Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Charter: On The "Rise" Again

The letter came in a standard-size business envelope, with a bulk-mailing-permit stamp, and no return address top left. It looked for all the world like a piece of junk mail. After I opened it and read it, I know why the folks at Charter Communications were probably hoping I’d discard it before reading it.
It was notification of another huge increase in charges.

They cut in half the amount of “discount” I get in my broadband internet rate, effectively increasing my total internet access cost by 12%, and they upped my modem rental charge by 167% - from $3 to $5 a month. I’m now paying $60 a year to rent a piece of plastic four inches deep, three inches across, and half an inch high, which contains about ten cents worth of Chinese electronics.

Nice. If the price of gas went up that much, there’d be panic in the streets. Oh, wait - it just did. 12%, not 167%.

I pulled the plug on Charter Cable TV this summer because the cost finally got to the point where it was throwing money away NOT to go to satellite TV. So I have a south-facing dish on my roof and I now get about double the number of channels cable offered, and about five times the number of hi-def channels, which are essentially the only ones I watch, for half the price.

But, like many folks in the suburbs, my only source for broadband internet is Charter, so I was essentially forced to keep Charter as my Internet Service Provider. Since the radio microphone was taken away from me a year ago, my livelihood depends on having broadband internet access. (And I hope the IRS is reading this!)

Remember when the politicians were going to save us all from higher cable rates by enacting that law a couple years ago? The one AT+T spent so much money getting passed? The State Journal yesterday editorialized that it’s really paying off.


My friend Barry Orton, a UW Telecommunications guru who is a national expert on this stuff, and also edits Paul Soglin’s blog “Waxing America”, wrote a post for the blog Monday giving evidence that what he warned us was going to happen - higher rates and less service - is happening.

Don’t tell me I should check out AT+T “U-verse”. My sparsely-populated suburban neighborhood is served with twisted copper pairs of wire, and AT+T can’t even give me a date when they “think” they “might” run fiber-optic to us. So it’s a phone modem at 56K - maybe - or 10 meg from Charter.

I’ll give Charter this: I speed-test my connection regularly, and they do deliver 10 meg. And in the past five months, it has not been “down” one time. They’re delivering exactly what they promised. And yes, when it rains hard, my satellite TV signal DOES go out - sometimes for a couple minutes. So there are trade-offs.

But what’s with the huge “fee increases” from Charter? Who do they think they are - my bank? Or the government?


  1. Two true statements:
    $3 to $5 is an increase of 67%.
    $5 is 167% of $3.

    When you said the increase was 167%, you were essentially combining these two statements to end up with something that's mathematically incorrect.

    Sorry to be a nitpicker but one of my pet peeves is sloppy math in the media.

  2. I hate it when my math is crappy...thanks for pointing it out. I try very hard to not be one of those people in the media who are innumerate.