Charter ‘setting new standards for contempt’ in Lexington, Kentucky, local columnist claims

Charter Communications sign (use this one)

As Charter Communications transitions the last of its acquired Time Warner Cable customers to its Spectrum pricing, packaging and branding, a Lexington, Kentucky, newspaper columnist has taken the No. 2 U.S. cable company to task, claiming it has raised prices, reduced channels and denigrated valuable public access networks to the bottom of the bundle. 

“In its quest to maximize profits, Charter keeps setting new standards for customer contempt in Lexington. Spectrum has raised prices, stripped TV channels from basic cable without notice, lowered internet speeds, laid off 56 local customer-service employees and charged customers $5 to make a payment over the phone,” wrote Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen in a Tuesday op-ed.

Charter reps have yet to respond to FierceCable inquiries for comment.

As Charter has embarked on an ambitious plan to transition TWC’s massive customer base, it has come under fire from local newspaper columnists before. 

RELATED: Consumer watchdog targets Charter's Spectrum repricing in L.A.

In October, for example, the Los Angeles Times’ David Lazarus profiled disgruntled former TWC customers who were unhappy at perceived price increases on their bills. However, some of those customers simply were enjoying aggressive TWC promotional discounts that would have expired anyway.

Over time, concerns in previously transitioned Spectrum markets like Los Angeles, where FierceCable editorial operations are based, seem to have eased.

But apparently not so in Lexington, a market that has no access to satellite TV and boasts Windstream DSL service as the only other option besides Spectrum for residential internet.

According to Eblen, local city council members say they have received “hundreds of complaints from constituents.” 

He said Charter responded to a complaint letter from the city last month, claiming that it is spent $3.1 million on infrastructure improvements, created 860 outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots and started a low-cost internet option for some low-income customers.

Those reading Eblen’s column looking for a silver lining will be hard-pressed to find it.

“The franchise agreement negotiated with Time Warner in 2014 doesn’t expire until 2024, and even then the city won’t have much leverage. Cable franchise law is a sweet deal—if you’re a cable company,” he wrote.

“What’s a customer to do? Not much, besides canceling cable. Windstream Communications, which owns Lexington’s legacy telephone system, offers DSL Internet and TV steaming, but in most cases it’s pushing all of that data through old copper phone wires. There also are satellite companies and services such as Roku and Apple TV if you already have high-speed internet,” Eblen said.