Changes coming for 530,000 Time Warner Cable customers in Charlotte

Starting Tuesday, Charter Communications, which bought Time Warner Cable in May, is debuting its Spectrum brand Internet, TV and phone services.
Starting Tuesday, Charter Communications, which bought Time Warner Cable in May, is debuting its Spectrum brand Internet, TV and phone services. Bloomberg

It’s the beginning of the end for the Time Warner Cable name.

Starting Tuesday, Charter Communications, which bought the cable provider in May, is debuting its Spectrum brand Internet, TV and phone services in the Charlotte area and in the rest of North Carolina. Time Warner Cable, the dominant cable provider here, is in about 530,000 households in the region, according to Nielsen figures.

Charter put the Spectrum name on the Charlotte Hornets’ uptown arena in August, and new trucks and billboards have been showing up in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the brand started appearing on subscriber’s TV guides. Customers can also use the Spectrum app on their phones, and the Time Warner Cable news station has switched names.

Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus, who was in Charlotte this week for executive meetings and community service projects, discusses the company's merger with Charter, service and high-speed Internet.

Stamford, Conn.-based Charter is offering a variety of Spectrum cable, Internet and phone packages in the Charlotte area based on uniform, national rates, the company said. But current subscribers can also stick with their current Time Warner Cable offerings and promotions.

“Spectrum provides customers with superior products, including the most HD, the fastest internet speeds, and a full featured voice product, at highly competitive prices combined with outstanding service,” said Patrick Paterno, the company’s director of public relations for the Carolinas.

Charter is rebranding at a time of increased competition from rivals AT&T and Google Fiber. Both companies have been building high-speed Internet networks in the Charlotte area that offer speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.

In 2015, Time Warner Cable began rolling out upgraded speeds here ranging from 50 megabits per second to 300 megabits per second. Spectrum, according to Paterno, offers two basic Internet speeds: 100 and 300 megabits per second.

Customers who are currently in a package with a top download speed of 50 megabits per second will be bumped up to 60 megabits per second, even if they stay in their current package, Paterno said. One benefit of Spectrum Internet packages is that they don’t include modem lease fees.

Charter completed its $55.1 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable in May 2016, a little more than a year after Comcast’s planned purchase of Time Warner Cable collapsed amid government opposition. Charter also closed its purchase of cable provider Bright House Networks at the same time, creating the nation’s second-largest cable provider with more than 25 million customers in 41 states.

Charlotte customers aren’t likely to miss the Time Warner Cable name. The company has long finished near the bottom of customer satisfaction rankings.

In the latest study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index in 2016, Time Warner Cable received the second-lowest score among providers for television service: a 59 out of a possible 100. But Charter was only slightly better with a score of 60, which was down three points from 2015.

For Internet service, however, Time Warner Cable was fourth best with a score of 66, better than Charter’s 63.

Charter will face a challenge in keeping up its numbers because past data show that customer satisfaction tends to drop when companies combine operations, according to the ACSI report. The company has said it is investing in its service, takings steps such as bringing back jobs from overseas call centers.

Overall, the company says it plans to add 20,000 jobs, the majority directly serving customers.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker