Light Reading

Time Warner Subscribers Sue

Alan Breznick
11/28/2006
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In a sign of growing consumer discontent over service outages resulting from the takeover of Adelphia Communications , former Adelphia and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) subscribers are suing Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) in Los Angeles as it grapples with system integration issues.

Beverly Hills law firm Glassman, Browning & Saltsman Inc. lodged the potential class-action lawsuit against Time Warner on behalf of one of the unhappy subscribers last week. The complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court just before Thanksgiving, charges that the nation's second largest MSO suffered numerous service breakdowns, broke pledges to its new subscribers, and didn't offer rebates or credits for cable outages after beginning the process of integrating the old Adelphia and Comcast systems last month.

"This widespread disruption made a mockery of [Time Warner's] promises that these cable services would not be interrupted as a result of the migration, and that they would provide plaintiffs with high-quality customer service," the suit alleges. Among other things, the complaint charges the MSO with breach of contract, franchise violations, fraud and deceit, and negligent misrepresentation.

The suit seeks damages, attorneys' fees, interest payments, and other compensation for the aggrieved subscribers.

The plaintiffs are also seeking class-action status, which would allow the suit to cover potentially all of the 1.6 million new Time Warner customers in the Los Angeles area.

Time Warner Cable, which previously had only 350,000 cable subscribers in that market, inherited 1.1 million customers as part of its Adelphia buyout and another 500,000 through a related system swap with Comcast. As a result, its cable market share has jumped from a mere 15 percent to a commanding 75 percent.

The legal action comes after weeks of complaints by former Adelphia and Comcast subscribers that Time Warner has been bungling the massive switchover from the two other companies' operations. Customers have griped about losing broadband service for days on end, getting their emails blocked, experiencing unwanted changes in their TV channel lineups, and suffering long waits for customer service and tech support.

"We appear to have hit a raw nerve," says Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, a partner at Glassman, Browning & Saltsman. "Consumers have been driven around the bend."

Rufus-Isaacs says he filed the suit in response to initial complaints from "half a dozen" cable subscribers and local press reports about the outages. Contending that Time Warner's actions "seemed a particularly outrageous violation" of law, Rufus-Isaacs says he has since heard from more than 20 other subscribers.

"We have been deluged with people calling in and emailing in," he says. "I dare say we'll be adding these additional people."

Citing the company's long-standing policy, a Time Warner Cable spokesman declined comment on the suit and said he couldn't estimate the extent of the problems. The complaint has not yet been served against the MSO.

Time Warner is not the only MSO to run into pesky service problems while trying to integrate Adelphia's operations into its own. As reported last month, Comcast has encountered plenty of headaches converting Adelphia systems in such Northeastern markets as Pittsburgh and Burlington, Vt.

But the Los Angeles situation is a particularly problematic one for Time Warner, as it's struggling to integrate a huge mish-mash of 16 cable headends, 69 cable hubs, and 30,000 miles of plant spread over a sprawling five-county area.

Time Warner is also trying to pull together three large cable systems with more than 100 different TV channel lineups, eight different set-top box models, four different cable modem models, three different billing systems, and three different video-on-demand (VOD) platforms. So it's not terribly surprising that it's experiencing so many technical glitches in L.A.

At the same time that it's working on the Los Angeles market, Time Warner is integrating large Adelphia and Comcast systems in Buffalo, N.Y.; Cleveland; and Dallas. But the L.A. operations still dwarf all of those.

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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InternationalRelationsXPERT
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InternationalRelationsXPERT,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/15/2013 | 11:10:55 PM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
Can we sue Mediacom for the same reason!
optodoofus
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optodoofus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:50 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
So far, twenty six people are known to have been affected. Oh, the humanity. Thank goodness that a lawyer has stepped in to help. I am certain that he is doing this just to help those poor peole. The end result: lawyer pockets millions, TW subscribers get a coupon for a free VOD movie and a bag of microwave popcorn.

I am not suggesting that TW should get off-the-hook for their crappy customer service. it's just that having lawyers involved is not going to help anyone at all - except for the lawyers, that is.

It must be a slow week for auto accidents.

optodoofus
OptixCal
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OptixCal,
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12/5/2012 | 3:33:49 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
Hey Doofus,
26 is JUST the beginning. Unless you're having great success with Time Warner or you're an employee ao (worse yet, a majority stockholder) you have NO CLUE how screwed up this transition has been. I have transmissions that stop and start in a freeze-frame, herky-jerky motion that is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE. I have met my limit with s****y CATV service, not that Adelphia was any great shakes, but these guys are just plain useless! I'm tired of jacked-up prices, limited programming and bad transmissions; and AND BRING BACK NFL NETWORK, DAMMIT! Before this is all over, it's going to be closer to 2.6 MILLION subscribers, not 26.
materialgirl
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materialgirl,
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12/5/2012 | 3:33:48 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
If we had open standards for this stuff, it would not be so complicated and these problems would not happen. How often does YouTube go down?
spelurker
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spelurker,
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12/5/2012 | 3:33:48 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
> If we had open standards for this stuff, it would not be so complicated
> and these problems would not happen. How often does YouTube go down?

Yes it would be 'this complicated'.

YouTube has a bunch of servers and 2 minute video clips. They've never had to deal with a service delivery infrastructure of any sort, let alone combining three different ones.
I'm not saying that TW is doing a wonderful job with their switchovers [frankly, this isn't the first time I've heard testimony to suggest they aren't handling it very well] but that isn't an effect of whether the services are based on a particular standard.
optodoofus
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optodoofus,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:46 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
OptixCal,

Sorry you are having a difficult time with TW. If you want to send them a message, then switch to a sattelite service. That's what I did when I got sick of Comcast's ever-escalating cable bills. I guarantee that losing subscribers by the thousands will get a lot more attention than this lawsuit. Of course, it won't make any lawyers rich. Oh wait, that's a good thing.

optodoofus
Michael Harris
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Michael Harris,
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12/5/2012 | 3:33:45 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
If we had open standards for this stuff, it would not be so complicated and these problems would not happen. How often does YouTube go down?

Essentially, every aspect of an MSO's IP service infrastructure is based on open standards. However, that's no guarantee they will operate these standards-based products in way that enables reliable service. :)

Digital video is a whole different story for cable, of course. That said, any comparison to YouTube is a stretch. Satellite or telco TV is far more analagous.
materialgirl
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materialgirl,
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12/5/2012 | 3:33:44 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
The fact is, YouTube is sending on-demand video around the planet with a staff of 70 or so people. They do not need billions of dollars of investment, or armies of technicians, or years or months of contract negotiations with content providers, or IMS or CSCO CRS-1 routers or special set-top boxes. They are doing it now, on what-ever network is available. It may not have the best quality, but it is good enough for millions of people.
Michael Harris
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Michael Harris,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:37 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
It may not have the best quality, but it is good enough for millions of people.

Exactly. If Time Warner offered their video service for free, it would be good enough for millions too, even when flaky.

However, when consumer pay for home entertainment video, they they typically want to watch it on their TV and expect good video quality and reliabilty. YouTube would not make the cut on that basis today. It would be very cool if this were possible in the future, though.
chip_mate
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chip_mate,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 3:33:34 AM
re: Time Warner Subscribers Sue
"The fact is, YouTube is sending on-demand video around the planet with a staff of 70 or so people. They do not need billions of dollars of investment, or armies of technicians, or years or months of contract negotiations with content providers, or IMS or CSCO CRS-1 routers or special set-top boxes. They are doing it now, on what-ever network is available. It may not have the best quality, but it is good enough for millions of people."

I've had a couple of YouTube videos time out. As I am "paying" for this service by looking at Advertisements, YouTube has unwritten contractual obligation to deliver uninteruppted service to me.

I am thinking of suing YouTube based on these grounds. Who's with me?

Of course, if migratory African Swallows get involved, our charge against the YouTube castle will be met with taunts and more taunts.
:-0
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