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Spectrum Raising Broadcast TV and Equipment Fees in March

Phillip Dampier February 16, 2022 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News 3 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.

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

The Roku/Spectrum War is Over: Spectrum TV Returns to Roku App Store After 9-Month Blackout

Phillip Dampier August 17, 2021 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Online Video No Comments

A dispute between Charter Communications and Roku over compensating the set-top box maker for distributing the Spectrum TV app in the Roku app store is over after a nine-month impasse that kept new Roku users from accessing the cable company’s streaming TV package.

“Charter Communications and Roku have reached a mutually beneficial agreement to renew distribution of the Spectrum TV App on the Roku platform,” a joint statement announced. “As a result of the renewal, the Spectrum TV App is now available for download from the Roku channel store. We are pleased to renew our partnership and offer this great streaming experience to our shared customers.”

The dispute began when Charter turned down Roku’s demands for an undisclosed form of compensation in return for distributing the Spectrum TV app. Roku removed the app from its app store, but allowed existing versions already downloaded to continue working. The dispute annoyed Spectrum TV customers that found they could not install the streaming TV app on new Roku devices. Roku has at least 54 million active users in the United States. Charter’s solution to cord-cutting is heavily reliant on streaming a budget-priced TV package over independent set-top devices like Roku.

The two companies did not discuss specifics of their final settlement agreement. The Spectrum TV app should be back on Roku’s channel app store today.

 

A Tale of Two Homes in Spectrum Territory: What Competition Does to Pricing

Phillip Dampier May 26, 2021 Charter Spectrum, Competition, Consumer News 6 Comments

Competition is a wonderful thing. A case in point is the enormous difference Charter Spectrum charges new customers in areas where competition exists, and where it does not.

Charter’s offers are address sensitive. The cable company knows its competition and almost exactly where those competitors offer service. That is why the company asks for your service address before it quotes you pricing.

Stop the Cap! compared promotional new customer offers in the metro Rochester, N.Y. market where Spectrum faces token competition from Frontier’s slow speed DSL service. Then we checked pricing in neighborhoods where a fiber to the home overbuilder called Greenlight also offers service.

In neighborhoods where Spectrum enjoys a broadband monopoly, here are the offers for internet-only service available to new customers. Notice they expire after 12 months:

Spectrum promotional prices in non-competitive service areas.

Just one street away, where Greenlight offers customers the option of gigabit speed over a fiber to the home network, Spectrum’s promotional prices are quite different. Notice these offers last 24 months, twice as long as in non-competitive neighborhoods:

Spectrum promotional prices in some areas where customers can choose a competitor offering fiber to the home service.

Spectrum does not even bother offering new customers its entry-level 200 Mbps plan in areas where it has significant fiber competition. For $20 less per month, you get double that speed. Gigabit service is $20 less in competitive areas, too.

Spectrum charges a hefty $199.99 compulsory installation fee for gigabit service in non-competitive neighborhoods. Where fiber competition exists, sometimes just a street away, that installation fee plummets to just $49.99.

Note similar pricing variability exists in Spectrum service areas around the country, with the most aggressively priced offers reserved for addresses also served by a fiber to the home provider or multiple competitors (e.g. cable company, phone company, Google Fiber or other overbuilder). Current customers typically have to cancel existing service and sign up as a new customer to get these prices.

Greenlight Networks has four internet plans that range from $50-200 a month. They do not offer promotional prices, instead marketing “what you see is exactly what you will pay” pricing. As a relatively new company, they charge an installation fee that helps recoup the investments they are making to dig and string fiber cables in neighborhoods across Rochester (and Buffalo as well, where they are expanding). Spectrum (and its predecessors) use pre-existing cable lines that have been there for decades.

Greenlight Networks pricing

Charter’s promotion strategy is designed to undercut the competition on price, believing customers will choose 400/20 Mbps service for $29.99 a month over Greenlight’s 500/50 Mbps service for $50 a month. Of course, after two years Spectrum’s regular prices can kick in, more than tripling the cost to around $94.99 a month, although customers usually get a less attractive secondary promotion after the original one expires, usually offering around $10 off per month.

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