Time Warner Cable “has earned the miserable reputation” it has with customers, regulators find

Customers have good reason to despise Time Warner Cable.
Customers have good reason to despise Time Warner Cable.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Lott
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Customers have no love for Time Warner Cable. And their frustrations are completely justified.

The cable-internet-and-phone provider consistently ranks among the worst in the US for customer satisfaction. Its name is so tarnished by false promises, fee hikes, and incorrigible customer-service that Charter Communications, which recently acquired the company, is scrapping the brand entirely.  Now a government probe has found that Time Warner Cable’s “abysmal” internet offerings are at nowhere near the speeds customers pay for.

The office of New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman began investigating the New York-based broadband operator several months ago to see if the internet speeds it provided were as reliable and fast as the company promised customers. Preliminary findings showed they weren’t, according to a letter to Charter CEO Tom Rutledge, released on Wednesday (June 8).

Time Warner Cable ads boast ”blazing fast” and “super-reliable” internet connections, but, in reality, speeds are generally slower than what customers paid for and worse than the connections of other area providers, Tim Wu, senior enforcement counsel and special advisor at the attorney general’s office, wrote in the letter.

“Time Warner Cable has earned the miserable reputation it enjoys among consumers,” Wu wrote. “Overcoming this history will require more than a name change; it will require a fundamental revolution in how Time Warner Cable does business and treats its customers.”

The findings were based on internet speed tests that New York customers ran as part of the probe. They used open-source tools to test the speeds they were experiencing. According to the letter, Time Warner Cable blamed the testing method for the poor results.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Slow internet speeds may be symptomatic of larger problems at the broadband provider. It simply isn’t keeping up with demand for internet access. At times, connections are so overloaded that internet data is either lost or thrown out, the probe found.

The problem is particularly potent during prime-time. Movies freeze on streaming services like Netflix, “websites load endlessly, and games become non-responsive,” the letter said.

The company also may be falsely advertising its services. Some customers received wifi equipment that is technically incapable of reaching the higher bandwidths they paid for, the probe found.

Update (4:00pm ET): Charter, for its part, knows that it will take more than just a name change to Spectrum to win over disgruntled Time Warner Cable customers.

Charter, which has a better reputation than Time Warner Cable, said it invested significantly in the digital infrastructure behind its own broadband offerings and plans to do the same with Time Warner Cable’s systems. It also plans to bring its consumer-friendly policies to its new customers, such as minimum broadband speeds of up to 60 mbps, no data caps, no usage-based billing, and no modem lease fees. “We look forward to bringing all these enhancements to customers in [New York] and redefining what a cable company can be,” the company said in a statement.