Charter's Mega Merger Results In Higher Prices, Slower Speeds, And Worse Customer Support Than Ever

from the meet-the-new-boss dept

When Charter pitched its $79 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, the company promised an absolute ocean of improvements for customers, including better broadband speeds, improved cable boxes and new jobs. After blocking Comcast's own merger attempt of these companies, regulators bought into this promise, approving the merger but banning the cable company from imposing usage caps, charging Netflix steep interconnection fees, or otherwise trampling net neutrality (even if the FCC's rules are gutted by the incoming administration).

But, even with these conditions, it's becoming apparent to many customers that the already shaky service they had under Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks is actually getting worse. Charter apparently doesn't believe in offering customer support via alternative methods, so it has eliminated most of the alternative customer support offered via social media and third party forums. Despite promising broadband speed upgrades, the company has also frozen the upgrades that had been taking place at the acquired companies.

This week, Charter formally applied its branding to acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House markets. To introduce itself to its new customers, Charter got right to work post merger jacking up the price of service as customers' long-term contracts expire, with an apparent unwillingness to offer any new promotions:
(One customer) told me he’d been paying Time Warner about $140 a month for TV, phone and Internet service. But now that Spectrum had reared its head, his bill had shot up to $162. “I guess they’re trying to get their $8 billion back as quickly as possible,” Cohen, 74, said, referring to the fat bag of cash Time Warner Cable paid to be the exclusive distributor of Dodgers games.
Charter CEO Tom Rutledge insists that these freshly-acquired customers were "mispriced" and that offering promotions is a dead end game. None of this should be surprising. In telecom, where last-mile competition is little more than a pipe dream, larger mergers and acquisitions almost always result in higher prices, worse service, and job losses. Yet for obvious reasons, state and federal regulators are consistently intent on letting these companies grow larger and more apathetic, and ignoring the negative repercussions of these decisions as if they never happened.

Here's the real problem: despite the hype surrounding efforts like Google Fiber, the broadband market is about to get even worse for tens of millions of consumers, thanks, in part, to this consolidation.

AT&T and Verizon have given up on millions of DSL customers they don't want to upgrade, and have shifted their focus to media and advertising. Smaller telcos like Windstream, Frontier and CenturyLink don't want to pay to upgrade their DSL lines either, in many areas, and are shifting to enterprise services. So as cable giants consolidate, DSL competitors dwindle, and we move toward a new era of hamstringing regulators that oversee the telecom market, cable's monopoly will grow stronger, and the incentive to provide quality service at low prices will be less than ever before.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 6:57am

    Missed the most important one

    AT&T and Verizon have given up on millions of DSL customers they don't want to upgrade, and have shifted their focus to media and advertising. Smaller telcos like Windstream, Frontier and CenturyLink don't want to pay to upgrade their DSL lines either, in many areas, and are shifting to enterprise services.

    All of which would be annoying in the short-term, but open up the door to those that are willing and able to offer good service at sane prices, except for the one you forgot to add:

    'Meanwhile, these same companies are busy writing, at times literally, state laws to prevent other companies from coming in and offering competing services to the customers the current major cable companies seem dead set on squeezing every last cent from for barely adequate service at exorbitant prices, ensuring that no matter how badly they treat their customers those customers have no-where else to go if they want internet service.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 9:02am

    The cable companies have realized that they can provide Internet and become data carriers, or destroy the Internet as a means of video streaming to preserve their cable business. The latter option requires that they also make sure that nobody else can take over in supplying Internet services, and they are using regulation to ensure this. Soon the US will be reminiscing about the good old days of dial up Internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 9:10am

      Re:

      I think the cable companies are scared shitless, and are about to die a very speedy death. Just as soon as technology allows for a cheap and fast WIFI network that can cover the entire country, it's game over. I'm guess less than 10 years.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        anon, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:11pm

        Re: Re:

        Dont underestimate the power of local municipal politicians. I know of one area in San Diego that has nothing but ATT service available. Someone got approval from a local high rise owner to put up infrastructure wifi antennas with a plan to deliver 250mb unlimited wifi to about 3000 homes that are within eyesight of the top of this building. Owner was all for it because it was going to be a new steady source of revenue for him. Went to the city for permitting and the city shut it down for unknown reasons we havent been able to figure out yet. Still fighting it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        lolatyou, 18 Nov 2016 @ 5:13am

        Re: Re:

        they're actually not, with the docsis 3.1 spec being rolled out and the wifi spectrum already being crowded... cable is not going away for a long time

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 9:40am

    Competition...

    Well you all complained about their lack of competition, so Charter is now competing with Xfinity on how bad they can get.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 9:50am

    Hey Look...

    More of the same!

    Nothing new under the sun today, just like yesterday! Let's hear it for the FCC and the FTC!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    williamsmmsoe (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 11:31am

    I can certainly echo on the price increase BS.

    161/mo prior to merge without promos.
    Now 192/mo with nothing else changed...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Some Random Guy, 17 Nov 2016 @ 4:19pm

      Re:

      I can certainly echo on the price increase BS.

      161/mo prior to merge without promos.
      Now 192/mo with nothing else changed...


      Something did change. You have a new provider name. It has to be worth the added $31/mo. to not have to type all the extra letters every time you call Charter out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 12:57pm

    Honor among thieves

    heh. yeah, like doctors and wives, they cover for each other.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    united9198 (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:02pm

    Not Unexpected

    The last couple of decades has seen the Federal Government become blinded to the consolidation in just about every industry and this is just one more example. Hopefully they will wake up and start viewing consolidation as bad. Competition is the only thing that drives customer service and consumer benefits. The baloney that a merger will result in vast improvements for consumers ignores the fact that it has never happened. There are no industries who were allowed to consolidate where things got better for the customers. None. Charter has had a long term record of terrible customer service. Time Warner has had a long term record of terrible customer service. It is total fantasy to think that combining the two would result in anything different. The tide needs to turn.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:13pm

      Re: Not Unexpected

      According the the comments from the CEO (from the article and included below) you price didn't go up it was 'fixed'. Wish I could 'fix' the price my clients pay at my own whim.

      "Charter CEO Tom Rutledge insists that these freshly-acquired customers were "mispriced" and that offering promotions is a dead end game."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Norahc, 17 Nov 2016 @ 1:21pm

    Well

    > Charter's Mega Merger Results In Higher Prices, Slower Speeds, And Worse Customer Support Than Ever

    Well, duh! They're "Charter"ing new ways to screw over their customers and charge them more for it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    McFortner (profile), 17 Nov 2016 @ 7:07pm

    Everybody surprised by this please raise your hands.

    What, nobody? Yeah, I thought so.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 19 Nov 2016 @ 8:45am

    If we cannot own it, we will destroy it and prevent any competition. that looks to like the future of internet access for America.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 May 2017 @ 6:54pm

    We shouldn't complain about the post-merger price increases. After all, the cost of lobbying and buying politicians needed to make the merger possible does not come cheap. Someone's got to pay for it, and as always the burden falls on the captive consumers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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