The Internet Charter
Charter Communications is one of the most prominent cable providers in the United States, servicing over five million customers in twenty-five national states with television and internet entertainment. The fourth largest provider behind Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable and Comcast, Charter Communications was founded in the early 90s as a telecommunications company housed in Delaware. Within five years, the company was servicing over a million customers, and by the turn of the century Charter Communications had expanded its operations to serve almost seven million people.
Today, Charter is a Fortune 500 company headed by Chairman Eric L. Zinterhofer and President CEO Tom Rutledge. The company holds Stamford, Connecticut as the headquarters of operation for its broadband internet service, digital telephone, HDTV, and cable television services, including over 6,000 video-on-demand movies and shows as well as an education outreach that has produced dozens of educational programming aimed at young children. Although the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, Charter Communications’ finances were quick to rebound, and their current revenue stream netted the company over seven billion dollars in the fiscal year with an operating income of almost nine hundred billion dollars and sixteen billion in assets and equity.
A 2007 CableWorld Magazine article recognized Charter as the Multi-System Operator of the Year due to the company’s rapid expansion in covering a range of entertainment services. In the following years, the company’s Day of Service team was awarded a CableFax TopOps for their timely response, while PCWorld magazine crowned Charter Internet with several awards for the fastest ISP among industry competitors. With an enviable marketplace reach that touches on over five thousand customer relationships across the country, Charter Communications stands poised to continue their service saturation into all things entertainment.
Pricing, Plans and Perks
Charter internet currently offers several high speed internet services, the entirety of which range in speeds from a single megabyte a second to over sixty megabytes a second — one of the fastest connections currently available on the mainstream market. The company has fixed most of their promotional budget behind the new Charter Internet Plus, which consumers can purchase for only thirty dollars a month for the first twelve months. This broadband internet service can reach speeds of up to thirty megabytes a second, which multiplies the speed of Charter’s comparable DSL internet services. Charter’s remaining two services are on opposite sides of the margin: Charter DSL, the most affordable service, runs at roughly three megabytes a second, while Charter’s Ultra 100 service can reach up to one hundred. An estimation tool automated onto Charter’s official website advertises speeds of such excess that games, music, and gigabytes worth of downloads are all reduced to less than ten minutes time — and in several instances, less than sixty seconds, and independent test runs of Charter’s Ultra 100 returned reassuringly similar results. But it’s worth noting that these quoted speeds do vary depending on Charter’s coverage map for broadband internet service, which does not extend as far as some of its rivals (including Comcast and AT&T).
Like other service providers, Charter incentivizes consumer purchases with a variety of cost-cutting packages and additional proprietary features included with the services. Interested parties need only glance at the many Charter bundle offers to find evidence of packaged deals; an advertised bundle on the official website offers both Charter cable and Charter Internet Plus services at only ten dollars more than an individual purchase of their Internet Plus service. Every Charter service comes prepackaged with Charter’s own security system, the Charter Security Suite, which is fortified with parental protection options, accessible interfaces for beginners, antivirus, anti-spyware, anti-phishing and firewall, and the ability to protect up to three computers at a time. Each service supports up to ten free email addresses with one gigabytes of storage, exclusive access to Charter.net, a customizable Charter homepage where users can access their email, security, local news, weather, events and peruse exclusive games and streaming videos.
One of the more unique incentives Charter provides comes courtesy of a partnership with ESPN. New customers receive free access to ESPN3.com, which broadcasts a huge variety of sports with television quality streaming players that allow users to pause, rewind and fast forward live over their favorite moments. While competitors like Comcast and Time Warner offer their own version of prepackaged security suite and email incentives, Charter is one of the only service providers who provision their major services with free access to a paid sports website like ESPN3, and even customers who aren’t interested in sports should turn their attention to a service provider who is offering new ideas into a stale and standard marketplace of incentivized offers.
The Conundrum of Customer Service
Service providers have a bad reputation no matter where you look in the industry, and Charter does nothing to alleviate this. This company provides the standard avenues of communication, including telephone, live chat and email services, and provides a deal of transparency from their official website (this review has already mentioned several pointed advertisements and disclosures offered by Charter upfront). Charter Communications offers pertinent billing and service guides that are slightly more forward than competing services, but this is where Charter’s superiority ends. Charter Communications is among the top four largest cable providers in the country, and this largeness necessitates some less than popular practices involving outsourced support centers, inefficient attentions divided to the individual customer, and some unpopular business decisions that are adopted for the sake of profit over the sake of the customer — including tentative procedures implemented into some high speed internet territories that are designed to cap user bandwidth, and charge for excessive usage. A brief summary of these unfortunate drawbacks of service providers include the standard proprietary arrangements that prevent their users from accessing the services of competitors, and several errors on the part of the company that resulted in the accidental deletion of thousands of customer email accounts during routine sweeps of inactive user accounts. It sounds disastrous, but such accidentals are commonplace when service providers begin providing for the enormous amount of clients that Charter currently enjoys.
The Better Business Bureau awarded Charter an A+ rating, giving prospective customers hopes that Charter won’t trip into all of the pitfalls that cause its competitors to stumble along their customer relationships. J.D. Power and Associates counters this optimism with their own dose of bad news: in addition to ranking Charter as one of the single worst providers for the satisfaction of its customers, J.D. Power and Associates has ranked Charter within the Most Hated Companies in America. Despite these chastisements, it’s important to emphasize that every single cable provider in the wider United States receives poor customer reviews, rates poor on customer satisfaction, and returns bad review after bad review on the quality of their customer relationships. Due to this glut of negativity, it’s difficult to tell which service provider to choose from in the customer service arena, and blurs the lines between what to expect and what to fear. It’s important for prospective customers to understand that their relationship with service providers like Charter may be entirely dependent on the chance of the particular person they reach at the call center, and as such, could result in any number of positive or negative service experiences.
The speeds Charter Communications offer excel if you are within their coverage area and their price is affordable and versatile for users of different needs and incomes. Their customer service is, however, heavy with the negative reputation saddled onto virtually every service provider in the American industry. The high points of Charter’s service involve their innovative use of ESPN3 to incentivize customers to purchase several internet services and the superior speeds achieved by their Ultra 100 internet service in select areas. Those marks made against Charter’s customer service and coverage map might be a fatal statistics wound to strike against a normal company in a normal industry, but very few service providers of today are able to cover the entirety of the country, and fewer still are able to maintain a positive relationship with their customers. This is not to encourage customer complacency with bad practices, but the fact of the matter remains: ‘wherever’ you choose to turn for your service provider, you are bound to run into the aforementioned flaws in ‘whichever’ company you decide on.
The jaded consumer should look into Charter internet as an agreeable compromise between affordable pricing, decent coverage and commendable speeds that can reach up to one hundred megabytes a second. Their DSL alternative to the Ultra 100 service is an average product for an average cost, but these averages aren’t bad when you are hoping for reliability in the internet service itself. High speed internet services are available in abundance, but large companies like Charter Communications specialize in a securer, more stable service than independent service providers that try to seize on the gaps in larger companies’ coverage maps. The blemishes on Charter’s history, including a criminal indictment of four former Charter Communications’ executives who were tried for accounting fraud aimed at inflating their number of cable subscribers, are not necessarily relevant for users who simply want the excessive speeds of the Ultra 100 or the reliable thirty megabytes per second speeds of Charter’s Internet Plus. Those users who are in the market for the perfect service provider will want to turn their attentions elsewhere, but Charter still provides a popular, accessible and affordable internet service which it continues to innovate with various package deals and coverage expansions. This might not be a glowing recommendation, but it’s a realistic one that grounded consumers should take into account when deciding on their new service provider.