Charter’s cable network was almost entirely composed of coaxial cable until 2013. Since then, the company has undergone a major infrastructure overhaul, introducing fiber-optics for its backbone. That means that all of the distance of transmission of its TV, internet, and telephone traffic travel over fiber right up to each neighborhood junction. From the junction to each customer’s house, the network is still carried by coaxial cable.
The mix of fiber optic and coaxial cables is called a “hybrid fiber-coaxial” (HFC) system. This is a very common transmission medium combination and provides a high-speed service with minimum disruption. The stretch from the local junction to individual properties is referred to as “the last mile” in the industry. However, the distance that coaxial cables are used in the link is usually much lower than that. Meaning that the cable network is almost entirely made up of fiber-optics.
Charter focuses its activities on its cable network. It doesn’t invest in telephone lines or wireless and satellite systems. Although the Charter network is mainly provisioned with fiber optics, it isn’t categorized as a fiber internet provider. The company is currently one of the three largest internet service providers in the USA.
|Internet||200 Mbps||$64.99 per month||$44.99 for the first 12 months|
|Internet Ultra||400 Mbps||$84.99 per month||$64.99 for the first 12 months|
|Internet Gig||940 Mbps||$124.99 per month||$104.99 for the first 12 months|
|Spectrum Internet Assist||30 Mbps||$14.99 per month||Available to low-income homes|
An extra bonus with the Internet Gig plan is the inclusion of free antivirus software.
The Spectrum Income Assist plan is not available in all zip codes. It is aimed at households that have a low income. In order to prove qualification for this category, someone in the home must already be enrolled in one of the following programs:
Spectrum also offers TV, telephone, and internet bundles.
All plans include a free modem. However, a Wi-Fi router costs an extra $5 per month. Spectrum has Wi-Fi hotspots in public places around the country and home plan customers are entitled to access these internet access points for free from mobile devices.
All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee. Spectrum does not require customers to sign up for long-term contracts and there is no minimum service period.
Charter Communications doesn’t have the best reputation in the business community since it wiped out all of its $8 billion of debt in 2009 by declaring itself bankrupt. The bankruptcy measure also wiped out the stock value, losing its shareholders all of their investments. The company got a further $3 billion cash infusion from new investors and carried on trading under the same name.
The recent acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks has caused some public relations problems for Charter Communications. In trying to synchronize pricing across its customers, the company has removed some special deals and contract bonuses from the customers of its acquired networks. These moves have generated a lot of complaints against the company.
Charter Spectrum does not impose a data cap. This is a great bonus because most internet service providers include data usage limits, even though some of those are as high as 1 Terabyte (1 TB).
A downside of this generosity is that neighborhoods with a lot of Charter Spectrum customers can experience slower internet speeds. This is because, apart from the last link from the exchange to the home, all neighborhood traffic is channeled down the same line. Even though that trunk line is carried over fiber optic, the usage patterns of customers who have no data caps tend to generate a lot of traffic.
The modem for the cable internet service is free. However, an upgrade to a Wi-fi hub instead of a standard router costs $5 per month.
Charter Spectrum charges an initial set up fee whether you take the Wi-Fi upgrade, stick with the free modem, or use your own equipment. That is $9.99. If you need a technician to come to your home to set up your connection and equipment, you will pay a fee of $49.99.
Charter Spectrum is unusual in the ISP sector in that it does not impose contracts or minimum service periods on its customers. It does offer discounted rates for the first year of service on its plans. However, these discounts do not have to be repaid if the customer subsequently cancels the service during or immediately at the end of the offer period.