Charter Spectrum Review – 2020

Charter Communications, Inc., based in Stamford, Connecticut, is one of the USA’s largest cable TV providers.

Pros of Charter Spectrum

  • One of the three largest internet providers in the USA
  • Service in 44 states
  • A choice of speeds
  • Entertainment bundles with telephone and internet
  • No contracts
  • No early termination fees

Cons of Charter Spectrum

  • Speeds slow considerably at peak usage hours

Table of Contents

Overview of Charter Spectrum Internet Services

Charter Communications, Inc., based in Stamford, Connecticut, is one of the USA’s largest cable TV providers. It also offers telephone and internet services over its network. The business’s consumer services are marketed under the name of Spectrum, while Charter uses its own name for business services. Spectrum is the second-largest cable TV operation in the USA. (Comcast Xfinity is the market leader.)

The Charter Spectrum network is what’s known as a “hybrid fiber-coaxial” (HFC) system. This refers to the type of cable used in the network. The connection to each home is carried on coaxial cable. This cable leads to a local junction along with cables from all other neighboring houses. The link from the junction through to the network center of Charter is composed of fiber-optics. This is a high-speed link. While data passes along coaxial cable as an electronic pulse, the signals on fiber-optics are implemented through a pulsing light beam.

Fiber-optic creates a faster internet service. While there are companies in the USA that offer fiber-optic connections to internet consumers, Charter Communications is not classified as one of them. The Spectrum system is nearly all fiber-optics, but that last stretch that is fulfilled with coaxial cable removes the chance of the network from being identified as fiber internet. Charter Communications does offer full fiber connections to businesses, however.

As a TV carrier, Spectrum is able to offer service bundles that combine TV, phone, and internet. These bundles work out cheaper than ordering each service individually.

Some Points About Charter Spectrum

The majority of Charter’s Spectrum network was acquired with the purchase of two other cable TV providers. These were Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. The merger of the three systems has inevitably meant that some benefits and guarantees enjoyed by customers of those two systems have been removed. This has caused some public relations problems for Charter Spectrum.

The disruption caused by trying to merge two large internet and TV providers may explain why Charter Spectrum doesn’t score very well in customer satisfaction surveys. One of the most important ISP customer approval measurements is carried out by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). 

The ACSI publishes a review of performance quality assessments for the entire telecommunications industry. The findings are contained in the  ACSI Telecommunications Report, which is issued annually. The 2019 release of the report includes a study of the USA’s major ISPs as judged by their customers. Each ISP is allocated a percentage figure that expresses the overall satisfaction of customers interviewed for the assessment. The chart of results also shows the previous year’s results for comparison. 

In 2019, the customer satisfaction score for Charter Spectrum came out at 59 percent. This was below the industry average of 62 percent. The company’s ranking put it in joint seventh place in the league table alongside CenturyLink. 

The 2019 customer satisfaction rating of Charter Spectrum was actually a worse performance than the company achieved in 2018 when it got a score of 60 percent. As with 2019, the industry average satisfaction rating was 62 percent. Charter Spectrum’s 2018 performance put it in joint fifth place that year. 

The perceived poor performance of Charter Spectrum is difficult to identify. Technically, the internet service operates very well. As an illustration, take the findings of the industry regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC monitors the performance of ISPs in the United States to ensure that they are keeping to the service commitments that won them their licenses. 

The FCC’s Report on Consumer Fixed Broadband Performance in the United States, published in December 2018, contains the authority’s findings on actual ISP service delivery. The FCC was particularly keen to discover whether the marketing claims over connection speeds that ISPs in the USA made were actually being delivered. 

The speed verification exercise involved measuring the actual upload and download speeds of a collection of customers subscribing to each of the ISPs under investigation. Speed measurements were taken during peak demand times and results were averaged across all of the customer sample groups for each ISP. Surprisingly, the performance of most of the ISPs in the study actually exceeded the claims of their marketing departments. 

Charter Spectrum was among the best performers in the FCC test. Its observed performance for both uploads and downloads exceeded the speeds stated in the service’s advertisements. 

So, Charter Spectrum delivers on its promises, which makes it difficult to work out why its existing customers are so disappointed. The company also includes extra services for free and avoids the “small print” tricks that some ISPs use to hedge their marketing promises. 

Charter Spectrum also operates Wi-Fi hotspots in public places. Subscribers to the Spectrum home internet service are entitled to connect to these hotspots for free from their mobile devices when they are out of the house.

Spectrum does not impose data caps and it does not charge an equipment fee for its modem.

Charter Spectrum Plans

Spectrum has a simple list of internet speed options with four plans.

 

Plan Download Speed Upload Speed Data Cap Feature
Internet 200 Mbps 10 Mbps None Free modem, but Wi-Fi router extra
Internet Ultra 400 Mbps 20 Mbps None Free modem, but Wi-Fi router extra
Internet Gig 940 Mbps 35 Mbps None Free antivirus included
Spectrum Internet Assist 30 Mbps N/A None For low-income households

 

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:

  •         The National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
  •         The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP)
  •         Supplemental Security Income ( ≥ age 65 only)

 

Spectrum also includes bundles that combine internet service with a TV package a landline telephone, or both.

Charter Spectrum Pricing Overview

Charter Spectrum does not impose contracts or minimum service periods on its customers. It is possible to break a contract at any time without incurring early termination fees.

 

The table below shows the prices of all Spectrum plans as of October 2019.

 

Plan Introductory Offer First 12 Months Standard Price/Month Setup Cost Equipment Fee
Internet $44.99 $64.99 $0 $5/month
Internet Ultra $64.99 $84.99 $0 $5/month
Internet Gig $104.99 $124.99 $0 $5/month
Spectrum Internet Assist None $14.99 $0 $5/month

 

All plans include a free modem. However, that only connects one device in the home via a network cable. It is more usual for homes to use a Wi-Fi router. Spectrum can supply a Wi-fi router as an added extra and that is charged for at $5 per month. The equipment fee shown in the table above does not apply for those who use their own router or just stick with the free modem.

Subscribers of all of the home internet plans are entitled to use the Charter Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspot network for free when they are outside of the home.

All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Charter Spectrum Customer Service

The Spectrum website includes a portal in which customers can see and pay their bills. The site also has a support section that includes troubleshooting guides and a searchable knowledge base.

Customers can contact the support technicians through the site in a Chat screen, via email, or by phone. The Billing department is also available through these three channels.

Spectrum also has a large chain of stores throughout its service territory. Customers can pay bills and make inquiries about changing their plans at nearby stores. The stores also offer mobile data plans and internet self-install kits. Each store has a technician available to answer questions and repair damaged modems and routers.

Choosing Charter Spectrum Plans

Spectrum has a very clear choice of internet plans. The service is not complicated by issues such as contract periods. Your decision over which plan to choose will get a little more complicated if you decide to bundle internet access together with a TV entertainment package because there are lots of cable TV bundle options.

The option to go into a Spectrum store and speak to an assistant face to face will be a great help for many who feel a little unsure about paying over the internet. It is particularly useful to be able to visit a store if you have moved to a new home and don’t have a current internet service.

Be careful not to overprovision your internet speeds. Although a very fast internet connection might seem tempting, you might not need all of that bandwidth. You could end up paying for an extra-fast service that you don’t really need. Setting the right plan level will be a lot easier if you already have internet access with another company and have a good idea of the volume of traffic that you usually use.