Time Warner Cable, the Austin area’s dominant cable provider, has been busy lately rolling out new technology.
One of the newest items is the company’s Tech Tracker. Among other features, customers can get pre-appointment reminders. There’s also an option to get the name, identification number and even a photo of the technician en route to your home.
Notifications are sent via text or email.
Time Warner Cable also recently promised customers one-hour appointment windows, eliminating the need to block out all or part of the day to wait for a repairman.
Weekend storms that hit Hays County left many residents without cable TV, Internet and phone service.
Flooding impacted equipment used by Time Warner Cable and San Marcos-based Grande Communications, the companies said.
Monday, crews continued working to get things back to normal.
Grande, in particular, was hit hard. Two buildings at its San Marcos headquarters were flooded with about three feet of water, forcing customer care and technical support workers to relocate to facilities in Austin.
The company’s San Marcos retail location is temporarily closed.
“Every Grande executive has been standing at post since the moment of the flood,” Grande vice president Matt Rohre said. “The first priority has been the safety of employees, customers and the community in general, as well as the continuity of Grande services in all markets. Continued severe weather may slow some progress since the safety of employees and customers are a priority while we implement repairs.”
Rohre said about 99 percent of the company’s customers had already had their service restored by late Monday afternoon. The remaining outages are primarily commercial, he said, or related to a fiber cable across the Blanco River that must be replaced. That cable primarily serves the Buda area.
“Grande’s network remains in great shape,” Rohre said. “The flood waters at headquarters had little impact on the network itself. Rather some key equipment related to delivering services over the network received water damage. The vast majority of Grande customers continued to receive uninterrupted services throughout this event.”
Time Warner Cable said most of its outages in the San Marcos area were the result of a cable damaged by the weather. Crews had to wait for water to subside before the cable could be fixed.
“We appreciate our customers’ patience as we make these repairs as quickly and safely as possible,” spokeswoman Melissa Sorola said.
For many Central Texans, the cost of cable TV is about to go up.
Time Warner Cable, the area’s dominant cable provider, says it will increase several of its monthly fees starting as soon as next week. Other carriers, including AT&T, have also announced plans to hike rates this year.
Cable and satellite companies say escalating programming costs paid to local broadcast stations and national cable networks are primarily to blame for the higher prices.
“We do everything we can to control programming costs, but the exorbitant increases in sports and broadcast programming fees are the driving force behind these customer increases,” said Time Warner Cable spokeswoman Melissa Sorola.
The exact amounts cable and satellite companies pay per channel aren’t typically made public, but fees Time Warner Cable pays to carry local broadcast stations such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC affiliates have soared 60 percent in the past two years, according to Sorola. That’s why Time Warner is raising its broadcast TV surcharge from $2.25 per month to $2.75 per month.
Fees for sports programming have gone up even more, Sorola said. Since 2008, Time Warner Cable says its payments to sports networks such as ESPN have jumped 91 percent. That’s why Time Warner Cable is implementing a new $2.75 monthly sports programming surcharge.
Several other cable and satellite providers already have sports programming surcharges in place.
“The broadcast TV and sports programming surcharges listed on customer bills represent only a fraction of what we actually pay for broadcast TV and sports content,” Sorola said.
There’s no way for customers to opt out of paying the new fees by dropping broadcast and sports networks while keeping other channels not subject to the surcharges, Sorola said.
For most customers, the new fees take effect with the billing cycle that begins Monday. But about a third of all Time Warner Cable’s Central Texas customers won’t immediately see the broadcast TV surcharge increase and the new sports programming surcharge on their bills because they’re signed up for promotional packages, Sorola said.
Also this month, the prices for HBO and Movie Pass will both rise $2 to $16.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively.
Other charges Time Warner Cable will raise include fees for digital adapters and Internet modem leases. Customers can avoid the charge for leasing a modem by acquiring a Time Warner Cable-approved modem from retailers such as Best Buy, Sorola said.
“For customers who do choose to lease a modem from us, we’re investing millions of dollars in deploying new modems that support faster speeds and a better Internet experience in all our markets,” Sorola said. “Plus those customers are guaranteed full support and maintenance for their Time Warner Cable modem, including replacement of any malfunctioning modems.”
AT&T’s U-verse rate hikes will appear on billing statements beginning Feb. 1, a spokeswoman said. Prices for many popular plans will grow by $3 per month, while the broadcast TV surcharge will increase by $1. The prices for some receivers will also go up $1.
Customers who are receiving a special U-verse promotional rate will not see the higher charges until their promotional rate expires, AT&T said.
A look at the new (and previous) monthly fees charged by Time Warner Cable:
Many Central Texas Time Warner Cable customers will soon need additional equipment to keep watching their favorite cable networks.
The area’s largest cable company will go all-digital on Jan. 20, a move that will free up bandwidth that could potentially be used to offer super-fast 1-gigabit Internet service one day, a company spokeswoman said.