Handout from the 2/14/2018 General Meeting
February 18, 2018
Apple Cider Meeting – February 14, 2018
Rochester Area Broadband Service Providers
Charter Communications (a/k/a Spectrum) provides 100/10 Mbps service at a promotional price
of $44.95/mo or regular price of $65. Customers who bundle services get a lower rate.
Frontier Communications provides DSL service at widely varying speeds (most getting 3-12 Mbps download, 1 Mbps upload) for $30 a month including modem, but excluding significant taxes and fees. Some areas may qualify for faster internet plans at a higher price.
Greenlight Networks is a fiber to the home provider available in parts of the city and suburbs east of the Genesee River offering 100/20 Mbps service for $50 a month, 500/50 Mbps for $75 a month, or 1,000/100 Mbps for $100 a month. An installation fee of $100 may apply.
The Future of Broadband in Rochester:
- Stop the Cap! successfully lobbied for pro-consumer benefits as part of any approval of the acquisition of Time Warner Cable by Charter Communications. Under the order granting the merger, the New York State Public Service Commission requires Spectrum to maintain Time Warner Cable’s Everyday Low Price Internet package ($14.99/mo for 2/1 Mbps) as an option for New York State residents. By the end of 2019, Spectrum is also required to increase internet speed to at least 300 Mbps for all New York customers.
- By the end of 2018, Charter Communications will upgrade all of its cable systems to DOCSIS 3.1, the latest cable broadband standard, and begin offering 1,000/35 Mbps service locally. The price is $104.99 for new customers, $114.99 for those bundling internet and television service, and $124.99 for standalone internet.
- Frontier Communications has no plans for significant upgrades in our area. The company is experiencing significant financial problems and is now considering selling its service areas in Florida, California, and Texas.
- Greenlight Networks made noticeable progress building out its network in 2017, especially in Brighton, Rochester, and East Rochester. But frustration remains because it can take 1-2 years from the time the company specifies an area of interest to the date when service is activated. In early 2018, Irondequoit and northeastern Rochester are the company’s primary targets for more buildouts. Greenlight has now indicated it may expand west of the Genesee River for the first time, labeling Gates and Greece as “potential target areas.”
- Although wireless 5G networks, which claim to offer gigabit speed wireless home broadband are now under development in some cities by Verizon and AT&T, we do not anticipate a 5G service provider will begin service in Rochester this year. Industry analysts predict 5G broadband will only provide token competition to traditional wired broadband.
- Although there have been sporadic efforts to promote the creation of a municipal/publicly- owned broadband alternative in Rochester, there are no significant developments that would suggest such a network is under serious consideration at this time.
The Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission has repealed net neutrality, but we expect this will have little impact on home broadband users in our area. Charter is required to abide by net neutrality provisions for at least five years regardless of FCC actions. Frontier Communications has shown no interest in violating net neutrality provisions, and Greenlight has voluntarily committed itself to net neutrality. The wireless industry is likely to stray away from net neutrality, however.
Cord Cutting Developments
The practice of cord-cutting continues to build momentum in the United States, and after many years of denial by the pay television industry, cable and phone companies now admit television packages are under threat. Companies are still trying to hold the line on cable TV pricing, but some are using tricks like surcharges to cover increasing costs for local TV stations and sports networks.
Charter is quietly testing new slimmed-down packages targeting cord-cutters and internet-only customers. Frontier has determined its future should not rely on offering linear/live cable TV programming to customers, and isn’t aggressive about expanding service in its legacy service areas in any case. Greenlight has never been in the television or telephone business and is unlikely to start.
In 2018, expect large studios that own and operate cable networks to offer streaming services or apps that offer live and on-demand content from their network libraries. Boomerang, ESPN, Viacom, and a handful of others are pitching their own standalone services (or soon will) for around $5 a month each.
But the vast majority of cord cutters still interested in linear/live television choose a bundle of channels from one of several competing streaming cable-TV providers. A few are finally also streaming live feeds of Rochester’s ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX stations, although none carry PBS. Access to CW and MyNetworkTV programming is sometimes available on demand.
Make sure you have a streaming device (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, etc.) that is compatible with the service you want to use and take advantage of widely available free trials before committing to a service.
AT&T DirecTV Now
One of the largest services, DirecTV Now offers 60+ live channels for $35 a month. Three other tiers offer progressively larger numbers of channels – $50 for 80+ channels, $60 for 100+ channels, and $70 for over 120 channels. Premium networks are especially cheap from DirecTV Now — $5 each for HBO and Cinemax, and $8 for Showtime or Starz. There are also significant discounts for AT&T’s wireless customers. DirecTV Now is also beta testing a cloud storage DVR which can record and store programming. Biggest downside remains no local stations.
CBS All-Access Pass
This service lets you access a live stream of WROC-TV and on-demand access to CBS shows and a number of older shows licensed from Viacom and other entertainment companies. Customers can choose from a “limited commercials” plan for $5.99 or a commercial-free plan for $9.99/mo.
50+ networks, the only service offering a complete lineup of local ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX stations, and a cloud DVR with no storage limit are all strong selling points for YouTube TV. The service this week announced it would add Time Warner/Turner Network-owned services including Turner Classic Movies, TNT, TBS, CNN, among others. But with that comes a price increase. If you are a new or existing customer, you can lock in the $35/month rate by subscribing before March 13, 2018. After that date, new customers will pay $40/month.
Philo offers no local stations, but does offer inexpensive plans for those who want only the basics. Philo offers a 37-channel package for $16 a month or 46 channels for $20 a month. The lineup has no news or sports programming, except for BBC World News and Cheddar, but does offer a number of Scripps Media, Viacom and Discovery Networks channels like Comedy Central, Food Network, MTV, History Channel, and HGTV.
In addition to on-demand shows, Hulu now offers its own live TV package of several dozen cable networks. In Rochester, it includes live streams of our local NBC and FOX stations. Hulu has one of the largest collections of news channels. It also includes limited DVR cloud storage and access to Hulu’s Limited Commercial, on-demand streaming plan. Customers can upgrade to the non-commercial plan, premium movie channels, and unlimited screens – removing the limit on how many people can share your Hulu account.
Hulu’s on-demand library continues to vastly expand, not just with acquisitions of content from other networks but also through its growing library of original programming. If you just want Hulu’s on- demand content, the “limited commercials” plan is $7.99/mo, commercial-free is $11.99/mo, Hulu Live with “limited commercials” is $39.99/mo and Hulu Live with No Commercials is $43.99/mo.
Sling TV was the first to offer radically stripped-down cable network packages, but the company struggled keeping customers because the lineup often omitted “must-have” channels and streaming quality was occasionally compromised during peak viewing periods. Sling has since had more success after rebooting itself as the provider of “a-la-carte” TV, offering theme packs of channels and a huge selection of international/foreign language networks that target different ethnic communities. Sling’s packages start at $20 a month and stand out for sports fans because the entry level package includes ESPN. Additional channel packages are based on themes like “news,” “sports,” “comedy,” and “kids.” But there are no local network stations available through the service.
- SonyPlaystation Vue offers multiple streaming TV packages and does not require customers to
own a game console to access the service.
- Fubo TV which emphasizes live sports, offers 70+ live channels, Cloud DVR, and live streaming of Rochester’s NBC affiliate for $44.99 a month.
- USTVNow offers free access to ABC, CBS, PBS, and FOX stations from the Harrisburg, Pa., area. Also included are WPIX and WWOR in New York. A paid plan is also available.
- MHZChoice offers an extensive on-demand library of subtitled, award-winning TV series and some movies from Europe.
- Acorn TV and Britbox offer large libraries of English language content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, and other networks from the United Kingdom. Acorn TV also offers a selection of Canadian network TV shows.
For updates on cable TV and broadband, as well as public policy issues surrounding data caps, net neutrality, rural broadband, wireless, and municipal broadband, please bookmark us at StoptheCap.com.