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Charter Communications is an American company providing cable television, high-speed Internet, and telephone services to more than 5.7 million customers in 29 states. It is the third-largest (by revenues) cable operator in the U.S., behind Comcast and Time Warner Cable. It is headquartered in Town and Countrymarker, Missourimarker.

History

Charter Communications incorporated in Delawaremarker in 1993. Through a series of acquisitions as well as internally financed growth, the company served 1 million customers in 1998, 3.9 million in 1999, and 6.8 million in 2002.

Four former executives received criminal indictments in 2005 for accounting fraud related primarily to the inflation of cable subscriber numbers. The company has been under financial pressure; its stock peaked at $27.75 per share in November 1999, before falling to under $1 in 2002.

In 2006, Charter accelerated sales of cable telephone services using Broadband Telephony technology.

Charter suggests a battery backup to reduce the risk of being without phone service in the event main power is lost.

On March 28, 2009, Charter Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Outsourcing

On May 2, 2006, Charter announced it will shut down seven of its call centers in the U.S.marker. The call centers closing are in the following locations:

As centers close, an increasing number of calls are being outsourced. Current outsource centers are located in Cainta, Philippinesmarker; Panama City, Panamamarker; Mexico City, Mexicomarker; Laredo, Texasmarker; Moundsville, West Virginiamarker; London, Ontariomarker; Trenton, Ontariomarker; Kamloops, British Columbiamarker; Amherst, Nova Scotiamarker; Winnipeg, Manitobamarker; and Brasília, Brazilmarker. Charter recently brought TeleTech onboard to assist with customer support for its growing telephone market.

Charter-owned call centers are located in St. Louis, Missourimarker (telephone service support center), Greenville, South Carolinamarker, Vancouver, Washingtonmarker, Fond du Lac, Wisconsinmarker, Walker, Michiganmarker, Rochester, Minnesotamarker, Worcester, Massachusettsmarker and Louisville, Kentuckymarker (the largest call center enterprise-wide) with Heathrow, Floridamarker handling the bulk of video, high-speed data, and telephone billing and customer service contacts. Each of the remaining centers are becoming increasingly specialized for particular lines of service or customer issues. In contrast, in the fourth quarter of 2007, Louisville call-center employees, who had been handling callers with Internet issues, were told to prepare for cross-training in telephone and video support.

Selloff of properties

On March 22, 2006, Charter announced that it will sell cable systems serving approximately 43,000 customers in Nevadamarker, Coloradomarker, New Mexicomarker, and Utahmarker to Orange Broadband Holding Company (since renamed Baja Broadband).

Charter will also sell cable systems in West Virginia and Virginia to Cebridge Connections (now known as Suddenlink Communications) and cable systems in Kentucky and Illinois to New Wave Communications.

Wave Broadband recently took over much of Charter's customer bases on the west coast (except for markets also served by Comcast and Time Warner Cable and a few select rural areas).

On October 14, 2008, an article appeared in the Fairmont, Minnesotamarker Sentinel ( Fairmont Sentinel), reporting that Charter is selling parts of their system to Midcontinent Communications, including its Bemidji, Minnesotamarker and International Falls, Minnesotamarker offices. Starting February 1, 2009 Midcontinent Communications took over some Charter's cable system in Minnesota including Balatonmarker, Bemidjimarker, Canbymarker, Elymarker, Fairmontmarker, International Fallsmarker, Littleforkmarker, Sherburnmarker, and surrounding communities. Other areas in Minnesota would have sold to Comcast, but the deal fell through. Midcontinent Communications

Bankruptcy

On February 12, 2009, Charter Communications announced that it planned to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on or before April 1, 2009. The action would allow Charter to pay its debt obligations, and cancel its obligations to shareholders. Private equity firm Apollo Management expects to own most of Charter's shares after the bankruptcy. Charter filed for a prearranged Chapter 11 on March 28, 2009. The company expects the financial restructuring to reduce its debt by $8 billion, as well as adding $3 billion of new investment, and refinancing other debt. On November 30, 2009, its bankruptcy plan was approved, which extinguished its stock and cut approximately $8 billion in debt. That day, Charter emerged from bankruptcy despite many of its creditors' objections over its bankruptcy plan.

Awards and recognition

In December 2007, Charter was recognized by CableWorld Magazine as "2007 Multi-System Operator of the Year." According to the magazine, the company was selected for this award based on "rapidly expanding its telephone footprint to take advantage of the triple-play offering; developing a consistent, data-driven marketing plan; and addressing its nearest-term debt maturities." During the spring of 2008, Charter was honored with third place among companies with over 2,000 employees in the annual "Best Places to Work in St. Louis" competition, sponsored by the St. Louis Business Journal., based on the response of Charter employees in the area to an online survey created and managed by the Journal.

Criticism

Charter has been criticized for poor customer support and frequent billing consistency issues, causing the Better Business Bureau to post a warning to consumers about the company:

"The Better Business Bureau has received numerous complaints regarding this cable, digital TV, and high speed internet access provider.
Complainants primarily allege that the firm had improper billing practices, referred customer bills to collection agencies in error, provided poor customer service, used misleading advertising, provided defective internet or cable performance, used improper sales tactics or misrepresented the actual costs of installation and service, failed to properly install or maintain service, damaged customers' property, and failed to honor service appointments.
"Making matters worse, PCWorld also ranked Charter's cable Internet service as worst among 14 major Internet service providers. In addition, Charter High-Speed is the second-worst-rated cable ISP on dslreports.com , and Consumer Reports indicated in their February 2008 issue that Charter's television/Internet/telephone bundle collectively is the worst of all major national carriers.

It was reported by Tony Bradle on about.com that Charter Communications redirected error pages and Windows Live Search results to a Charter search page without notifying customers. Users may opt out of redirection by clicking a link from the Charter search page; however, the opt-out link installs a cookie on the customer's computer, so deleting cookies will require the user to opt out again.[116111]

It has been reported that on Monday, January 21, 2008 during a routine sweep of inactive accounts, Charter accidentally deleted the email accounts of approximately 14,000 customers; even worse, the removed data is now irretrievable. Initial reports stated that the company would not compensate users in any way but the company has since decided to give a $50 account credit to each user affected.

In May 2008, Charter announced that it planned to monitor websites visited by its high-speed Internet customers via a partnership with targeted advertising firm NebuAd.But after customers voiced their concerns, Charter changed its mind in June.

Coverage

The cable network's inability to strike deals with major sports networks such as the Big Ten Network and the NFL Network have led customers to seek other options if they wish to watch sports programming from the majority of established channels.

In Wisconsin, Charter had not been able to make deals with the Big Ten Network that would allow residents to watch local sporting events.[116112] Charter now has an agreement to carry the Big Ten Network, applicable to all customers.

In St. Tammany Parish, Louisianamarker as of May 4, 2008, Charter and Cox Communications have been unable to reach a deal for the carriage of Cox Sports Television, effectively shutting out a large potential fanbase for the New Orleans Hornets from watching the games on local television.

In December 2008, WFAA-TVmarker, the ABC affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth, reported that beginning January 1, 2009, Charter would no longer carry its signal due to a breakdown in negotiations. Charter quickly replied that a resolution to the issue was not out of the question. In December 2008, WCNC-TVmarker, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte NC, reported that as of December 31, 2008 Charter would no longer carry its signal due to a breakdown in negotiations. In December 2008, KMOV-TVmarker Channel 4, the CBS affiliate in Saint Louis, MO, reported that it would no longer be available to Charter subscribers starting Dec. 31. Prior to that, only the standard definition signal for KMOV was available on Charter cable.

The cable operator would have lost access to all of the stations owned by Belo Corp, however, an agreement was reached days before the shutdown date.[116113]

In May 2009 Comcast was able to meet an agreement with NFL Network, in which the NFL Network agreed to lower their asking price per subscriber. The higher asking price has been a problem with being carried with other cable networks. Roger Goodell is looking at resolving differences with other cable providers, to include Charter Communications, to allow carriage of this channel.

In April 2009, certain Angels games on Fox Sports West were not available: May 4-8, 12-13,18-19, 25, 27 and 29; June 15-16 and 22-24; and July 6-8 and 10.

Timeline

  • 1993 – The company was started by three executives; Barry Babcock, Jerald Kent, and Howard Wood, former executives of Cencom Cable Television in St. Louis, MO.
  • 1995 – Charter paid about $300 million for a controlling interest in Crown Media.
  • 1997 – EarthLink and Charter join forces to deliver high-speed Internet access through cable modems to Charter's customers in California.
  • 1998 – Paul Allen buys a controlling interest.
  • 1998 – Charter paid $2.8 billion to acquire Dallas based cable company Marcus Cable.
  • 1999 – Company goes public, trading on the NASDAQ stock exchange.
  • 2000 – Charter buys select AT&T cable markets, including Reno, NVmarker and the City of St. Louis.
  • 2001 – MSN and Charter sign an agreement to offer MSN content and services to Charter’s broadband customers.
  • 2001 – Recipient of many awards including the Outstanding Corporate Growth Award from the Association for Corporate Growth, the R.E. "Ted" Turner Innovator of the Year Award from the Southern Cable Telecommunications Association, and the Fast 50 Award for Growth from the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association.
  • 2002 – The DOJmarker investigates the company, leading to the indictment of four former executives for improper financial reporting.
  • 2004 – Charter settles a class action lawsuit concerning the questionable financial reporting.
  • 2008 – Charter acquires the Cable TV franchise and service for the Cerritos and Ventura, CA area from WAVE Broadband.
  • 2008 – Charter stock fails to meet NASDAQ standards and is given warning to comply by Oct 13 or fill out an extension.
  • 2009 – Charter files to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code.


References

  1. NCTA Top 25 MSO's
  2. " Corporate Contact Us." Charter Communications. Retrieved on August 18, 2009.
  3. " Zoning Map." City of Town and Country. Retrieved on August 18, 2009.
  4. " Town and Country city." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on August 18, 2009.
  5. " Town and County, Mo.-Based Charter Communications to Buy Back Employee Stock." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 21, 2004. Retrieved on August 18, 2009.
  6. Charter Communications executives sentenced in accounting schemes - 04/23/05
  7. Charter Communications -Telephone Service through High Speed Internet - Digital Phone :: Charter
  8. Saint Louis - Business and Technology News
  9. Bloomberg.com
  10. Reuters, 19 March 2009, Apollo plans to own most of Charter after bankruptcy: sources
  11. 2007 MSO of the Year: Charter—Back From the Brink :: Cable Fax Magazine
  12. 19 St. Louis companies named "Best Places to Work" - St. Louis Business Journal:
  13. BBB
  14. Charter Criticized by Better Business Bureau
  15. The Best and Worst ISPs
  16. dslreports.com
  17. Former Charter Channel Line up on the Midco Website
  18. Channel Line up on the Midco cable system in east central North Dakota
  19. New York Times
  20. The Inquirer
  21. Star Tribune
  22. Star Telegram
  23. WCNC-TV
  24. Louis Today
  25. GO.com
  26. Press Enterprise
  27. American City Business Journals, Inc.


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