App Store and follow the instructions in the app. To download the profile on MacOS devices, click here. A profile for Windows PCs is coming soon.

Visit the Spectrum Out-of-Home WiFi page for additional information.

This profile will also automatically connect Spectrum customers to XFINITY (Comcast’s Wi-Fi) and AlticeWiFi (in Altice USA’s service area). We are uncertain if this will also work with those traveling inside Cox’s service area.

More detailed instructions are also available from a special Spectrum web page.

BREAKING NEWS: Comcast Introducing 1.2 TB Data Cap in Northeast, Mid-Atlantic Regions

Comcast has quietly updated its online customer support website to reflect the forthcoming introduction of data caps to the last remaining major regions of the country where it has avoided imposing them for years.

The nation’s largest cable company will debut its 1.2 TB data cap usage plan on January 1, 2021 in Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

“Customers in select markets can take the months of January and February to understand how the new 1.2 TB Internet Data Plan affects them without additional charges,” Comcast wrote on its new customer FAQ page. “We’ll credit your bill for any additional data usage charges over 1.2 TB during those months if you’re not on an unlimited data plan. It does not apply to Xfinity Internet customers on our Gigabit Pro tier of service, Business Internet customers, customers with Prepaid Internet, or customers on Bulk Internet agreements.”

But effective March 1st, residential customers will begin facing overlimit fees for exceeding their data allowance at a rate of $10 for each 50 GB of excess usage, up to a maximum of $100 a month. Customers will not be credited for unused data, cannot rollover unused data, or be charged less than $10 in overlimit fees, regardless if one used 1 MB or 49 GB over the 1.2 TB allowance.

Customers approaching their usage limit will receive email, text messages, and Xfinity X1 on-screen notifications upon reaching 75% (email only), 90%, and 100% of 1.2 TB of data usage. Overlimit fees that subsequently start accumulating will be noted in email and X1 on-screen notifications for each additional 50 GB of usage over 1.2 TB, up to the maximum overage charge of $100.

Customers can return to the unlimited data plan they had before January 1st by paying an additional $30 a month for an unlimited add-on plan.

Comcast imposed data caps on residential customers in other parts of the country for years, but had avoided doing so until now in the northeast and mid-Atlantic states where Verizon FiOS is a frequent competitor. Verizon does not impose formal data caps on its residential customers. The introduction of data caps by Comcast is likely to result in a shift of some customers towards Verizon, if FiOS is available.

Comcast is certain to be criticized for expanding data caps in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as the number of cases explodes in the United States, pushing more people than ever to work from home. The resulting increased usage will expose a growing number of Comcast customers to overlimit fees, starting at $10 additional a month. Usage caps are also not expected to slow the company’s ongoing rate increases. One of Comcast’s most successful businesses is selling residential broadband, often with no significant competition, and with customers unlikely to drop service there is plenty of room to raise prices further.

Protesters in front of the Time Warner Cable in Rochester, N.Y., protesting the introduction of data caps in 2009.

Fighting Back

The most effective ways to combat data caps are:

  1. Switch providers and tell Comcast you are leaving because of the imposition of data caps. Reject any arguments that suggest usage allowances will impact only a handful of customers. Ongoing studies show a growing number of consumers are exceeding these arbitrary “allowances”, forcing them to pay unjustified overlimit fees or subscribe to a costly unlimited plan for as much as $30 more a month. Usage caps are unnecessary in 2020. Comcast itself claims it has plenty of capacity across its network, including areas where no caps are currently imposed. But they now think it is appropriate to introduce caps in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  2. Organize a noisy but legal protest in front of a local cable store or Comcast’s headquarters and contact newspapers, radio and TV stations in advance to invite them to cover the event. Be sure to carry signs and designate one or more members to be interviewed by the media about the unacceptability of data caps. We can supply talking points on request.
  3. Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and complain about Comcast imposing data caps. This is especially effective when tied-in with local protests, which may attract elected officials to the cause. There is precedent for companies backing down if consumers coordinate with elected officials and loudly protest. Tell officials your community’s digital future should not be dictated by Comcast and its unwanted data caps. More competition is needed, and until it substantially exists, ask them to ban “data plans” for home broadband service. Ask them to support municipal solutions, such as public/municipal internet service.
  4. Remind everyone that internet availability is not the only issue. Affordability is also a growing problem that puts much needed internet service out of reach of low-income citizens. Imposing data caps is just another way of raising prices and deterring innovation.

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