Google Fiber exits Louisville after shoddy installs left exposed wires in roads

Google Fiber will cut off service and try to clean up the mess it made.

Enlarge (credit: Google Fiber)

Google Fiber will turn off its network in Louisville, Kentucky and exit the city after a series of fiber installation failures left cables exposed in the roads. Google Fiber's customers in Louisville will have to switch ISPs and will get their final two months of Google Fiber service for free to help make up for the disruption.

Google Fiber went live in Louisville late in 2017, just a few months after construction began. The quick turnaround happened because Google Fiber used a "micro-trenching" strategy that is quicker than traditional underground fiber deployment and doesn't require digging giant holes. Instead of a foot-wide trench, a micro-trench is about an inch wide and four inches deep.

But Louisville residents soon found exposed cables, as a WDRB article noted in March 2018. "When you're walking around the neighborhood, [the lines are] popping up out of the road all over the place," resident Larry Coomes said at the time. "People are tripping over it."

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Charter raises sneaky “broadcast TV” fee for second time in four months

Charter fee rose from $9 to $10 in November and will go up to $12 in March.

A Charter Spectrum service vehicle.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

Charter Communications will raise its "broadcast TV" fee from $9.95 to $11.99 on March 1, only four months after the previous fee increase.

Charter and other cable companies say they charge broadcast TV fees to recoup the cost of paying broadcasters for the right to retransmit their signals over cable systems. But Charter doesn't include the fee in its advertised rates, instead revealing the fee in the fine print, often giving customers bill shock when they learn that they have to pay more each month than expected.

Additionally, increases to the fee apply even to customers who agreed to deals that ostensibly lock in a specific monthly rate during a set period. In summary, Charter uses the broadcast TV fee to advertise lower rates than it actually charges and to raise prices on customers even before their promotional rates expire.

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Charter will spend less on cable network in 2019 but charge customers more

Charter lowers capital spending by $1.9 billion despite raising prices.

A Charter Spectrum service vehicle.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

Charter Communications will spend nearly $2 billion less on capital improvements to its Spectrum cable network and services this year, despite raising TV and broadband prices—and despite Ajit Pai's claims that repealing net neutrality rules would boost capital investment.

"We currently expect capital expenditures, excluding capital expenditures related to mobile, to be approximately $7 billion in 2019, versus $8.9 billion in 2018," Charter wrote in an earnings announcement today. "Our expectation for lower capital expenditures in 2019 versus 2018 is primarily driven by our expectation for lower customer premise equipment spend with the completion of our all-digital conversion [and] lower scalable infrastructure spend with the completion of the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 technology across our footprint." Charter's costs are also going down because it has largely finished integrating Time Warner Cable and Bright House, after buying the cable companies in 2016.

"2019 is the year we'll see a significant reduction in capital intensity," Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said in an earnings call today, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. A year ago, Charter executives promised investors "a meaningful decline in capital intensity" in 2019.

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Charter will spend less on cable network in 2019 but charge customers more

Charter lowers capital spending by $1.9 billion despite raising prices.

A Charter Spectrum service vehicle.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

Charter Communications will spend nearly $2 billion less on capital improvements to its Spectrum cable network and services this year, despite raising TV and broadband prices—and despite Ajit Pai's claims that repealing net neutrality rules would boost capital investment.

"We currently expect capital expenditures, excluding capital expenditures related to mobile, to be approximately $7 billion in 2019, versus $8.9 billion in 2018," Charter wrote in an earnings announcement today. "Our expectation for lower capital expenditures in 2019 versus 2018 is primarily driven by our expectation for lower customer premise equipment spend with the completion of our all-digital conversion [and] lower scalable infrastructure spend with the completion of the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 technology across our footprint." Charter's costs are also going down because it has largely finished integrating Time Warner Cable and Bright House, after buying the cable companies in 2016.

"2019 is the year we'll see a significant reduction in capital intensity," Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said in an earnings call today, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. A year ago, Charter executives promised investors "a meaningful decline in capital intensity" in 2019.

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Terabyte-using cable customers double, increasing risk of data cap fees

4.1 percent of users now hit 1TB per month, but capped customers use less data.

An illustration of $100 bills being sucked into an Internet connection.

Data cap cash. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

US cable Internet customers are using an average of 268.7GB per month, and 4.1 percent of households use at least 1TB, according to new research by the vendor OpenVault.

Households that use at least 1TB a month are at risk of paying overage fees because of the 1TB data caps imposed by Comcast and other ISPs. Terabyte users nearly doubled year over year, as just 2.1 percent of households hit the 1TB mark last year, according to OpenVault.

Cable Internet providers use OpenVault products to track "broadband data usage consumption levels for millions of subscribers," the company says. This gives OpenVault visibility into how much data broadband customers use each month.

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Charter cable doesn’t have 1st Amendment right to discriminate, court rules

Byron Allen’s $10 billion lawsuit against Charter can proceed after ruling.

Enlarge / Entertainment Studios Networks founder Byron Allen at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 26, 2018, in Universal City, California. (credit: Getty Images | Noel Vasquez )

A US appeals court ruling today said that cable companies do not have a First Amendment right to discriminate against minority-run TV channels.

Charter, the second-largest US cable company after Comcast, was sued in January 2016 by Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios Networks (ESN), which alleged that Charter violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by refusing to carry TV channels run by the African-American-owned ESN. Allen, a comedian and producer, founded ESN in 1993 and is its CEO; the lawsuit seeks more than $10 billion in damages from Charter.

Charter argued that the case should be dismissed, claiming that the First Amendment bars such claims because cable companies are allowed "editorial discretion." But Charter's motion to dismiss the case was denied by the US District Court for the Central District of California, and the District Court's denial was upheld unanimously today by a three-judge panel at the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

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Ajit Pai slams Sprint, Charter, and CenturyLink for poor robocall effort

Pai says seven big carriers haven’t promised to use new robocall blocking tech.

Enlarge / FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC, the day of the FCC's vote to repeal net neutrality rules. (credit: Getty Images | Alex Wong )

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday criticized Sprint, Charter, CenturyLink, and four other phone providers for not committing to adopt a new system for blocking robocalls.

Pai issued a press release and sent letters to wireless carriers and other phone providers, saying that certain companies "have not yet established concrete plans to protect their customers" using the new "SHAKEN" and "STIR" robocall-blocking protocols.

SHAKEN stands for Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs, while STIR stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited. The new industry standard isn't expected to completely eliminate robocalls, but it may make a sizable difference and is expected to be implemented by carriers starting in 2019.

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Charter’s nationwide price hike could cost you another $91 a year

Charter raising cable prices in November in entire 41-state US territory.

Enlarge / A Charter Spectrum vehicle. (credit: Charter)

Charter Communications is raising prices throughout its 41-state cable territory in November, the company confirmed.

"For a customer with a full suite of [Charter] Spectrum services, [the price increases] could total an additional $7.61 a month," or $91.32 a year, the Asheville Citizen Times reported yesterday.

Charter confirmed the price increases when contacted by Ars today, saying that the change "takes effect in November throughout our service area."

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Hate your Comcast broadband? Verizon might sell you 5G home Internet

Verizon targets cities dominated by cable, citing customer demand for competition.

Enlarge (credit: Verizon)

Verizon's launch of 5G home Internet targeted four cities dominated by either Comcast or Charter, and Verizon says it will continue to bring the service to densely populated areas dominated by cable companies.

The launch cities that got Verizon 5G home Internet this week were Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Comcast is the main cable provider in Houston, Indianapolis, and Sacramento, while Charter leads the way in Los Angeles and covers part of Indianapolis, according to ISP tracker BroadbandNow.

That's no coincidence. Verizon Chief Technology Architect Ed Chan told Ars that Verizon is focusing on using the $70-per-month wireless home Internet service to compete against dominant cable companies.

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Comcast, Charter dominate US; telcos “abandoned rural America,” report says

AT&T and Verizon have generally built fiber only where they face competition.

(credit: Getty Images | jangeltun)

You already knew that home broadband competition is sorely lacking through much of the US, but a new report released today helps shed more light on Americans who have just one choice for high-speed Internet.

Comcast is the only choice for 30 million Americans when it comes to broadband speeds of at least 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, the report says. Charter Communications is the only choice for 38 million Americans. Combined, Comcast and Charter offer service in the majority of the US, with almost no overlap.

Yet many Americans are even worse off, living in areas where DSL is the best option. AT&T, Verizon, and other telcos still provide only sub-broadband speeds over copper wires throughout huge parts of their territories. The telcos have mostly avoided upgrading their copper networks to fiber—except in areas where they face competition from cable companies.

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