Charter feels more customer heat over postmerger rate hikes

Charter Latino promotion
While Spectrum has recently promoted new offers, Charter is facing new customer backlash over higher rates and service complaints.

No major cable operator has been transformed as dramatically as Charter Communications, whose bold snapping up of Time Warner Cable after Comcast’s regulatory Waterloo, plus a later deal for Bright House Networks, vaulted it to near the top of the MVPD ranks.

As the dust has settled, though, customer frustration has mounted after the company decided to boost service fees by up to 40%. Many customers are complaining about declining service despite the higher prices.

After outrage boiled over in Lexington, rural Massachusetts has become another battleground, as Karl Bode attested on DSLReports. It seems like only yesterday when Charter CEO Tom Rutledge, the highest-paid chief executive in America, was posing for a White House photo op with newly inaugurated President Trump, promoting the jobs creation of a new Charter facility.

RELATED: Charter faces incoming fire in several markets as Spectrum replaces Time Warner Cable

In the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, customers aired their own grievances at a town hall. While Bode didn’t get everyone to go on the record, he certainly captured the community’s frustration.

"I think if you want to change to a nationwide price you should provide a nationwide service," a local official was quoted as saying. "Out here, to put it bluntly, the service sucks but we are paying the premium rate."

Added a local resident, "The bandwidth the family can use seems to be strangled down and if I am watching anything around 9 o'clock it freezes. It never happened before and now I have two different accounts and I can't use them."

Higher fees can help fund investment in system improvements, the company has insisted—something Time Warner Cable was unable to do because it often discounted service.

"It did lend a problem to infrastructure reinvestment that Time Warner could do, which is one of the reasons why we don't have similar promotional packages that constantly deflate the cable bills," maintained Anna Lucey, Charter’s director of government affairs, at the meeting. "We want to keep all of our services up to date and continue to reinvest but I understand the sticker shock isn't pleasant."

According to DSLReports, Charter insists that only 30% of customers have been affected by price hikes. The company did not respond to an email from FierceCable.

While Charter has ambitious plans and has rolled out the Spectrum brand for the former TWC systems, questions remain about the level of network investments, including the kinds of DOCSIS 3.1 deployments many rivals have initiated. Another concern is the state of TWC’s “Maxx” 300 Mbps upgrades, which were initiated before the corporate maneuvering of the past few years.