By Claudia Tenney

Politicians are predictable. Whenever their constituents have a serious problem, they complain the loudest but do nothing to fix it. No matter if their inaction is due to ineffectiveness or incompetence, it’s inexcusable. That’s why the voters of Upstate New York, especially the Mohawk Valley and the Southern Tier, deserve results on Spectrum Cable – not more cheap talk.

Since January 2019, Spectrum has raised cable rates four separate times including increasing non-optional fees (i.e. the broadcast fee), channel package fees, and equipment rental fees. It has also raised internet service rates twice.

Those six increases and poor-quality service put an undue burden on the residents of the region. Many of these customers live on fixed-incomes, work from home, or have limited mobility. They rely on cable television, internet access, and telephone lines to communicate and receive information – watch the news, receive weather alerts, pay bills, work their jobs, run businesses, and educate their children.

With the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and related economic and social lockdown and public health precautions, there is an even more urgent need for workers, businesses, schools, and nonprofits to access telecommunications technologies. Yet, Spectrum – with the approval of the Democrat-controlled New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) – is raising its rates again this month when many customers, who have suffered business and employment income losses due to the economic crisis, can least afford it.

That is why I wrote the PSC to insist they remedy the situation immediately. It is unacceptable that Upstate New York consumers must bear the brunt of Spectrum’s excessive and unnecessary rate increases while suffering service outages, poor customer service, and limited coverage.

In a free enterprise system, every Spectrum customer would be entitled to compare options and decide to stay a Spectrum customer or take their business elsewhere.

But in my region from Utica to Binghamton, Spectrum holds a monopoly on many, if not all, of these services. Our families, businesses, schools, and nonprofits are at the mercy of Spectrum’s capricious and often unfair pricing and service decisions.

Spectrum’s monopoly power prevents an enterprising competitor from emerging to offer better, faster, and more affordable service. Governor Cuomo’s regulator, the Public Service Commission, and the Obama administration’s FCC continued to interfere in the marketplace when Time Warner Cable merged with Charter Communications to create Spectrum.

While our current Congressman, Anthony Brindisi, issues frequent press releases and media comments bemoaning Spectrum’s treatment of its customers, he has not achieved anything to stop it. Brindisi has taken over $360,000 from Spectrum-affiliated committees. And Spectrum spends tons of money lobbying Congress and Democrats in the state legislature to slow new technologies down. [2]

Why? Because Spectrum is threatened by innovations like 5G which would be better, faster, cheaper, and reach everywhere – especially in rural areas. Spectrum’s business model relies on maintaining its monopoly and its millions of government subsidies.

Spectrum’s efforts to block more promising technologies like 5G networks may have delayed their roll-out by as much as four years. Meanwhile, the Chinese and other international competitors race ahead in 5G technology.

Our families, businesses, schools, and nonprofits are at the mercy of Spectrum’s capricious and often unfair pricing and service decisions. Spectrum gets rich coming and going – raising our rates and raking in government checks.

That 2016 merger, which I opposed then, has not served the public interest. Rather, it has only further entrenched and subsidized a rent-seeking monopoly that exploits captive customers who are stuck with a high cost, low-quality cable, phone, and internet provider.

So instead of making empty promises, I will fight for real results. Spectrum should not receive another taxpayer dime until it provides full cost transparency of its services including a 12-month notice of any service or rate changes; allows consumer choice by allowing others to compete for customers, and ends its active campaign to block game-changing technologies.

This would put Spectrum on the hot seat for once, instead of the empty grandstanding that Brindisi offers.