Charter Is Having a Bad, Bad Week


Don’t blame Charter CEO Tom Rutledge if he decides to stay in bed this morning. His company is having a terrible week, and it’s not even close to over.

First on Monday morning, New York’s public service commission said it plans to fine Charter $1 million for failing to expand its Broadband network, which it agreed to do to win approval of its merger with Time Warner Cable in 2015.

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For a company the size of Charter, $1 million is the equivalent of coins found between the cushions of a living room couch. But the public service commission also hinted it could pull Charter’s franchise agreement in New York City if it did not meet the Broadband requirements, and increase its city franchise fees.

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Charter’s company value would plummet if it were to lose the New York City cable franchise, which was previously held by Time Warner Cable prior to the merger.

The cable operator is denying the state’s charges, and said it would fight to dismiss them.

If that news wasn’t bad enough, Charter’s manic Monday got worse later that night when the city of Pittsfield, Massachusetts held a public meeting to discuss Charter’s decision to switch the local TV service from analog/digital to all-digital. The move means that some area subscribers must get a new digital box to continue watching their local channels.

That may not seem like a big deal, but Pittsfield residents are claiming that Charter is charging them $35 to install the box. Dozens of angry Charter subscribers filled the city’s town hall to slam Charter for the move to digital, and other policies that subscribers say has caused their cable bills to skyrocket.

“I’m going to tell you that I hear mostly from the elderly. And I find that particularly abhorrent, that a company — a big corporation — is taking advantage of the elderly. Convoluted bills. People cannot make heads nor tails of their bill. They’re different from month to month, from one household to another household with the exact same service, the bills are different,” said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Massachusetts state representative, according to WAMC Radio.

Charter says an all-digital service will allow it to provide more services to the town’s residents. But the Pittsfield mayor said she’s invoking a clause in its contract with Charter that will allow the town to consider terminating the franchise.

Then on Wednesday, three towns affected by the Charter-Northwest Broadcasting carriage dispute filed a complaint against the cable operator with the Federal Communications Commission.

The three towns — Yuma, Arizona, Jackson, Wyoming and El Centro, California — allege that Charter violated FCC regulations by failing to notify their customers 30 days in advance that they could lose the local channels.

The towns are asking the FCC to rule that Charter violated FCC rules, and provide refunds to affected subscribers.

Charter has maintained that Northwest pulled the signals so it’s not responsible for the loss in programming.

But as with the controversies in New York and Massachusetts, Charter is taking the heat from subscribers, as well as local politicians.

And it’s only Thursday.

— Phillip Swann

2 comments on “Charter Is Having a Bad, Bad Week”

  1. “…They’re different from month to month, from one household to another household with the exact same service, the bills are different,” said Tricia Farley-Bouvier, a Massachusetts state representative

    So , I’ve personally noticed Charter Spectrum is doing something about that. When I would call Time Warner Cable about my bill being too high for what I could afford, they would slap on a temporary discount for the same services, so of course those who were willing to actually make a phone call to the company would get a better rate at times for the same service, but temporary. Now that I’ve tried the same motions with Charter, they are a “take it or leave it” kind of company where they will not slap on a temporary discount. Instead, they tried to get me to lower my video to their Select service, with no discount, but with a more steady rate. I can see the good and the bad here. I don’t mind making a phone call every 6-12 months to save more money than my neighbor, but that doesn’t seem to be the way Charter Spectrum wants to do business. They know if I drop down to Internet only they will actually make more money off me as a single-line subscriber by raising my Internet rate from $54.99 up to $64.99 for the same 100Mbps service.

    Charter Spectrum knows exactly what they are doing.

  2. They most definitely know what they’re doing. Video services is not the only issue. Consumers need a choice of at least two vendors for the same services. Cable tv versus Dish/Direct are at least similar; but, streaming tv actually is not because you need quality internet service. Using your phone as a hotspot for internet connectivity is not comparable to broadband (or fiber), nor is using satellite, especially in climates that affect the signal. Therein lies the bigger issue…many consumers do not feel they have an acceptable option – and Charter knows it. Charter can maintain a ‘take it or leave it’ approach because they know that their service is really the only choice. If consumers want to go elsewhere, then let them live with the consequences of lesser service. And when they want to come back, they can pay full freight. It’s more than sad to think that the company treats cities, towns, and municipalities with the same attitude and disregard for honoring their agreements….maybe in the long run it will actually help the consumer.

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