An analysis of monthly cable bills by SNL Kagan found that while all cable TV bills are high (and increasing, sometimes twice a year) Cablevision customers have it the worst in terms of high rates. Cablevision customers on average now pay the company $152.72 a month, significantly higher than the next most expensive cable operators -- Comcast ($137.24 per month on average) and Verizon FiOS ($122.57 per month on average).
Cablevision raised rates 5.5% last year, twice the rate of inflation, the study notes.
For a while Verizon and Cablevision competed intensely for users in the New York City area, offering a steady stream of bundle promotions in order to lure users to one side of the fence or the other.
The last few years however both companies have rather quietly and unofficially agreed to stop competing quite so seriously, with Verizon raising prices on FiOS services whenever possible, and Cablevision management openly stating they now find promotional offers (and the savvy users who use them) to be a "dead end."
Cable operators justly blame programmers for these hikes, with ESPN a familiar culprit. However, cable operators also continue to hike prices at every possible opportunity as well -- be it for modem rentals, DVR rentals, or even to pay your bill in person or over the phone.
That's before you examine the bevy of below the line fees cable operators use to pad your bill even further. Studies like the one from SNL Kagan (or global broadband and TV price comparisons, which the US generally fares poorly in) aren't even taking those fees into account, and they can drive up consumer bills dramatically.
While broadcasters and cable operators share blame for soaring rates, so do consumers. After all, even after significant grumbling, they keep paying an arm and a leg year after year for hundred of channels they never watch.
Sixty-five consumer, social justice and media reform groups have fired off a letter voicing their opposition to Comcast's planned $45.2 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The letter, sent just as the FCC's open comment period ended earlier this week, complains that the Comcast deal will "inevitably lead to unprecedented gatekeeper control over our nation’s telecommunications and media landscape." Given Comcast's history of failing to meet NBC merger conditions (many of which they themselves recommended) the groups argue that "no amount of promises or conditions would be good enough to assuage concerns about this merger" and that the "deal needs to be rejected outright."
Add NewWave Communications (see our user reviews) to the growing list of ISPs large and small that are promising to soon offer 1 Gbps speeds -- albeit to a tiny portion of their overall subscribers. The company has announced that they're planning to offer 1 Gbps to a handful of rural markets starting next year, and will be utilizing the still unfinished DOCSIS 3.1 standard to make it happen. The company will begin deployments late this year and will offer the speed selectively early next year starting in Poplar Bluff, Missouri and Monroe, Rayville, Delhi and Tallulah, Louisiana. The company has yet to state prices for the speeds, but the CEO believes it should come it at less that $100 a month.
The FCC this week announced that Time Warner Cable has paid $1.1 million to settle an FCC investigation into Time Warner Cable's network outage reporting practices. According to the FCC statement, Time Warner Cable "failed to file a substantial number of reports with respect to a series of reportable wireline and Voice over Internet Protocol network outages." FCC rules require ISPs file reports on major outages within thirty minutes of the outages, and provide a follow up report dissecting the outage causes. "TWC admits that its failure to timely file the required network outage reports violated the Commission's rules," the FCC said.
Stop the Cap amusingly notes that some 52 Mayors have breathlessly thrown their support behind the Comcast merger, despite the fact that a long list of these cities have long suffered from horrible customer service, build issues, high prices and other problems with Comcast. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's city is held hostage by Verizon's refusal to upgrade the city with FiOS, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable's resulting market dominance, resulting in high prices.
On the heels of a nationwide Charter DNS outage over the weekend, Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to suffer a nationwide outage. According to user comments in our forums, the ISP early this morning suffered a routing problem, knocking all of the company's customers offline. "At 430am ET this morning during our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," Time Warner Cable said in a statement. "As of 6am ET services were largely restored as updates continue to bring all customers back online."
TiVO this week expanded their device portfolio with a $50 unit that the company hopes appeals to cord cutters. The new TiVO Roamio OTA DVR features four tuners, a 500 GB hard drive and the ability to record and manage over the air broadcasts. TiVO's obviously not the first to this idea; a company by the name of Simple.TV has been offering a similar product for years, though their current device comes in at nearly $200. "TiVo is devoted to making the best possible cable TV user experience available through our operator partners and in retail, but we recognize some viewers opt not to receive the benefits a subscription with a cable provider offers," states the company.
While the company lead the speed race a few years ago, a certain complacency has fallen over Cablevision in recent years. The company has stopped competing as fiercely on price against Verizon FiOS (which has stopped competing on price in turn), with executives recently stating they weren't going to get caught up in "speed contests."
Last month Verizon made all FiOS tiers symmetrical at no additional cost to users, taking serious aim at its cable competitors whose upstream speeds have started to look more than a little dated. The company is slowly deploying the upgrade to all users over the next few months, and in the interim have started a new advertising campaign for the speed boost. According to Verizon's new commercials, they're calling the upgrades "SpeedMatch" and declaring that "cable can't touch" upgrades of this type.
Late last year Comcast began testing an IPTV service called Xfinity on Campus, which provides around 80 channels, premium channels, and VOD services over campus broadband networks. Multichannel News notes that Comcast this week took the service out of trial status and began deploying it to select college campuses nationwide.
To get their merger approved by regulators, one of Comcast's key arguments is that the company faces so much competition on so many fronts that this competition will keep them honest. Most people know that Comcast enjoys little to no competition on the last mile, with AT&T and Verizon's retreat from many DSL lines making things less competitive than ever.
While Comcast certainly has its faults, the cable giant has led the way when it comes to IPv6 deployment while many larger ISPs have napped. Comcast recently announced they've officially completed their residential IPv6 deployments, and around 30% of their customers are now actively running IPv6.
Though TV subscriber declines had eased off the last few quarters, cable operators again lost subscriber at a faster rate during the historically slow second quarter. According to the latest data from Leichtman Research Group, the thirteen largest pay-TV providers in the US -- representing about 95% of the market -- lost about 300,000 net video subscribers in the second quarter.
Stop the Cap amusingly notes how New York State Assembly Leader Joe Morelle's enthusiastic support of Comcast's Time Warner Cable merger was so enthusiastic -- his letter of support sent to the New York Public Service Commission copies previous Comcast statements on the merger almost verbatim. "They provided a draft letter of support for our consideration. We made several edits of the letter. This is common practice for any organization asking for an elected official’s support to provide a sample letter," insists Morelle's office when asked about the plagiarism from local news outlets. They're right -- this has been common practice for a decade; it's just that usually the politicians in question at least pretend to be having original and unique thoughts.
Earlier this month Moody's investment service predicted that the cable industry's broadband subscribers should pass the total number of cable industry TV customers sometime next year. But according to the latest data from Leichtman Research Group, that has already happened -- at least when analyzing subscriber data from the largest cable operators.
A few days ago we noted that Suddenlink was the latest to throw its hat into the 1 Gbps ring, insisting that the company would be offering 1 Gbps to 90% of its customers by 2017. The move is an aggressive one for a company not historically known for aggressive upgrades, leading one to wonder how exactly Suddenlink hopes to manage this feat. While DOCSIS 3.0 can achieve a lot via channel bonding, we're several years out from seeing reliable 1 Gbps on cable, especially upstream.
The as-yet unfinished DOCSIS 3.1 standard might be able to get part of the way there when it's finished two years or so from now, but Suddenlink insists that's not what they'll be using:
quote:Given that DOCSIS 3.1, an emerging CableLabs spec that is targeting multi-gigabit speeds, is about two years away from scaled deployments, I asked the MSO if Operation GigaSpeed “hinged on” the 3.1 technology, and the answer was no. And the company declined to answer if FTTP would factor into Operation GigaSpeed, particularly in greenfields.
2017 isn't really that far away, leaving you to wonder if Suddenlink has developed a miracle technology they're keeping hidden in the wings, or if their promise is hot air designed largely to deflect criticism for lagging behind in the age of Google Fiber.
Earlier this week Comcast stated they were "insulted" by concerns that the company (alongside Time Warner Cable) was helping to fund a dinner to honor an FCC Commissioner currently deciding on the fate of their planned merger. Comcast was contributing $110,000 and Time Warner Cable was contributing $22,000 to sponsor the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner, which promotes diversity in the cable industry.
Ever since Ryan Block recorded a Comcast support representative refusing to let him cancel service, we've seen a swarm of recorded videos showing precisely why Comcast has the worst customer support rankings across any industry. Earlier this week Comcast was recorded defending $182 in phantom charges until a customer provided a recording of them promising the user wouldn't be charged.
Reports this week emerged that Comcast was contributing $110,000 and Time Warner Cable was contributing $22,000 to sponsor the Walter Kaitz Foundation’s annual dinner in September. The dinner, which promotes diversity in the cable industry, will this year honor FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.