Failures

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
fees, mergers, rates, synergies

Companies:
charter, charter communications



Charter Spectrum Jacks Up Rates (Again) Thanks To Merger 'Synergies'

from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept

When Charter Communications (Spectrum) proposed merging with Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, the company repeatedly promised that the amazing "synergies" would lower rates, increase competition, boost employment, and improve the company's services. Of course like countless telecom megamergers before it, that never actually happened. Instead, the company quickly set about raising rates to manage the huge debt load. And its service has been so aggressively terrible, the company recently almost got kicked out of New York State, something I've never seen in 20 years of covering telecom.

Cities like Lexington, Kentucky continue to explore their legal options in efforts to hold Charter accountable (something it's clear the Trump FCC won't do). Charter, meanwhile, has informed many of these users that they'll be seeing yet another rate hike in November across the company's entire, 41-state territory. All told, users will pay at least $100 more for the same service annually, thanks in part to increases in several of the sneaky fees Charter routinely tacks on to user bills to jack up the advertised price post sale:

  • "Broadcast TV surcharge will increase from $8.85 to $9.95/month, Charter said, "This reflects costs incurred from local broadcast TV stations."
  • • Spectrum receivers will increase from $6.99 to $7.50/month.

    • An increase from $54.99 to $59.99/month for Spectrum Internet for current customers who subscribe to Spectrum TV.

    • An increase from $64.99 to $65.99/month for Spectrum Internet for current customers who do not subscribe to Spectrum TV."

    Modest hikes, but they add up. It's worth noting that that "Broadcast TV fee" is simply a part of the cost Charter pays for programming, broken out of the bill, and tacked on below the line to help covertly jack up the advertised rate post sale. It's something most cable operators have been routinely sued for, and regulators enjoy turning a blind eye to (despite largely being false advertising). The company, for its part, continues to insist that these price hikes simply reflect the wonderful service users are now getting from the nation's second biggest cable provider:

    "The price of Spectrum Internet reflects the dramatically faster speeds and investments we’ve made in reliability and quality," Michel said. "Earlier this year, we doubled the starting download speed of Spectrum Internet from 100 to 200 megabits per second. Lastly, our receivers are still comparable or lower in price than our major competitors'."

    Charter omits that many of these speed hikes only came about thanks to merger conditions, or that its speed increases lagged dramatically behind contemporaries like Comcast as it focused primarily on its last megamerger. Of course higher prices, poor service, and some of the worst ranked customer support of any company in America (no easy feet given the airline and banking industries expertise) are the net result of both the blind deregulation of natural monopolies and our adoration of blindly buying into megamerger promises, a reality that our tech policy never quite seems capable of keying in on.

    This is, unfortunately for you, a problem that's only going to get worse before it gets better thanks to a lack of competition in broadband and a refusal to embrace policies that actually encourage said competition. Instead, the telecom industry (with the Trump FCC's help) has been waging a not subtle war on both federal and state consumer protections, while at the same time quietly securing a significant monopoly over faster broadband speeds. You'd think the end result of this would be obvious, but given our refusal to address this reality, you'd apparently be mistaken.


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    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      John Smith, 29 Oct 2018 @ 6:32am

      To the cord-cutters:

      Meet the new bill. Same as the old bill.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 7:33am

        Re:

        Dial up is looking better every day.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re:

          Not really, but the model was a great one. You'd pay one company for a plain local line, and choose from sometimes hundreds of companies (including local Freenets) for internet service. If you used that line 24/7 the telco couldn't do a thing about it. (Unlike ISDN which had per-minute charges in North America, which may be why it failed.)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 8:46am

        Re:

        Wrong gig, sucka; Section 230 is down the hall. This is Paint Chip Eater's shift!

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 1:52pm

        Re:

        Meet the new John same as the old cowardly one.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 6:33am

      FREE MARKET!!!
      COMPETITION!!!

      What are things the FCC doesn't understand the meaning of?

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:14am

        Sometimes it IS malice rather than stupidity

        What makes you think they don't understand the terms?

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:39am

          Re: malice/stupidity

          HANLON’S RAZOR:
          "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."



          Most people are ignorant/stupid about economics and government, especially government people who intervene in economics.

          FCC was immaculately conceived without sin or malice nearly a century ago.

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

          • icon
            JoeCool (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 11:06am

            Re: Re: malice/stupidity

            The FCC is LONG past being able to claim either ignorance or stupidity. It's fairly well demonstrated that it's pure malice.

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

          • identicon
            OGquaker, 29 Oct 2018 @ 11:51am

            Re: Re: "Most people are ignorant/stupid"

            I call BS, millions of Americans UNDERSTAND net neutrality, we are always lied about.

            "Most People" is a convenient half-truth that guarantees 90% of us live with without hope and with convinced futility.

            Only one type of person gets the legal benefits of living on this Earth: the Invester.
            All the rest of us are useless eaters or Pork Bellies to be wagered (called 'futures') by a lying oligarchy and it's teat-sucking minions. Stop propagating the stupidity lie.

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 6:49am

      Credit where credit is due, even if you didn't incur it

      Charter CEO: "Well, we got our rate increase, things look rosy".

      Charter CFO: "It's not enough, the debt load will cost you twice this increase".

      Charter CEO: "Not to worry, we've got two more rate hikes in the works, the first will take care of the debt load and the second will help our investors to see their beloved increase in profits".

      Charter CFO: "Well...OK"!

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 8:43am

      This is , was the end game conclusion when we gave up OUR
      airwaves to OTA broadcasts and allowed it to be digitally transmitted .
      Most of America no longer has the ability to get OTA due to those pesky hills and such that digital line of sight transmissions incur .
      So you are forced to pay these thieves for stealing our
      airwaves which then then lock up and dribble back to us in higher and higher fees .
      The solution ?
      On Nov 6th
      VOTE OUT EVERY INCUMBENT
      Every one is a thief and a liar to the American public .
      Parties be dammed If they were in office Its time to
      kick them to the curb I'd rather have a no nothing of
      "how its done" in office than " I know how to screw you over " in there
      So come Nov 7th
      YOU have no one else to blame but yourself for
      who is ruling over you .

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:32am

        Re:

        Good Morning Misinformation,

        Again trying to get folk to believe silly things?

        "Most of America no longer has the ability to get OTA due to those pesky hills and such that digital line of sight transmissions incur."

        - The Carrier Radio Frequency ranges used for Over The Air TV broadcast remained the same in the analog to digital conversion process.

        From where do you get this?

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

        • identicon
          OGquaker, 29 Oct 2018 @ 12:21pm

          Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

          Except ABC & FOX in Los Angeles, most moved to UHF with more line-of-sight and little inversion layer deflection. And, roof antennas are now a big problem, almost illegal in this city.

          Disclaimer; i was 'facilities manager' for a few years at a 110k radio station between channel 6 & 7 and got married on Mt. Wilson.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 1:40pm

            Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

            Ok. UHF was also part of the analog broadcast spectrum before the analog to digital change. Possibly the OP's problem is due to this, but he had that problem pre digital and just was unaware of it.

            I imagine that much transmitter equipment was replaced in order to facilitate the difference in modulation but the overall frequency ranges used for OTA remained the same, some broadcasters moved within that range and this could contribute to the issue described.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2018 @ 8:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

              Lets see
              before digital broadcasts came to be
              I could watch my big 3 and the 2 smaller networks .
              After the great digital divide where You needed a converter box to get the "improved" digital broadcasts my service went to ONE channel of the smaller networks .
              And yes I live in the hills about 60 miles from the broadcast centers .
              So If I wanted to keep "free" tv I now needed a cable connection which wasn't free .
              So as I said vote the scumbags out
              cause they sure as hell ain't working for the people .

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2018 @ 10:52am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

                Old man yells at kids to get off his damn lawn. News at 11.

                While you technically have a valid point, that doesn't change the fact that digital broadcasts are much better quality, and use better, more efficient technology. The problem is not the tech, it's you or your equipment/location.

                The reason why digital broadcasts create the perception of worse service is because analog was very forgiving in transmission issues. You could still watch a channel if you didn't have very good reception for it, it would be fuzzy and the audio might be bad but it would be sort of viewable. Digital doesn't have as high a tolerance for errors, if one bit drops, those audio/video frames drop completely.

                A lot of this can be mitigated with the right kind of antenna and proper placement. Again, this is a change from the old way of doing things where "any old antenna in any old place" was good enough. Just because it worked, doesn't make it better. Riding a horse was a valid form of transportation and wouldn't run out of gas or blow an engine or tire. That doesn't make it better than driving a car.

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

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 31 Oct 2018 @ 6:37pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

                  Yea but only if you can receive said signal .
                  So when do want to stop by and remove the 200 foot mountain above my house to improve said signal or can you you get em to put their antenna this side of the mountain ?
                  How many billions have we given to telcos for rural broadband that they can't or wont deliver on?
                  I stand behind my sediment Send em all packing on
                  Nov 6th cause I'd rather have a new bunch in there who don't follow in their old crony ways .

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

                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 1 Nov 2018 @ 8:19pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

                    If you can't receive the new digital signal because there is a 200 ft mountain in the way (Can you even call that a mountain? I've seen hills higher than that.), then you wouldn't have been able to receive the old analog signal because, newsflash, the new digital and old analog signal transmissions are using the same frequencies.

                    It's simple physics, radio waves don't like passing through solid objects. If you can't even receive the signal now, you weren't before either. If you were receiving the analog signal before and could watch TV, you are still receiving the digital signal, you are just subject to the problems I listed above and haven't properly compensated for them or are in a unique position where you are unable to compensate for them.

                    Either way, your argument is invalid because physics. You are receiving the signal, it just doesn't look like it because you're equipment is dropping too many digital packets to be viewable.

                    I stand behind my sediment

                    Well, normally people stand behind their sentiment but I suppose if you have a 200 foot hill, standing behind your sediment would work too.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 30 Oct 2018 @ 11:27am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Find a flaw, dismiss the argument

                If a TV station made the decision to request a different carrier frequency band which then caused you to no longer receive a strong enough signal ... then that is not the fault of the nationwide change from analog to digital and voting out all those you think responsible is a silly waste of time because they had nothing to do with it.

                Getting mad is one thing, but spewing misinformation is unacceptable.

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

    • icon
      got_runs? (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:53am

      The customers get shoved down the stairs again..

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:54am

      It,s simple there needs to be 3 or more
      companys competing in each market to provide
      real competition and then the consumer will
      have a choice and be able to get cable tv or broadband at a fair price.
      Also allow citys to setup their own internet
      services .
      Big telecom companys want megamergers as it reduces competition and allows them to increase prices .

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 11:07am

        Re:

        Is that at least three companies running fiber or cable to every household, or should regulation be used to open the infrastructure to competing companies? Note, the fist option is expensive because of duplicated idle infrastructure, while the latter is how most of the rest of the world deals with the problem.

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

        • identicon
          OGquaker, 29 Oct 2018 @ 12:38pm

          Re: Re: last mile for the last hundred years

          PacBell and GTE sat on their hands after the 1996 deregulation, and PULLED their fiber out of the street, refusing to 'share'.
          The last mile should be a Common Carrier utility and let the local politicians take the complaints from citizen/customers. Most states do not let municipalities reap profit from delivered services.

          Disclaimer; My Grandfather, Father and two Great Grandfathers built the most successful communist electric power utility in California, see http://www.mercedid.com/

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

        • identicon
          bob, 29 Oct 2018 @ 1:14pm

          Re: Re:

          The fist option is starting to look quite attractive though. Too bad it will result in prison time for attacking the Telco CEO.

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

    • identicon
      Christenson, 29 Oct 2018 @ 10:45am

      Synergy...exactly as planned....

      Meaning synergistically raising rates, and therefore profits and executive wages simultaneously.

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 2:07pm

      OFF THE POINT..

      Do anyone here understand the equipment these folks need?

      they are NOT responsible for:
      telephone/power poles..Those are the CITIES and the Electric corp takes care of them.
      Underground connections..SAME AS ABOVE..but Generally run in or NEAR sewer lines..

      What they are responsible for is the WIRE, the Hub/intersections of points, AND the BOX in your house.

      MOST of this equipment is hidden and not seen, and is protected from abuse.
      They need to replace the Wire and hubs..and NEW cable boxes..Cable boxes that COULD be on the outside of you house and bring other things TO YOU HOME..not just Internet/TV/phone/Wireless phone/cellphone services..

      They would rather charge you for EACH SERVICE.. not consolidate them into 1 Large service, that could charge you an ECONOMICAL PRICE for all these services..
      Its worse then looking at your cable bill or your phone bill, and TRYING to figure out what those extra costs are..

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

    • icon
      markzip (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 2:37pm

      Spectrum leaves money on the table with their own house ads

      I'd be really interested to see the figures on exactly how many ad spots Spectrum uses for its own house ads.

      You know, those spots where they try to tell people who are already watching their damned service how great it would be if they used Spectrum. I think it has to be larger than any other cable co. House ads are in almost every local break and it's been going on for almost two years. Imagine how much money they could earn if they sold those spots to real advertisers.

      Further, the volume of junk mail they send me is huge. At least one piece a month. And I'm already a user

      Oy.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 2:52pm

        Re: Spectrum leaves money on the table with their own house ads

        Just one advert a month? ATT sends me one daily for Direct TV and thier cell service. You are a lucky duck...

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

        • icon
          Coyne Tibbets (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 7:14pm

          Re: Re: Spectrum leaves money on the table with their own house ads

          No kidding. Every time I see a company throwing money around like this, I think, "Government subsidized."

          AOL, Xfinity, Spectrum...

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

    • identicon
      Biff Conley, 29 Oct 2018 @ 7:08pm

      Can I get in?

      What in the world are these "synergy" things I keep hearing about? They must be enormously expensive, because every time one of these companies gets a bunch their rates go up. Can I manufacture some? Mine some? Are they like Bitcoins?

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

    • identicon
      Biff Conley, 29 Oct 2018 @ 8:14pm

      Re: Nice post

      No, this is the first time. Honest.

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

    • icon
      NeghVar (profile), 30 Oct 2018 @ 7:40am

      Any time they make claims like this before a government agency should be made under oath.

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

    • identicon
      Ian Flation, 30 Oct 2018 @ 8:39pm

      We keep printing money to pay all the entitlemments you people demand, don't be shocked when your dollar buys less and less.

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


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