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AT&T and T-Mobile Borrow Billions to Bid on 5G Spectrum

Phillip Dampier January 13, 2021 AT&T, Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband No Comments

AT&T is seeking to borrow $14 billion dollars to help finance the cost of acquiring 5G airwaves in a competitive auction that has drawn heavy bidding from wireless carriers.

The phone company is in talks with Bank of America to provide a one-year term loan that will likely be refinanced in the bond market and paid off over several years.

AT&T’s loan follows news that T-Mobile USA borrowed $3 billion from investors for its own 5G spectrum acquisitions.

The FCC expects to collect more than $80.8 billion from the auction of 280 megahertz of spectrum around 3.7-3.98 GHz—a portion of the satellite C-band. This is the FCC’s largest mid-band 5G spectrum auction to date. Analysts were expecting bids of around $47 billion, but wireless carriers seem motivated to grab as much 5G spectrum as possible.

AT&T’s loan will add to the company’s existing $159 billion in debts, making it the world’s largest non-financial corporate borrower. Much of AT&T’s debt came from its 2018 $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.

House Democrats Blast Telecom Companies for Data Caps, Rate Hikes

House Energy & Commerce Committee

Democrats serving on the House Energy & Commerce Committee today blasted the nation’s largest internet service providers for price increases and data caps placed on consumer broadband services at the height of a global pandemic, questioning the industry’s commitment to keeping Americans connected.

“Over the last ten months, internet service became even more essential as many Americans were forced to transition to remote work and online school. Broadband networks seem to have largely withstood these massive shifts in usage,” wrote Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr (N.J.), Mike Doyle (Penn.) and Jerry McNerney (Calif.). “Unfortunately, what cannot be overlooked or underestimated is the extent to which families without home internet service — particularly those with school-aged children at home — have been left out and left behind.”

Pallone

The congressmen questioned nine providers after reading media coverage of rate hikes and the implementation of data caps by Comcast and the potential for Charter Spectrum to impose data caps as early as May 2021.

“This is an egregious action at a time when households and small businesses across the country need high-speed, reliable broadband more than ever but are struggling to make ends meet,” the three Democrats wrote.

In March 2020, many cable and phone companies relaxed a number of restrictions on customers in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. Many volunteered to suspend data cap overlimit fees, provide affordable broadband options to the economically disadvantaged, offer free months of service, open restricted Wi-Fi hotspots, and discontinue collection efforts or service disconnects on customers falling behind on bills.

Despite the pledge, consumers filed a significant number of complaints with the Federal Communications Commission alleging the companies broke their promises, by far most often for not following through on free service offers or continuing aggressive collections of past due bills and shutting off service.

Consumer complaints filed with the FCC regarding the “Keep America Connected” pledge, received from March-November 2020. (Source: FCC)

The Energy and Commerce Committee has now sent letters to the CEOs of many providers, seeking answers to these questions as part of ongoing oversight of the industry:

  • Did the company participate in the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge?
  • Has the company increased prices for fixed or mobile consumer internet and fixed or phone service since the start of the pandemic, or do they plan to raise prices on such plans within the next six months?
  • Prior to March 2020, did any of the company’s service plans impose a maximum data consumption threshold on its subscribers?
  • Since March 2020, has the company modified or imposed any new maximum data consumption thresholds on service plans, or do they plan to do so within the next six months?
  • Did the company stop disconnecting customers’ internet or telephone service due to their inability to pay during the pandemic?
  • Does the company offer a plan designed for low-income households, or a plan established in March or later to help students and families with connectivity during the pandemic?
  • Beyond service offerings for low-income customers, what steps is the company currently taking to assist individuals and families facing financial hardship due to circumstances related to COVID-19?

The full letters are available below:

Altice USA

AT&T

CenturyLink/Lumen

Charter Communications

Comcast Cable Communications

Cox Communications

Frontier Communications

T-Mobile US

Verizon Communications

Spectrum Lowers the Gigabit Service Installation Fee… for Some

Spectrum is offering certain new customers a discount on the usually high installation fee for its gigabit service tier.

Normally, Spectrum expects new gigabit customers to pay a compulsory installation fee of $199.99 and $109.99 a month for internet only service. But customers living in areas where significant competition exists are now finding far more generous promotions, including 24 months of gigabit service for $89.99 a month with an installation fee of $49.99.

Spectrum prices can vary wildly depending on how much competition is around. A new customer in an uncompetitive area can expect to pay around $310 for the first month of gigabit service and installation fees. In competitive areas, customers will pay half as much — around $140 — for the exact same service. In both cases, in-home Wi-Fi is included at no extra charge.

The best way to check where you stand is to visit the Spectrum website and enter a specific street address to verify exact pricing.

This is pricing representative of a competitive service area.

If Spectrum is your only option for high-speed internet, you are likely to encounter these prices.

Comcast Raises Prices; Budget Plans See Biggest Price Spikes

Phillip Dampier December 28, 2020 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News, Data Caps No Comments

Comcast is rolling out price increases across its multi-state service area, starting with some significant hikes for customers in the northeastern U.S. that will also see a 1.2 TB data cap placed on internet usage in the new year.

Budget priced Performance Starter will take the biggest hit, increasing $5 a month from $49.95 to $54.95 a month. Faster, more expensive tiers will see price increases of $3 a month. Customers with bundled service packages may find lower rate increases, depending on the services they receive.

Comcast video customers will suffer even more from rate increases, with the cheapest plans seeing the biggest increases. For example, Choice TV increases $5 a month from $25 to $30. But Comcast’s add on fees are rising even more dramatically. The Broadcast TV Fee, charged to all cable TV customers that receive local TV stations, rise by up to $4.50 a month, which could result in additional charges of more than $18 a month just to cover local, over the air stations. Sports TV surcharges are also increasing $2 a month, resulting in an extra charge of $10.75 a month for regional sports networks.

Set-top box rental pricing is also changing: rental fees rise $2.50 a month for the first box (was $5 a month, now $7.50), but additional boxes decrease from $9.95 a month each to $7.50. If you need Comcast to install your service, that will now cost $100, up from $70.

Comcast rolls out rate increases regionally, so watch your monthly bill for an official notification of when the rate hikes arrive in your area.

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 5 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.

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