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Spectrum Preparing to Turn Cable Modems/Routers Into Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Phillip Dampier November 26, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Wireless Broadband No Comments

Charter Spectrum is laying a foundation to convert company-supplied consumer/residential cable modems and routers into public Wi-Fi hotspots, helping the company offload Spectrum Mobile traffic from Verizon Wireless.

Speaking at FierceWireless’ Next Gen Wireless Networks Summit in Dallas this week, Craig Cowden — senior vice president of wireless technology at Charter Communications, said Spectrum is considering converting over 10 million deployed cable modems and routers into shared hotspots, following Comcast’s lead. This would allow Spectrum Mobile and home internet customers to automatically connect to millions of Spectrum’s Wi-Fi hotspots when outside of their own homes.

“We already offload significant traffic onto Wi-Fi,” said Cowden. “Comcast has 19 million hotspots that are called home-as-a-hotspot, using the existing router in the home. We see a benefit of doing that.”

The technology change would activate a company-supplied router’s second Wi-Fi channel, available inside customer homes and accessible to any Charter Spectrum customer. If Charter is planning to adopt the same technology Comcast uses today, customers would continue to have exclusive access to their existing 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi channels, and any usage on the second (public) Wi-Fi channel would not affect the customer’s own internet speed. Spectrum Mobile devices automatically connect to Spectrum’s Wi-Fi network when signals are strong enough.

Customers that use their own independently purchased cable modem and router equipment will not be affected. Comcast allows their customers to opt out if they object, and Charter may also offer a similar option for Spectrum customers using company-supplied equipment.

 

Spectrum Creates New $5 Sports Tier, Some Customers Losing Channels

Phillip Dampier November 20, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 3 Comments

Charter Spectrum is launching a new extra-cost sports tier that will feature a dozen sports networks for $5 a month.

Spectrum TV Sports Pack has been soft launched in many markets and will include:

  • NFL Network
  • Golf Channel
  • Tennis Channel
  • ESPN Goal Line/Bases Loaded
  • ESPNews
  • ESPN College Extra
  • MAV TV
  • MLB Strike Zone
  • NFL RedZone
  • NHL Network
  • Olympic Channel
  • Outdoor Channel

The new sports tier means some Spectrum customers that pay extra for Spectrum’s Gold package will lose NFL RedZone, MLB Strike Zone and the Outdoor Channel late next month unless they also subscribe to the Sports Pack.

“Combining these sports networks into a single tier means more choice and flexibility for customers, especially sports fans,” Spectrum said in a statement.

Spectrum is dropping several other sports channels from its lineup altogether, including ESPN Classic. Other channels being dropped are certain regional sports networks, notably FCS.

Any Spectrum TV customer is eligible to subscribe to the sports channel package, which may allow some customers to downgrade from Spectrum’s costly Gold package if they subscribed primarily for sports networks.

NFL Network, Golf Channel, and the Tennis Channel will also remain as part of existing packages, so if you currently get these networks you will continue to receive them.

Customers can subscribe by contacting Spectrum online or by phone.

Proposed “Transparency for Cable Consumers Act” Gets Little Attention in Congress

Phillip Dampier November 14, 2019 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't 1 Comment
Rep. Brindisi

Rep. Brindisi

The House of Representatives is showing little love for freshman Rep. Anthony Brindisi’s “Transparency for Cable Consumers Act” (H.R. 1555), a bill that would strengthen consumer protection by targeting the cable industry’s business practices.

The Utica, N.Y. Democrat made Charter Spectrum a significant part of his 2018 campaign, criticizing the cable company in television election ads Spectrum initially refused to air and calling for New York regulators to punish or remove the cable company from the state after failing to meet its 2016 merger obligations.

Brindisi’s bill would increase regulatory oversight of cable operators nationwide, requiring the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Justice, and Federal Trade Commission to do more to protect cable internet subscribers. H.R. 1555 would:

  • Detail actions to protect consumers from predatory actions by cable and internet companies, which includes debt collection methods;
  • Asks the FCC to propose appropriate regulatory consequences for cable or internet companies fined by a state public utility commission, like Charter Communications was in New York;
  • Establishes a working group among the three federal agencies to investigate rising cable internet rates.

Brindisi considers America’s cable industry “predatory” and abusive to its customers. He cites constituent complaints about Spectrum’s debt collection practices as a primary example of that abuse in action.

“Constituents have reported to me Spectrum’s ties to a debt collection company called Credit Management, LP. Spectrum allegedly uses the Plano, Texas, company — whose leadership team is tethered to the cable industry — to collect debts often unrelated to standard non-payment, and instead tied to Spectrum ‘equipment,’ Brindisi alleges. “I urge anyone being harassed by Credit Management, LP, on behalf of Spectrum, to call my office.”

Brindisi is also attacking the recent policy change by Spectrum to stop providing pro-rated refunds when customers cancel service in the middle of a billing cycle.

“Well, Spectrum just raised our rates again, adding insult to injury. And let me tell you something, they are laughing all the way to the bank. Quite literally,” Brindisi added. “Wall Street shares of Charter Communications climbed about 14 percent higher last month thanks, in part, to a ‘boost from higher prices.'”

Brindisi claims lobbyists prowling the halls of Congress have labeled him “The Cable Guy” because of his focus on the cable industry.

“Look, it’s no secret. Spectrum Charter hates me. But what’s more offending, really, is that they think I’ll be quiet,” Brindisi said. “The legislative branch, of which I am included, is one partner in the fight but we need the administration to empower its agencies and regulators to come down hard on Spectrum when they take advantage of us. Right now, I do not see it happening. Instead, I see industry smiling ear-to-ear while it courts — and ‘pays’ — members of Congress to do its bidding.”

Brindisi’s bill has only a slim chance of passage as a standalone measure, so he is attempting to attach it as an amendment to the federal budget, a popular tactic among lawmakers that struggle to get their bills to the floor for individual consideration. Opponents are likely to claim that the measure is unnecessary, redundant, and in conflict with the current administration’s deregulation policies. The bill will need a stronger publicity push to attract constituent support that will be noticed by House lawmakers. Brindisi’s bill has only a single co-sponsor, Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.)

But Brindisi says he is not giving up.

“Well, let me be the first to reiterate: this ‘cable guy’ will not quit until Spectrum blinks, and takes its hand out of your pocket.”

Analyst Predicts More Streaming TV Providers Will Close as Programming Prices Soar

The era of fierce competition among live streamed video providers that has fueled cord-cutting will face new challenges as providers cope with rising programming costs and some may exit the business.

Last week, Sony’s PlayStation Vue announced it was planning to cease service in early 2020 because it was not profitable for the game console manufacturer. But Cowen analyst Gregory Williams believes it won’t be the last to close its doors.

Williams told Multichannel News that despite the growing phenomenon of cord-cutting, new streaming subscriptions are slowing down as subscribers choose between a half-dozen major services that are all raising prices, including AT&T TV Now, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. Williams called the current marketplace for streaming services irrational in the business sense, because providers are at the mercy of programmers that are continuing to raise wholesale prices.

Another serious problem is price disparity. Programmers offer huge volume discounts to large cable, satellite, and telco TV providers, charging smaller streaming services considerably more. That could eventually bring streaming subscription prices to parity with the same traditional cable and satellite providers many consumers left looking for a better deal.

Most streaming TV providers have built business models on slimmed-down packages of channels, rejecting the difficult-to-negotiate a-la-carte “choose your own channels” model many customers have been asking for since the days of 100 channel cable TV lineups. As a result, consumers are still paying for lots of channels they do not watch or want, and as subscription costs advance beyond the $50 a month many services are now charging for a healthy package of most popular cable and broadcast networks, some subscribers may end up going back to their old providers.

Ironically, one of the few a-la-carte providers available is a very large cable company you may already know. Charter’s Spectrum has been quietly selling TV Choice, a package of 10 ‘you-pick’ networks (mostly a part of Spectrum’s Standard TV package) combined with C-SPAN, public, educational, and government access channels, home shopping, and local over-the-air stations, to its internet-only customers for $24.95 a month (not including a $6/mo Broadcast TV Fee and an extra $4.95 a month for a cloud-based DVR service). The resulting bill of around $35-40 a month is at least $10 less than many streaming service providers that may not offer the exact channel lineup you are looking for.

The closest alternative is Sling TV, which has very slim packages of networks in three different configurations, ranging from $15-25 a month. But chances are, some channels you watch won’t be included.

Williams predicts that just three to five services will survive the consolidation wave or exit that is expected to be triggered by Sony’s decision to leave the marketplace. The services most vulnerable are likely those lacking a deep-pocketed, healthy corporate backer or those with the least market share.

An executive for one of PlayStation Vue’s rivals told Multichannel News Sony faced platform costs that “were simply too high.” Sony paid broadcast retransmission consent fees to local stations in every market the service was offered and also licensed popular, but very expensive regional sports channels. Sony also outsourced its streaming technology to Disney-owned BAMTech, among the more expensive platform providers.

Telecom Industry Slashes Investments for 2020-2021; Focus on Profit Margins New Priority

Telecom companies are cutting investment in their networks despite promises by Republican members of the FCC that repeal of net neutrality would inspire increased investment.

Charter, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon have surprised Wall Street with dramatic cutbacks in spending and investment in their networks, with one provider admitting improving profit margins are now a bigger priority.

As a result, Wall Street analysts are revising down capital expenditure (Capex) estimates in reports to their investor clients.

“Comcast and Charter missed [third quarter] expectations for Capex and guided 2019 lower than previously planned,” reported Nomura in a note to investors. “We have lowered our combined 2019 Capex forecast for Comcast and Charter from $14.6 billion to $14.2 billion.”

AT&T’s drop in network spending was the most dramatic among the country’s top telecom companies. AT&T has declared an end to fiber broadband expansion and slashed spending forecasts from the $23 billion the company spent this year to as little as $20 billion next year, despite claiming it would dramatically expand its 5G service to over two dozen cities over the next 12 months.

In a recent conference call with investors, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said “now it’s time to reap the rewards of what we’ve been doing [and] begin to reward to shareholders these investments that we’ve been making over the last few years.”

Over the next three years, AT&T will pay shareholders $45 billion in dividends and spend $30 billion on buying back shares of AT&T stock to retire debt racked up buying Time Warner (Entertainment). In fact, AT&T will devote 50-75% of its free cash flow exclusively on retiring shares of AT&T stock, which is expected to benefit shareholders.

Verizon reported spending $4.4 billion in the third quarter on network upgrades, approximately $100 million less than expected. That is a concern because Verizon is trying to expand its costly 5G network, but is not devoting the investment dollars required to make such an upgrade happen without cutting investments elsewhere in the company. Verizon has told Wall Street analysts to expect stable Capex spending of $17-18 billion annually for 2019-2021. That will either mean Verizon’s 5G expansion will be modest or the phone company will have to slash investments in other areas, such as wireline, fiber to the home, or business services.

Many analysts expect 5G will be a top spending priority for AT&T and Verizon over the next several years, leaving little room in budgets for upkeep of the company’s legacy landline networks or its other products. Charter and Comcast have effectively stopped spending on large upgrade projects, also as part of improved profit-taking.

The spending realities are in direct conflict with the promises made by Republican members of the FCC. Trump-picked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai repeatedly claimed that banishing net neutrality would lead to significant increases in investment by the nation’s top telecom companies. In fact, the opposite has happened.

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  • James Phares: Unfortunately, in my location, Spectrum is still my best Internet option because the only other broadband option is AT&T. At least I'm able to sa...
  • Paul Houlw: What I can't get... How come we hear about "the race to 5G?" all the time but there's never been talk about a "race to fiber?"...
  • Cristian: Can some one plz tell me if i paid for new spectrum services i paid $181 ,3 days later they canceled my installation and said i was gonna get a refu...
  • Rob Green: No they don’t...
  • John: They get away with it because the government protects them and not the consumer. We all know that those at that business that are making millions in s...
  • AM MA: I hate Charter/Spectrum. They are incredibly dishonest. At times the government needs to step-in and deal harshly with such company's. I had internet ...
  • Barb: My spectrum just went up is it going up again?...
  • NJ Orlando: I did that as well last year. The problem is, they will only do that for you one time in the life of you being a customer. I am not paying $70 just fo...
  • Dave Lee: I am 59 years old and have never ever subscribed to any cable tv of any kind "ever" in my life. I live in a small town about 35 miles north of St. Lo...
  • Chrys: I will NEVER use or recommend Spectrum again! Shady and unethical practice of charging for services never received when terminating service. It is wr...
  • JAMES: I am not a customer. Not only do we get Spectrum ads in the mail every few days at our residence, today they mail us a Spectrum Business 5x6 card cove...
  • Henry: Vandon how much is Granite paying you to post these messages on everyone's comment? Granite only resales Frontiers services.......you should get a re...

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