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Spectrum Raising Broadcast TV and Equipment Fees in March

Phillip Dampier February 16, 2022 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 4 Comments

Effective March 18, 2022 the cost of Spectrum’s “Broadcast TV Fee,” charged to cable television customers, will increase $3, reaching an unprecedented $21 a month, just to cover the carriage of local, over the air television stations. The Broadcast TV Fee was last raised to $17.99 in June 2021. The summer before that, the fee increased by nearly $3 a month as well. This means the average surcharge for local, over the air stations, is going up an average of $36 a year at Spectrum.

Equipment fees are also increasing by another $1 a month, to $9.99 per HD set-top cable box. Spectrum has been regularly increasing the cost of equipment rentals since its 2016 merger with Time Warner Cable. Charter Communications argued that one of the merger benefits was a promised reduction in the monthly cost of set-top equipment. Immediately after the merger deal was approved, the company charged $4.99 a month for each set-top box. But rates began rising almost immediately. In mid-2017, the rental price was raised to $5.99 a month, and in early 2018, it increased another $1 a month for $6.99. In 2020, the price went up another $1 to $7.99 a month, then yet another $1 to $8.99 a month in June 2021. This spring, the price rises another dollar to $9.99 a month.

FCC Approves Verizon’s Acquisition of TracFone

The Federal Communications Commission today approved Verizon’s acquisition of low-cost carrier TracFone Wireless, which will bring a familiar brand for prepaid wireless service under the wireless giant’s corporate umbrella.

Sources indicate there were enough votes in favor of the deal late last week for FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to distribute an approval order on Friday ahead of the formal vote.

The approval means Verizon will control the country’s largest wireless carrier for low income subscribers enrolled in the federal government’s Lifeline program, which offers substantial discounts on phones and service. About 1.7 million customers currently use TracFone under the Lifeline program, and Verizon committed to the FCC that it would continue participating in the program for at least the next seven years. The company also promised to maintain TracFone’s existing rate plans for at least three years and would continue to promote and educate consumers about Lifeline service.

A separate agreement with the California Public Utilities Commission commits Verizon to provide subsidized wireless service to low-income California residents for at least 20 years, and a free phone to qualified customers starting in late 2022.

“Verizon welcomes the FCC’s approval today of our TracFone acquisition,” said Kathy Grillo, Verizon SVP & DGC, public policy and government affairs, in a statement. The deal will provide customers with the best of both worlds: more choices, better services and new features thanks to Verizon’s investment and innovation. Customers will benefit with enhancements in devices, network performance and innovative products and services — as well as a continued commitment to Lifeline.”

TracFone was one of the country’s largest independent wireless brands. The company was formerly a unit of Mexico’s America Movil, controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim.

Spectrum Drops Gigabit Install Fee to $19.99, Was $50-200

New customers in competitive service areas can pay less for gigabit service, but anyone can get the higher speed tier for a $19.99 “activation fee.”

Charter Communications has slashed its arbitrary installation and activation fee for Spectrum’s gigabit broadband service to $19.99 for new and upgrading customers.

For years, customers paid fees ranging from $49.99 to $199.99 just to sign up for gigabit internet speed. Ongoing service pricing ranges from a promotional price of $89.99 a month in competitive service areas to $134.99 a month for broadband-only service where competition is lacking or non-existent.

Real world speed tests show Spectrum Internet Gig performing at around 940 Mbps for downloads and just shy of 40 Mbps for uploads.

Current customers might be able to order the speed upgrade online through Spectrum’s customer service portal. No service call is required.

Some customers might need a new modem to take advantage of gigabit speed. Spectrum can swap out existing modems at their cable store locations or by mail.

Spectrum Mobile Cuts Pricing on Multi-Line Unlimited Data Plans

Charter Communications this week reduced prices on multi-line unlimited data plans.

A customer with one line of unlimited data service will continue to pay $45 a month for the plan, but each additional line of unlimited data will now cost $29.99 a month — a $15 reduction from Spectrum’s old pricing.

Xfinity Mobile, Comcast’s similar wireless service, already cut multi-line unlimited pricing to $30 a month back in April 2021.

Rutledge

Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge told investors last spring that he wanted to drive customer growth in Charter’s mobile phone offering by slashing mobile service pricing.

“Our goal is to do the same with mobile in our service area as we did with wireline voice, where we made Charter the predominant wireline phone carrier by reducing consumer telephone bills by over 70%, meaning Charter can grow for a long time because we remain under-penetrated and our growth will reduce customer costs,” Rutledge said.

For several years, Charter charged most bundled customers $10 a month for a flat-rate, unlimited long distance home phone line. The company raised prices $3 a month for landline service earlier this year, but claims it still delivers significant savings over traditional landline service.

Both Charter and Xfinity Mobile operate their wireless mobile services using a combination of Wi-Fi calling and roaming on Verizon’s 4G and 5G networks. Customers must agree to bundle home broadband service to get the lowest mobile pricing. If a customer drops internet service, mobile pricing increases $20/mo per line.

Charter’s new pricing undercuts T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon:

Service pricing for two-line unlimited data plans

  • Spectrum Mobile: $75/mo
  • T-Mobile: $105/mo
  • AT&T: $125/mo
  • Verizon: $130/mo

Cox Waives Its Own Data Cap When It Faces Unlimited 5G Home Wireless Competition

Phillip Dampier September 22, 2021 Broadband "Shortage", Competition, Consumer News, Cox, Data Caps No Comments

With unlimited home wireless broadband from T-Mobile and Verizon starting to take a dent out of Cox Communications’ customer base, the cable operator is shoring up a defensive position by waiving its arbitrary data cap for existing customers signed up for gigabit speed service in select areas.

“We’re showing our appreciation by giving you free unlimited data for two years,” reads the postcard sent to one of Stop the Cap’s readers in Phoenix. “Now you can stream away without worrying about overages.”

Phoenix residents currently have a choice of up to four different providers — Cox Cable, CenturyLink, Verizon 5G Home Internet, or T-Mobile’s 5G fixed wireless home broadband. Verizon and T-Mobile both offer service with no data caps, but coverage remains selective, especially for Verizon.

Customers must receive the postcard offer and redeem it with Cox to waive their data cap, and the offer is not transferable. It applies only to subscribers with gigabit speed and after 24 months, Cox’s 1.25 TB data cap returns.

The fact Cox is willing to waive its own arbitrary data cap for marketing and competition reasons further demonstrates that artificial limits imposed on internet service have nothing to do with congestion, “fairness,” or network management.

 

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