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Time Warner Cable Officially Unveils 15Mbps Speed Increase; Some Markets Just Getting DOCSIS 3

Phillip Dampier December 6, 2012 Broadband Speed, Consumer News, Earthlink 5 Comments

Although “soft-launched” several weeks ago in many markets, Time Warner Cable has officially unveiled its holiday gift for 2012: a free 50% speed increase for Standard tier customers: 15/1Mbps service.

The speed increase is now complete across New York, New Jersey, New England, the Carolinas, Virginia and Alabama. Customers can activate the higher speed by briefly unplugging their cable modem for 10 seconds, plugging the cord back in, and in some cases rebooting their computer.

Customers outside of these areas can try this as well. Stop the Cap! has received reports from readers in the midwest, Texas, and California that the speed increase has arrived in their areas as well. All Time Warner Cable systems across the country should be providing the new speed by the end of this month.

Earthlink customers using Time Warner Cable should also see an identical speed increase.

Some Time Warner Cable customers are only now getting upgrades to DOCSIS 3 service, which open the door to 30/5 and 50/5Mbps speed tiers. The latest: Binghamton, N.Y. and surrounding southern tier communities. Customers further upstate have had that option for 1-2 years.

Bright House/Time Warner Customers: Switch to Earthlink to Avoid Modem Rental Fee

Phillip Dampier November 5, 2012 Competition, Consumer News, Data Caps, Earthlink 6 Comments

Time Warner Cable customers irritated by the cable operator’s new $3.95 monthly modem rental fee who do not want to pay premium prices for a purchased modem can enjoy the benefits of a loophole by ordering broadband service from Earthlink, which offers nearly identical performance over Time Warner’s cable broadband network and currently charges no modem rental fees.

Earthlink has maintained a third party agreement to provide its service over Time Warner Cable for more than a decade, and the company’s service operates transparently over your existing Time Warner Cable connection and equipment. In our own tests, we found Earthlink’s service identical to Time Warner Cable with two exceptions:

  1. Earthlink does not provide Time Warner’s “Speedboost” technology which delivers slightly faster service for the first few seconds of a large file transfer;
  2. You will receive an Earthlink e-mail address and forfeit your existing Time Warner Cable e-mail account.

The current promotional offers:

  • Up to 768 Kbps service: $29.95/month
  • Up to 6.0-10.0 Mbps service: $29.95/month for first 6 months; $41.95/month thereafter
  • Up to 10.0-15.0 Mbps service: $39.90/month for first 6 months; $51.90/month thereafter
  • Standard installation fee varies by region.
  • Term Commitment (contract): None (no contract required)

Despite information on Earthlink’s website, the upload/download speeds on offer are identical to what Time Warner Cable or Bright House sells for their Standard or Turbo services in your area. After six months, you can purchase your own modem and return to Bright House or Time Warner Cable on a New Customer promotion and further extend your savings.

We found Earthlink’s online service qualifier not always accurate. For example, we found service at Stop the Cap! HQ “unavailable,” even though an address a few doors down qualified for service. We also discovered Earthlink heavily promotes its more expensive 15Mbps option, ignoring the less expensive 10Mbps service, even though both are available.

No matter. You can skip the hassle and just call your local Time Warner Cable office, which will process your order for Earthlink instantly over the phone. You do not need a new modem — a simple billing change on Time Warner Cable’s computer system is all that is required to switch providers. Earthlink will be billed on your Time Warner Cable bill.

Be aware that switching to Earthlink could effect any double-play or triple-play packages you signed up for earlier. Ask your TWC representative if there are any unintended pricing consequences for changing Internet providers. If there are, let them know you are switching to save money and ask if TWC can offer any competing retention offers to match the price. You may find Time Warner amenable to keeping your business and lowering your price.

There is no long term guarantee Time Warner won’t force Earthlink to charge an identical modem rental fee in the near future, but at least you can avoid paying it now until the authorized modems on Time Warner’s list come down in price.

Trouble Looms for Smaller Phone Companies As Cable Swipes Away Business Customers

Phillip Dampier June 6, 2012 AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast/Xfinity, Competition, Earthlink, FairPoint, Frontier, Hawaiian Telcom, Verizon Comments Off on Trouble Looms for Smaller Phone Companies As Cable Swipes Away Business Customers

The cable industry is moving in on the phone companies' best customers: commercial enterprises

The growing competitiveness of the cable industry in the commercial services sector could spell trouble for some of the nation’s smaller telecommunications companies.

A new report from Moody’s Investor Service declares the cable industry is spoiling the business plans of telephone companies to grow revenue selling service to business customers.

With cable companies now investing in wiring office parks and downtown buildings to sell packages of voice and data services to corporate customers, traditional phone company revenue will suffer, declares Moody, which predicts traditional wireline revenue will be flat or decrease this year into next.

Cable Companies Quash Telecom Business-Revenue Rebound,” warns the companies at the greatest risk of revenue declines include EarthLink, Inc., Integra Telecom, Inc., U.S. TelePacific Corp., and CCGI Holding Corp. Among familiar independent phone companies, Frontier Communications, FairPoint Communications, and Hawaiian Telcom are at the biggest risk of losing customers, primarily because all three lack strong business products, according to the Moody’s report.

AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon are at a lower risk of losing customers, because all three focus investments on commercial services. CenturyLink’s acquisition of Qwest, a  former Baby Bell, strengthened its business services position, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

The cable companies best positioned to steal away telephone company customers are Comcast and Time Warner Cable, both of which have invested heavily in wiring commercial businesses for service. In the past, cable operators charged thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars to install service in unwired commercial buildings, but now that initial wiring investment is increasingly being covered by cable operators.

Moody’s declares the business service sector a growth industry for cable. The report notes business revenues only account for $5 billion — just six percent — of the cable industry’s total business in 2011. In contrast, phone companies earn 40 percent of their revenue from business customers.

The report also states individual cable companies are now collaborating to deliver business service to companies with multiple service locations, which used to present a problem when offices were located in territories served by different operators.

If the cable industry continues to erode traditional telephone company revenue, it could eventually threaten the viability of some companies, especially those heavily-laden with acquisition-related debt.

An Unsolicited Testimonial: Stop the Cap! Saved Us Over $20 A Month on Our Cable Bill

Phillip Dampier September 2, 2011 Broadband Speed, Competition, Consumer News, Earthlink 4 Comments

These kinds of testimonials help fuel our fight on behalf of consumers for better (and cheaper) broadband:

Hi Guys,

I don’t usually take the time to write thank you’s, but I found your site the other day and managed to save over $20 on my cable bill by switching to ”Earthlink” which I had no idea was possible. When I signed up with Bright House I was promised the $45 a month price for standard Internet, but I signed up a day before their prices jumped to $50. I managed to fight to get my price down for $45, but all of a sudden that stopped and they were refusing to give me the price I signed up for, for the remainder of the year. Due to that, I switched to the Earthlink promo prices and got Bright House to switch me over. They tried to lie to me on the phone to make me think I couldn’t get the Earthlink promo pricing, but I won the argument and am now very happy.

In six months, I’ll try to switch back to Road Runner and get their promo prices.

This is such a hidden unknown gem and has saved my family lots of money. Thank you!

— Scott

Thanks Scott.  Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks have Earthlink as a hidden little secret most customers know nothing about.  It’s an arrangement that started way back in 2001 with the now-long-forgotten (and broken up) merger between AOL and Time Warner.  A voluntary agreement to allow third party ISPs to sell broadband service over Time Warner Cable has been ongoing ever since, even though customers would routinely find Earthlink’s regular prices not so exciting, if they found them at all.

The Earthlink savings are best realized for broadband-only customers who do not want to get tied down with a double or triple-play package from their cable company.  Both Time Warner Cable and Bright House charge considerably higher prices for standalone broadband service.  It’s part of a marketing tactic to convince you better savings are possible with a bundled service package.  But if you don’t care about the phone line or cable TV, why pay for either?

For every third-party ISP we’ve encountered reselling service on Time Warner Cable or Bright House, it seems mostly an exercise in branding.  For example, Earthlink’s standard and “turbo” products are totally identical to Road Runner offered by both cable companies, with two important distinctions:

  • You do not get the benefit of SpeedBoost, a temporary speed increase during the first few seconds of a file transfer;
  • You are assigned an Earthlink e-mail address, not one from Bright House or Time Warner Cable.

In fact, Earthlink as a company seems to be running mostly on auto-pilot these days.  We found their website woefully outdated, still selling speeds upgraded several years ago. If Bright House locally sells 10/1Mbps standard Road Runner service and Earthlink offers 7Mbps with a 384kbps upload speed, you will actually get 10/1Mbps from Earthlink as well.  The only difference is the name of the service as it appears on your monthly Time Warner Cable or Bright House bill.  Both cable companies literally just select Earthlink from a drop-down menu on the customer service computer screen.  All service calls and billing are handled by the cable companies.  If you need technical support, however, it will come from an overseas call center or online “chat” platform Earthlink runs.  But Earthlink includes something Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers lost several years ago — up to 20 hours a month of free dial-up usage when away from home.

After the Six Month Promotion….

Earthlink charges $29.99 a month for speeds that are identical to Time Warner Cable or Bright House’s Road Runner Standard service.  In most areas this is or will soon be 10/1Mbps.  Turbo, which usually increases speeds to 15/1Mbps, costs another $10 a month.  These promotional prices are good for six months.

When the six months are up, you are then qualified to participate in whatever New Customer Promotions Time Warner and Bright House are running for their broadband service.  We are commonly seeing offers of $29.99 a month for a year of standard Road Runner service in upstate New York, with occasional offers of a year of free Road Runner Turbo service thrown in.  Assuming those prices remain in effect, you should be able to secure at least 1.5 years of broadband service for $30 a month.  Remember, if your cable company charges you a modem rental fee, consider investing in your own to save that additional charge.  They are priced well under $100.

When your six months of Earthlink and a year of Time Warner/Bright House promotional pricing is up, simply threaten to take your business elsewhere, and you will usually find them willing to extend the promotion for an additional year.  If not, schedule a cancellation date two weeks out and wait for an inevitable phone call from the customer retentions department with a special “winback” offer.

Also remember you can always start new service under the name of a spouse or family member.  Third party resellers (Google “Time Warner Cable “and pay attention to the online ads) may even throw in a prepaid rebate card for signing up for service through them, so shop around when the promotions expire.

These shopping tips may apply to other cable broadband providers as well.  Remember, if your local phone company is now providing more than traditional DSL, most cable companies will go out of their way to hang on to a customer threatening to walk to AT&T U-verse or Verizon FiOS.  Let them fight to keep you as a customer, and you keep the savings.

Earthlink Imposes 250GB Usage Limit on Their Customers Getting Service from Comcast

Phillip Dampier July 12, 2010 Comcast/Xfinity, Data Caps, Earthlink 1 Comment

Earthlink, which depends on phone and cable companies to deliver its broadband service, has imposed a monthly usage limit of 250 gigabytes on its customers obtaining service from Comcast.

Customers began receiving postcards in May notifying them about the change in service terms which took effect July 1st.  Earthlink blamed the usage limits solely on Comcast, noting they were dependent on other companies to provide the infrastructure necessary to reach customers:

Comcast and other cable providers provide portions of the network that EarthLink High Speed Cable service uses to deliver broadband Internet access. EarthLink provides the other portions of the network and services like Webmail and the myEarthLink Start Page®.  EarthLink works with its business partners, like Comcast, to manage the network infrastructure.  […]Because Comcast is EarthLink’s business partner in providing the EarthLink Powered by Comcast Service, EarthLink is working closely with Comcast in implementing this Usage Cap.

Internet providers routinely sell the benefits of their broadband accounts to better accomplish data-heavy activities like online video using their service, even though in some cases all of that "heavy use" is being used as an excuse to implement usage limits on customers.

In reality, Earthlink offers little more than a handful of its own services to customers.  Most of its network connectivity, billing, and other services are handled by the providing cable or phone company.  Customer support with many technical issues is handled by Earthlink’s own off-shore technical support staff.

Still, Earthlink had offered an alternative to those threatened with Internet Overcharging schemes by Time Warner Cable and Comcast because the company had not adopted those usage limits until Comcast insisted they follow suit.  Presumably with this precedent in place, any other Overcharging schemes imposed by these providers would also impact their respective Earthlink customers.

For those violating the usage limits, enforcement won’t come from Earthlink.  Instead, the provider warns, Comcast will be the entity that comes down on your head.

The vast majority – more than 99% – of customers will not be impacted by the monthly 250 GB Usage Cap. In the event that you exceed more than 250 GB, you may receive a telephone call from Comcast notifying you that you exceeded the 250 GB Usage Cap in the previous month.  The customer service representative on this telephone call  will (i) tell you how much data per month the account has used, (ii) help you identify the source of excessive use, (iii) explain ways to moderate  and reduce your data usage, and (iv) explain the consequences of continuing overusage including termination of the EarthLink Powered By Comcast Service.

Based on Comcast’s past records, the vast majority of customers voluntarily reduce their data usage after this initial call.  However, if after you receive this telephone call from Comcast, you continue to exceed the 250 GB Usage Cap during any month within the six month period after this first telephone call, your EarthLink Powered by Comcast Service may be terminated.  For example, if your account exceeded the Usage Cap in the month of August and Comcast contacted you the first week of September informing you that your account exceeded the 250 GB Usage Cap in August, if your account exceeds the monthly Usage Cap in September, October, November, December, January or February, your EarthLink Powered By Comcast Service may be terminated.   In the event that your EarthLink Powered by Comcast Service is terminated as a result of exceeding the 250 GB monthly Usage Cap, you will have to wait one year from the termination date to be able to subscribe to the EarthLink Powered by Comcast Service again.

[…]Comcast has found that most customers who exceed the Usage Cap during one month change their usage patterns or make other adjustments in their data usage. It is our expectation that only a small fraction of the tiny number of customers whose accounts exceeded the monthly Usage Cap for at least two months during a six month period will have their EarthLink Powered By Comcast Service terminated for one year.

For now, Earthlink customers will have to call the company (888-327-8454) to determine how much data they’ve used during the month as the Comcast data usage meter is apparently only for Comcast customers.

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