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CableLabs Introduces DOCSIS 4.0 — Up to 10/6 Gbps Over Cable Broadband

Phillip Dampier March 26, 2020 Broadband Speed, Consumer News 1 Comment

CableLabs unveiled the final DOCSIS 4.0 specification today, dramatically improving upload speeds and offering the potential of much faster internet service from cable operators in the next few years.

DOCSIS 4.0 will support downstream speeds as fast as 10,000 Mbps and upload speed as fast as 6,000 Mbps, finally bringing faster upstream speed to cable company-provided internet. The new standard raises maximum speeds by opening up “extended spectrum” on the coaxial cable coming into your home. By dedicating additional frequencies for data services, cable companies can raise both speed and capacity.

Consumers have been asking for faster upload speeds to support streaming live video, cloud backup services, and a growing number of in-home devices sharing a single internet connection. For years, cable providers have only been able to provide a small fraction of upstream speed in comparison to download speed. That distinction will largely be erased as DOCSIS 4.0 gets deployed over the next few years. Providers are likely to raise upload speeds on existing speed tiers and offer consumers symmetrical download and upload speed for gigabit connections. The increased speed will also likely make cable broadband more attractive to business customers.

The new standard will also decrease network latency, crucial for some online applications. It will also feature more robust security and higher reliability by identifying potential network problems before they become apparent to customers.

Consumers may see DOCSIS 4.0 modems and service available within the next two years.

Mediacom Demands $300 For Melted Cable Modem Lost in Devastating Condo Fire

Phillip Dampier March 2, 2020 Consumer News, Mediacom, Video 1 Comment

(Image: WPMI-TV)

An Alabama woman who lost everything in a condo fire has been hit with a $300 charge because she couldn’t return a cable modem that literally melted in the fire.

Mediacom representatives were adamant that if she did not pay her final bill, including a $300 non-returned equipment charge for a cable modem that costs considerably less, her account would be turned over to a collection agency.

Barbara Rose told WPMI-TV she “was shocked” by how Mediacom treated her, and the ongoing battle with the cable operator was adding to her stress. The company said she could always claim the damaged modem on her insurance, something Rose neglected to get for her leased condo. Attempts to negotiate the amount of her final bill with Mediacom went nowhere.

The cable modem/router in question, manufactured by Technicolor, is estimated to have cost Mediacom less than half the amount they were asking. In fact, customers typically pay the cable company more than $12 a month in modem rental fees, but Mediacom showed no willingness to pro-rate the damaged modem and sought ‘more than’ full payment. When Rose refused, “they turned me over to collections,” Rose told the station.

When WPMI contacted Mediacom, the company’s intransigence disappeared immediately.

“We have a longstanding policy to waive equipment return charges for customers who have been displaced by disasters like a fire,” a Mediacom representative told the TV station. “The person this customer spoke to must not have been aware of the policy.”

Rose said she contacted at least five Mediacom employees, including a supervisor, and none were apparently familiar with this policy.

Still, Rose is delighted Mediacom has now waived the modem fee and the cost of her final month of service.

It is just another example of public relations working in favor of customers. When a reporter shows up threatening to make a dispute public on the evening news, most companies buckle in favor of customers they may have refused to help for weeks or months earlier.

Charging for unreturned cable equipment after a fire or other disaster is very common, despite most cable companies claiming to waive fees in the event of such personal disasters. Most instruct victims to pay the charges and seek compensation through an insurance claim. But in most cases, customers need not pay anything at all if they inform the company of its own policies regarding unreturned equipment damaged in fires, floods, or other tragedies.

At the same time, every renter should purchase renter’s insurance to protect the value of their personal property. It is inexpensive and the only way to recoup losses in the event your property is damaged or destroyed.

WPMI-TV in Mobile covers another dispute between a cable company and customer over unreturned cable equipment destroyed in a fire. (2:31)

Spectrum Salesperson Lies to Customers About the Competition: “We Bought Them”

Phillip Dampier January 21, 2020 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News, Video No Comments

This Spectrum door-to-door salesperson tells a Bath, N.Y. customer the cable company bought the competition.

A Spectrum door-to-door sales representative has a new trick up his sleeve to win back customers who switched to a competitor: lie and tell them Spectrum bought out the competition and sooner or later customers will once again be dealing with the cable company.

Spectrum Rep: “To get you guys back on board with our service, we’re going to lock your price in for two years.”

A Bath, N.Y., customer of Empire Access, a competing fiber to the home provider offering service in the Southern Tier of New York: “I’m not interested.”

Spectrum Rep: “We just bought Empire, you know, so sooner or later you’re going to be with us.”

Customer: “So you’re going to raise up your rates?”

Spectrum Rep: “No, we’re just going to get everybody switched over, so whenever you’re ready. The official switchover is in March, so sooner or later you’ll be on board with us or you’ll be on satellite for internet. Right now we’re offering you a deal to get on board early.”

The “deal” was $50 a month for 100 Mbps internet, which is hardly a deal at all considering new Spectrum customers in competitive service areas can often sign up for 400 Mbps service for $29.99 a month for two years. More importantly, the salesperson openly lied to make a sale.

Empire Access marketing director Bob VanDelinder says Empire Access did not sell to Spectrum and has no plans to sell itself to anyone.

“Our company is locally owned and operated, and deeply rooted in the communities we serve,” VanDelinder said. “We can keep our customers based on our service, our price. We’re very competitive and play fair. We think that’s extremely important to play fair and keep it a level playing field and be honest to our customers.”

The customer captured most of the conversation on his Ring video doorbell and shared it with Empire Access. At least one other Empire Access customer said he experienced a similar encounter with the deceptive salesperson.

“The content of the video is not accurate and we’re investigating these apparent comments by the sales representative,” responds a Spectrum spokesperson.

Spectrum typically contracts out its door-to-door marketing to third party companies, with employees typically earning a commission or bonus based on each successful sign-up.

Empire Access is requesting customers who have experienced similar misleading claims to contact the company at: 1-800-338-3300.

Spectrum representative lies about the competition.

WENY-TV in Elmira, N.Y. reports on a Spectrum door-to-door salesperson using dirty tricks to try and fool customers to switch back to the cable operator. (2:32)

Rep. Brindisi Questions Spectrum’s “Unfair and Sneaky” Debt Collection Practices

Brindisi, as he appeared in a campaign ad slamming Charter Spectrum in the summer of 2018.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.), who made his battle with Spectrum into an election issue in 2018, is not done with the cable company yet.

This week, Brindisi appealed to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to launch an investigation into the cable company’s debt collection practices.

“Fighting Spectrum on rising rates also includes making sure they can’t use debt collection as another money-making tactic,” said Brindisi. “And the only way to get to the bottom of this is for the CFPB to ask the questions I outline in my letter.”

Brindisi is targeting Credit Management L.P., a Plano, Tex. collection agency that Spectrum relies on to pursue former customers, often to seek compensation for “lost or unreturned equipment.”

“After believing they had paid their final bill in full and returned their equipment, customers are finding themselves face-to-face with this unknown debt collector from Plano, Texas,” Brindisi told the CFPB. “One former Spectrum customer learned from Credit Management L.P. that they owed over $100 long after amicably ending their service. Spectrum never notified this customer they owed a penny. Instead, they sent them to collections, potentially damaging their credit rating and giving up their social security number and other personal information.”

In some cases, customers are being turned over to the collection agency for as little as an allegedly unreturned remote control. As a result, consumers are ending up with damaged credit because of the reported collection activity.

“The Better Business Bureau has logged hundreds of complaints about Credit Management L.P.,” Brindisi added. “Many of these complaints have been about their debt collection practices related to cable and internet companies. Customers have specifically named Spectrum and other cable companies as the source of the erroneous debt. A consumer should not be sent to a debt collector, without warning, for a missing remote control. That is both unfair and a sneaky way Spectrum might be padding its bottom line, which would be unacceptable, worthy of investigation and potentially in violation of federal rules.”

Brindisi wants the CFPB to determine how many customers are being pursued by Credit Management, L.P., how those customers are contacted, how much of the collection agency’s efforts relate to being compensated for allegedly unreturned equipment as opposed to late or non-payment of monthly cable bills, and how the agency handles customers’ private personal information.  Brindisi also wants the CFPB to determine if the collection practices violate federal law.

Brindisi also urged constituents being contacted by Credit Management L.P., on behalf of Spectrum, to call his office at (315) 732-0713.

In addition to running campaign commercials that slammed Spectrum, Brindisi has doggedly pursued the cable industry as a freshman congressman representing an Upstate New York district extending from the east end of Lake Ontario through Central New York to the Pennsylvania border, including the cities of Utica, Rome and Binghamton. Brindisi introduced the Transparency for Cable Consumers Act, promising to provide better oversight of cable and internet providers and hold companies accountable that are fined by a state Public Service Commission. In November, Brindisi slammed Spectrum in an opinion piece outlining his efforts to hold Spectrum accountable. Brindisi also recently launched a district-wide survey of home internet speeds and service to determine if internet customers are getting advertised internet speeds.

AT&T Ditches Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands to Raise Money to Cut Debt, Buy Back Its Own Stock

AT&T will sell its operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to John Malone’s Liberty Latin America, Ltd., setting up a virtual market monopoly for Liberty, which already owns cable operator Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico.

Liberty Latin America has agreed to pay $1.95 billion in cash to acquire 1.1 million AT&T cellular, landline, and internet customers in both U.S. territories.

AT&T intends to use the proceeds of the sale to reduce debt and allow the company to lay the foundation to buy back more of its own shares, pleasing investors. AT&T had originally sought up to $3 billion for the Caribbean networks, partly acquired from a 2009 acquisition of Centennial Communications, which cost AT&T less than $1 billion.

Analysts say the low selling price shows AT&T is feeling pressure from activist investor Elliott Management, which has been pushing AT&T to divest non-core assets. The selling price was also impacted by the distressed state of AT&T’s infrastructure and customer base, impacted by Hurricane Maria in 2017, which damaged both the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.

Liberty already has a major presence in Puerto Rico through its cable system — Puerto Rico’s largest pay television and broadband provider. Cable tycoon John Malone will effectively control Puerto Rico’s largest wireless phone and cable company. Claro, Puerto Rico’s landline provider, will be its chief competitor.

The two companies said they expect the deal to close within six to nine months.

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  • Maureen O’Brien: I also think Charter Cable (spectrum) is a disgrace. Their billing info is a travesty of justice. I would like to know congressmen/women were agains...
  • Phil: I moved into a new build neighborhood late last year in Ohio, was excited to see (on their website, and verified by calling) that they were offering F...
  • U Marc: This is incorrect Information. XFi pods maxim throughput speeds on 2.4 Ghz band is 300MBPS and 867Mbps on the 5 Ghz band...
  • TJE: After 25 years of being a loyal Charter client, I am done. Rate increases, poor service, the worst customer service in history, being on hold forever...
  • Sherry: I also bought equipment and haven’t had very long also please let me know if you file a lawsuit will join...
  • Sherry: I also invested in equipment and got screwed , I will join a civil action against Spectrum just let me know......
  • Guest: I live in an area where Frontier bought up Verizon FIOS, and then completely underdelivered. Frequent service outages, billing problems. I too changed...
  • Phillip Dampier: There is nothing inherently wrong with the product, they just don't want to sell or support it any longer. They should unlock the hardware and allow t...
  • Phillip Dampier: We've covered that story exhaustively over the years, just not here. Yes, they botched every cutover everytime and drove customers off in herds....
  • Phillip Dampier: I suspect the test for fiber will be the return on investment. They want north of 20% revenue return to fiber-qualify an area. That means urban/suburb...
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