Brindisi demands Spectrum/Charter provide refunds to consumers

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi shows the several thousand letters and emails his office has received in recent months about issues with Spectrum’s pricing and service, during a news conference Wednesday at the state Office Building in Utica.

Brindisi demands Spectrum/Charter provide refunds to consumers

Assemblyman first sounded alarm on outrageous price spikes & unfair service—and now that state has made clear it’s all true, Brindisi demands company make things right before they bounce, not after

With just 56 days left to provide New York state and local consumers with an orderly transition plan for cable and internet service, New York State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, who called for the Public Service Commission to investigate Spectrum/Charter, is demanding the state hold the company’s feet to the fire on two fronts: transition of service that includes future pricing protections and rebates for current cable or internet customers.

“If New York state is going to literally change the channel as it relates to cable and internet service locally, they need to make sure the transition plan is public from the get-go, with ample chances for consumers to respond, and that the transition plan better protects consumers against price gouging and slow internet service,” Brindisi said. “Most importantly, New York must be sure that a rebate plan is part of any exit deal reached with Spectrum/Charter because people have watched their bills explode and they deserve to be reimbursed for enduring this chaos.”

Brindisi said he will be making available to state regulators specific information he recently received from constituents, who signed petitions asking for relief from high cable rates and poor service.

Brindisi issued a list of demands he is asking the PSC and the State Attorney General’s Office to collaborate on to go along with the order that Charter leave the state.

The following is his request to consumer and utility regulators:

  • Charter should provide reasonable compensation in the form of rebate checks to its customers who have received cable rate increases significantly above the national average, which was 5.8 percent from July 2016 to July 2017.
  • Customers with Internet service from Charter who never received promised service upgrades should receive compensation in the form of rebate checks from the company
  • Any company petitioning the PSC to pick up Charter’s internet, cable, and phone service should pledge to negotiate in good faith with unions representing workers, and should agree not to cut vitally needed pension and health care benefits for workers.

“The proof of Spectrum’s failure to live up to its franchise is truly in the pudding when I look at hundreds of emails, letters and petition signatures from constituents who say they’re fed up with frequent rate hikes and poor service from this company,” Brindisi said. “It’s only fair to provide some relief to New Yorkers who would have cut the cord with Spectrum months ago if there were another alternative available.”

The following is the text of a letter Brindisi wrote to Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Public Service Commission Chairman John Rhodes:

Dear Ms. Underwood and Mr. Rhodes:

I am writing to you as a follow up to the order issued by the New York State Public Service Commission on July 27, 2018, to revoke the 2016 merger agreement between Charter Communications, Inc. doing business in New York as Spectrum, and Time Warner Cable, Inc.

This order is truly in the best interests of New York residents. For two years, I have received literally hundreds of emails, letters, and petition signatures from constituents who have endured frequent, often unexpected rate hikes, and who have watched flashy ads from Charter promising lightning-fast internet speeds, as they can barely pay bills or send emails through 1980’s-era infrastructure that has not been improved.

I am respectfully asking that you collaborate to work on a three-point plan that addresses concerns I continue to hear from Charter’s cable and internet customers, as well as from the employees who work for the company. The following is my proposal for consideration by consumer and utility regulators:

  • Charter should provide reasonable compensation in the form of rebate checks to its customers who have received cable rate hikes significantly above the national average for cable rate increases, which was 5.8 percent from July, 2016 to July, 2017.
  • Customers with internet service from Charter who never received promised service upgrades should receive compensation in the form of rebate checks from the company.
  • Any company petitioning the PSC to pick up Charter’s internet, cable, and phone service should pledge to negotiate in good faith with unions representing workers, and should agree not to cut vitally needed pension and health care benefits for workers.

The rate increases Charter customers received shortly after Charter’s acquisition of Time-Warner’s system have been staggering. One constituent in Utica was billed $91.92 for cable services in January, 2017—and in March, 2018, his bill was $129.26 for exactly the same service. Another constituent from Rome told me that she paid $108 a month for cable, internet, and telephone service in May, 2016—about the time Charter took over for Time Warner. By April, 2018, her bill was $200. These are increases many times the national average, all under the guise of ‘expiring promotional packages.’

These cable rate hikes are just as serious a problem for consumers as Charter’s failure to live up to its promises to upgrade its broadband. Many of the consumers I have heard from are seniors on fixed incomes who depend on cable and internet for information and to communicate with family members. They should be compensated for what clearly is blatant overcharging.

Thank you very much for all you are doing to protect New York consumers, and for your concern about this issue. If you have any questions, please feel free to give me a call.

Sincerely, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi

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