It’s a well-documented fact that internet service providers (ISPs) are frequently greedy, and often seedy. But apparently, we’re still learning just how far that greed extends. A new report from Stop the Cap, an internet service review site, reveals that Charter is charging new customers way more for its Spectrum service in areas where no competition exists (h/t Ars Technica).
According to this investigation, Charter is using an address-based system to determine pricing for new customers. By asking for your address during the sign-up process, Charter is able to look up whether or not any other ISPs are available at your specific location. If you have no choice but to go with Spectrum, Stop the Cap found, the company is likely going to give you a higher quote.
We’re not talking about nickels and dimes here, either — in the areas explored in Stop the Cap’s investigation, Charter charged $20 more per month on a street where it faced no competition. And that’s just for low-tier Spectrum service, the slow kind that leaves you feeling like it’s 1998. For its faster services, Charter will charge as much as $40 more per month to those customers. And their promotional rates expire after one year instead of two.
Much slower speeds, too — It isn’t just price that differentiates Spectrum internet from other companies; Stop the Cap found that Spectrum’s speeds are often below those provided by competitors. Spectrum upload speeds maxed out at about 35Mbps, while other companies like Greenlight start their upload speeds at 50Mbps. Spectrum’s lowest-price service provides upload speeds of 4Mbps. Four!
This doesn’t paint a great picture for Charter. Selling internet service at high charges just because it can would be bad enough — but the speeds are horrific, too. And there’s a $200 installation fee that can’t be waived.
Highway robbery — Charter is the second-largest internet service provider in the United States, with more than 27 million subscribers. This isn’t some small-time company looking to make ends meet, this is an enormous corporation wringing our wallets out. Charter is unequivocally taking advantage of new customers who have no choice but to go with its services or opt-out of fixed-line home internet entirely.
When contacted by Ars Technica about the price discrepancies, Charter was decidedly cagey. "Spectrum Internet retail prices, speeds, and features are consistent in each market — regardless of the competitive environment,” the company said.
Charter also said that it does include location in its factoring: “Any promotional offers available to new customers are time-limited and vary based on a number of factors, such as time of year, location and programming, or device opportunities, and testing different promotional offers concurrently is common in a subscription business.”