What is Spectrum? Charter Spectrum, or simply Spectrum, is a new name to many parts of the country. Spectrum is the brand name for cable, Internet and phone service from Charter Communications.
Although Charter started using the Spectrum name prior to its merger, the name Spectrum gained prominence as a result of the second, fourth, and sixth-largest cable operators in the United States merging in 2016. Post-merger Charter is now a Fortune 100 company.
A brief history of Charter’s growth
Charter formed in St. Louis in 1993. By the end of the 1990s, it was no longer a regional outfit and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen owned controlling interest in the company. Charter entered the Fortune 500 in 2001 at #492.
As recently as 2015, Charter Communications was the fourth-largest cable TV provider in the country, with its customer base largely concentrated in states like Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, Alabama, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Michigan.
Buying Time Warner Cable in 2016 gave Charter new markets: New York, Ohio, North Carolina, southern California, Georgia, and some of Texas. The additional purchase of Bright House Networks gave Charter access to parts of Florida and more of Alabama.
These two acquisitions turned Charter into the second largest provider of its kind in the United States, trailing only Comcast.
Time Warner Cable didn’t have a very good reputation, regularly scoring dead last in consumer satisfaction surveys. Plus, it used a licensed trademark owned by its former parent company, Time Warner. There was no reason to keep that brand. It was a tarnished name and it cost money to continue using it.
Charter’s customer service has always been pretty good, although its service isn’t super reliable. Their service centers are in the United States and in parts of the country where people tend to be friendly and helpful. But Charter had some financial problems in its past, peaking in a 2009 bankruptcy. Spectrum is a more futuristic-sounding brand, especially given that many Charter competitors use fiber optics.
Bright House Networks had a good reputation, but it didn’t have any name recognition outside of the region it operated in.
Using the Spectrum brand rids Charter of any baggage related to its legacy brands. In former Time Warner Cable areas, Charter started running billboards declaring, “Time Warner Cable is now Spectrum. It’s a new day.”
What is Spectrum?
Although the name Spectrum conjures up images of fiber optics or wireless, it’s still traditional cable service for the most part. That said, it’s faster than many AT&T or Verizon fiber offerings. In my area, Spectrum’s slowest available tier is comparable to AT&T’s fastest available tier. Spectrum’s price per megabit is lower than AT&T’s. For a comparison of the two, see AT&T U-Verse vs Charter Spectrum.
Its TV, Internet and phone offerings are similar to the offerings from other cable and fiber operators. Spectrum isn’t as fast as Google Fiber, but it’s available in far more areas.
If you live in an area that Charter Communications had a large presence in for the last two decades, you won’t notice a lot of difference other than the re-branding. If you live in a former Time Warner Cable area, you’ll find Charter’s customer service to be much better, although its pricing will usually be higher. Charter has not been as aggressive about retiring the Bright House Networks brand name, often co-branding its offerings in former Bright House areas as Bright House Networks Spectrum.
Rumors about Spectrum
There’s been a rumor that AT&T bought Spectrum. This is a misunderstanding. AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner, the media company that once spun off Time Warner Cable.
In January 2017, rumors started circulating that Verizon would like to buy Charter. In the spring of 2017, rumors of Comcast attempting to buy Charter also started circulating. Neither company has made a formal public offer. There aren’t many other companies big enough to buy Charter, but for those who are, Charter is a compelling acquisition target in some ways.