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Comcast and Charter’s Mobile Service a Money Loser; Verizon Set Wholesale Rates Too High

Comcast and Charter Communications are losing money on their cell service plans because their partner, Verizon Wireless, sets its wholesale rates too high, making certain the two companies cannot cannibalize Verizon’s own customers for long.

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett claims the cable industry’s 2012 $3.9 billion sale of wireless spectrum to Verizon Wireless, which included an agreement allowing the two cable operators to resell Verizon Wireless service, turned out to benefit Verizon more than Comcast and Charter.

The problem is Verizon set its own price for service high enough to guarantee the two cable operators will have a hard time outcompeting Verizon Wireless. Moffett estimates Verizon is currently charging the two operators about $5/GB and around $5/month per customer for unlimited voice and texting. According to Moffett’s calculations, only the pay-per-gigabyte plans have any chance of marginal profitability. Comcast charges $12/GB for its pay-per-usage mobile plan; Charter charges $14/GB for essentially the same service. Both plans include unlimited voice and texting.

Things quickly get unprofitable when a customer signs up for Spectrum Mobile’s or Xfinity Mobile’s Unlimited plan (both $45/mo). Once a customer uses more than 8GB of 4G LTE data per month, Verizon’s wholesale price, including the cost of voice and texting, reaches the same amount those companies are charging customers for service. That does not include any of the ancillary costs Comcast and Charter have to pay to support and market their wireless plans.

Moffett believes the two companies overestimated how often subscribers would offload traffic to Wi-Fi, and the future potential for more solid Wi-Fi coverage “looks cloudy.” The problem, as Moffett sees it, appears to be the cable industry’s loss of interest building out their metro Wi-Fi networks. Moffett called the joint CableWiFi project between Comcast, Charter, Cox, and Altice USA “a bust” because the members of the coalition have largely stopped investing in new hotspot installations. That leaves about 500,000 working hotspots around the country, a number that has remained unchanged for two years. Only in-business Wi-Fi continues to grow, as business cable broadband customers are offered the opportunity to provide Wi-Fi service for their customers. But those hotspots don’t typically offer outdoor coverage.

Comcast has grown its Xfinity Mobile service to 1.2 million lines since launching in 2017 and Spectrum Mobile, which began in last September, had attracted almost 134,000 customers by the end of 2018.

Comcast Hiking Some TV Prices at Least $10 a Month In 2019

Phillip Dampier April 15, 2019 Comcast/Xfinity, Consumer News 2 Comments

Comcast has begun gradually rolling out 2019’s rate increases for cable television, equipment, and various service fees, starting with some markets on the east coast, sending the cost of Xfinity’s Digital Starter TV package over $100 a month when customers add typical equipment fees and surcharges.

Comcast has also set a $70 charge for service calls, a $70 installation fee, and up to $99.99 for a complete setup of Xfinity Home.

Customers on lower priced tiers will find the paperless bill discount is gone, as are discounts for selecting more than one service. In fact, Multi Product discounts no longer apply to certain Xfinity TV and Xfinity internet services, including but not limited to: Limited Basic, Digital Starter, Internet Essentials, and services purchased under a bulk service agreement.

Cable TV Rates for 2019:

  • Limited Basic: $32.95
  • Basic: (Includes Limited Basic, Streampix, and high definition programming) $30.00
  • Extra: (Includes Limited Basic, Sports & News, Kids & Family, Entertainment, Streampix, high definition programming, and 20 hours of Cloud DVR) $70.00
  • Preferred: (Includes Extra plus additional digital channels) $90.00
  • Digital Starter: (Includes Limited Basic, additional digital channels, TV Box and remote for primary outlet, access to Pay-Per-View and On Demand programming and Music Choice) $69.95

Fees (often compulsory) for 2019:

  • Broadcast TV Fee: $10.00
  • Regional Sports Fee: $8.25
  • DVR Service: $10.00
  • HD Technology Fee: $9.95

Xfinity Internet Prices for 2019 (discounts apply for some packages when bundled)

  • Performance Starter: $50.00
  • Performance: $70.00
  • Blast!: $80.00
  • Extreme: $90.00
  • Extreme Pro: $100.00
  • Gigabit Speed: $110.00
  • Gigabit Pro: $299.95

Comcast: Rural Broadband Must Make Good Business Sense Or You Won’t Get It

If your home or business is more than 150 feet from the nearest Comcast cable, the company will think twice before providing you with service.

Pat Ulrich and her 50 neighbors in a rural subdivision in Arkansas have waited more than 15 years for Comcast or AT&T to extend broadband service to no avail, not unless they are willing to pay an installation fee of almost $50,000.

“When we evaluate prospective new build opportunities, we take into account such factors as distance from where our nearest network exists, costs associated with a proposed build-out, and number of homes and businesses that could be served. … This subdivision is many miles from our nearest plant.” Alex Horwitz, vice president of public relations for Comcast, told Arkansas Business. A nearby neighbor of Ulrich was quoted $46,000, mostly to install over 6,400 feet of fiber optic cable to connect the subdivision to Comcast’s network.

Pulaski County, Ark.

AT&T is no help either, because the homes are too far away from the phone company’s central switching office to deliver adequate internet service.

The FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF) and other broadband funding initiatives normally might offer Ulrich and her neighbors some help, except for the fact the FCC’s broadband availability maps falsely claim the subdivision is already getting broadband service, which disqualifies it from receiving broadband expansion subsidy funding.

“We built a house in 2004 and never imagined it would take this long to get reliable broadband service,” Ulrich said.

Comcast and other cable operators did, however. Unlike phone companies that are mandated to provide basic telephone service to any customer seeking it, cable companies are allowed to choose the areas they service, typically based on population density and the costs associated with providing service. For Comcast, service extensions must meet the company’s return on investment test, and Ulrich’s subdivision failed. Horowitz claimed extending service would require Comcast to route a fiber extension through an area that “is almost all rock.”

Comcast is investing in some buildouts in its service area, but mostly to serve business parks. For residential areas, the company wants to limit the amount of cable it must install to reach a prospective customer to under 150 feet. If service is not available on your street, chances are the company will quote an installation fee running into the thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately for Ulrich, even if she managed to have the FCC correct their broadband availability map, Horwitz said Comcast has not bid for any of the FCC’s CAF projects in Arkansas.

AT&T Fiber Buildout Could Steal Two Million Charter and Comcast Customers

As AT&T continues to build out its fiber to the home network in its landline service areas, the company estimates it could achieve 50% market penetration by 2023, triggering a growing wave of consumers dropping cable in search of a better deal.

Cowen, a research firm, issued a report to clients indicating if AT&T achieves its expansion goals, it will be a tough competitor to Comcast and Charter.

Both cable companies have pulled back on promotional and customer retention pricing in recent years, allowing customers to follow through on threats to disconnect service. AT&T Fiber is expected to be a frequent destination for those unhappy cable customers. As AT&T’s fiber network expands, it could eventually grab one million customers each from Comcast and Charter, as well as another 200,000 cancelling service with Altice’s Suddenlink.

If the estimates prove accurate, the costs to earnings will be considerable — Comcast will lose around $1.1 billion, Charter $885 million, and Altice $162 million.

AT&T claims it has expanded fiber to the home service to three million homes each of the last two years. It plans to continue expanding fiber buildouts for an additional three years, wiring up communities where a return on investment can be achieved.

To stem customer losses, the cable industry will likely have to relent on pricing and promotions in areas where AT&T Fiber already provides competitive service.

The cable industry has enjoyed a strong speed advantage over most phone companies for the last few years as nearly 100% of cable operators now offer gigabit download speed. In contrast, phone companies are offering gigabit speed in only about 25% of their footprint, with many telco service areas still stuck with low-speed DSL, often unable to achieve the FCC’s minimum broadband speed of 25 Mbps.

Cox Preparing to Launch Cloud DVR Service Through Contour (X1) Platform

Phillip Dampier March 27, 2019 Consumer News, Cox No Comments

Cox Contour TV

Cox Communications is planning to launch a new cloud DVR service targeting the 25% of customers who use the company’s Contour set-top box, which is powered by Comcast/Xfinity’s X1.

The new service will launch later this year, according to Light Reading, but exact pricing and storage options are not yet known.

Assuming Cox follows other licensees of the X1 platform, which include Rogers and Shaw Communications, the new service will likely  bundle a cloud storage option for its current DVR set-top box customers. Comcast offers its current DVR customers 60 hours of free cloud storage, which is less than the 150 hours of local storage usually available on Comcast’s set-top DVR boxes. Rogers’ “Ignite TV” offers 200 hours of HD or 4K storage with a maximum recording storage time of one year, and Shaw’s BlueSky TV will launch its own cloud DVR add-on service later this year under a similar licensing agreement with Comcast.

The biggest benefit of cloud storage is remote access to DVR recordings on portable devices when streaming away from home, a major advantage available to streaming cable TV customers subscribed to DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu, and others. Because of copyright considerations, cable companies follow a more complicated path to provide subscribers with remote access to their DVR recordings. Comcast customers “check out” recorded shows to downloaded for mobile viewing much the same way Amazon.com allows customers to offer friends the chance to “borrow” a Kindle book. The customer accesses a recorded show, chooses the option to download for remote viewing, and then watches on the go. When finished, a customer “returns” the show, allowing it to be seen on the set-top DVR once again.

Ironically, Charter Spectrum customers are likely to be among the last to see cloud DVR service, despite the fact Charter’s current CEO, Thomas Rutledge, was instrumental in helping clear the way for U.S. cable operators to offer cloud DVR service. In 2006, Cablevision sought to introduce a remote storage DVR and immediately ran into lawsuits, coordinated by Time Warner (Entertainment)’s Turner Broadcasting. Two years later in 2008, Cablevision won a key appeals court victory allowing cloud storage DVRs to be introduced. Charter Spectrum customers may have access to cloud DVR service late this year, or sometime in 2020.

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Recent Comments:

  • Ed: On the money that was just bragging rights. Later this year when 5G home equipment is released and in Q1 2020 when they roll out dynamic spectrum sha...
  • TJ: I called on 4/22/19 to cancel services because my bill was too high. They sent me to the cancellation department and the guy just said ok the service ...
  • Michelle D Loewy: No internet service at the home all day Tuesday and still none today. No reason given just that the Western North Carolina area is down. Has anything ...
  • william carter: got my spectrum bill yesterday. It went up $16 per month. I called CS and they said my 1 yr promotion is gone on my internet and i have to pay full ...
  • New Yorker: Sold a penny puppet-show to appease us (We The People) and then sold out for millions/billions. F**k this country already....
  • Dorairaj Isaac: I would like to return the products for a refund...
  • EJ: I hope they are ready to do this all over again when Charter does basically nothing again. Hopefully they will use this extension to come up with a Pl...
  • Phillip Dampier: Public Comments: http://documents.dps.ny.gov/public/Comments/PublicComments.aspx?MatterCaseNo=15-M-0388...
  • Phillip Dampier: The reason they are lumping the two together at this point is because there are not a lot of attractive territories left to bid on. Even when the stat...
  • Paul Houle: For me the $60,000 question is this: how do I submit comments to NYS about this plan? I went looking on the PSC web site and it wasn't clear at all....
  • Phillip Dampier: ELP is still being left intact by Spectrum, but they keep raising the price to discourage people from using it. Unfortunately, since the violations pe...
  • Wayne Martin: From the beginning I have disagreed with the lumping together the "underserved" with those of us who have nothing. The underserved already have speeds...

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