Charter Spectrum Cable Internet Review
- March 21, 2018 - We’ve elaborated on details around Charter Spectrum’s services to give readers a fuller picture of its cable internet.
- January 19, 2018 - Charter Communications acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016, and rebranded the collective service as Spectrum. We’ve updated this review to address pricing and package details that have changed since then.
Our Charter Spectrum Review
With high speeds, no data caps, and several perks to bundling, Charter Spectrum is a promising cable internet provider. In most cities, you’ll often have the choice between 60 Mbps or 100 Mbps, speeds quick enough for a family of heavy internet users. By adding other telecom services to that, you’ll get promotional deals like free DVR service, a free modem, and free installation. If you’re looking to leave your current provider, Charter Spectrum will help cover any early termination fees up to $500, without the obligation of a new contract.
Spectrum claims to have the fastest cable internet speeds. So fast, it claims, it's "15x faster than AT&T U-verse® Internet service***” Notice all those stars? We’ll get to that soon.
Impressively, it also claims that it “doesn't throttle your speed or have data caps.” Typically, internet providers will slow your speeds if you exceed data limits. Spectrum claims you can do all the uploading, downloading, and streaming you want without consequence.
Spectrum also offers a free internet modem (typically a $10 – $15 monthly charge). If you can’t switch to Charter yet because of a current provider, Spectrum will help buyout your contract up to $500.
All these perks add up to make Charter Spectrum out to be the best internet provider on the market. But we dug into the details to see how well those claims hold up.
Is it true?
Mostly. To qualify for most of these perks, you’ll have to sign up for its Triple Play or Double Play promotional packages. That means TV and phone service, too.
Down in the fine print, Spectrum’s clarifies that “speeds 15x faster” really means “Speeds compared to 6 Mbps AT&T U-verse.”
There’s not much stock in the claim when it’s chosen to compare Charter’s fastest plan to one of AT&T’s slowest. AT&T offers internet speeds that nearly match Charter Spectrum, depending on your area.
As part of rebranding to Spectrum, the company has simplified its plans, narrowing it down to just two speed options. This is a far cry from the four to six that most companies in the industry offer.
The standard is a sufficiently speedy 60 Mbps, and that may be your only option. Some addresses can also upgrade to 100 Mbps. 60 Mbps is a great speed for the average household, but if you have more five people doing lots of demanding activity (downloading, gaming, streaming), you’ll want to opt for the 100 Mbps.
Charter encourages its customers to bundle, and you’ll get the best perks when doing so. It offers exclusive price cuts for the Triple Play plan; including free install (normally $35), WiFi setup ($10) and DVR service ($13 per month). Initial savings can total upwards of $200 in the first year alone.
If you don’t like any of its most popular bundles, you can always create your own. You can choose your cable internet package and add in TV and phone service if you like. Options like these make it easy to get exactly what you are looking for at a good price.
If Charter is available in your area, it’s likely to be your default choice for internet and TV unless you want satellite television service.
However, because its contracts only last for 12 months, those sweet savings will time out fairly quick. These prices then increase and your DVR service is no longer free. What’s more, the prices will go up again after two years of service. If you’re the type of person who likes to lock in one price for a long period of time, these price increases can get frustrating and are often unexpected. You always have the option to call up your provider when this does happen, and request your promotional prices be extended. The last thing an internet provider wants, is a customer to leave for another company.
A Closer Look at Features
|Best for||Heavy internet users
People whose current provider charges an early termination fee
|Not for||Light internet users|
|Speed options||60 Mbps, 100 Mbps|
|Fees||$50 professional install, $10 WiFi Activation|
|JD Power rating||5/5|
|Number of states serviced||45|
Our Deep Dive
Spectrum Plans & Pricing
- Simplified plans: In most cities choosing your package will be simple, as Spectrum offers just two speed plans. Those two speeds may vary but its most typically 60 Mbps and 100 Mbps. Both cater towards more average and advanced speed needs, but start at just $30 per month.
- Bundling services: Bundling your internet service with TV and a phone line will come with a free internet modem, free DVR service, and a free installation. Each freebie is typically priced around $10-$15 per month, and amount to significant savings. Each service (phone, internet, TV) will cost $30 each per month in most promotional packages.
- Data caps: Spectrum is one of the few providers that doesn’t cap data usage. Measured in GB, data is the amount of information you can upload, download, and stream. Most households can work with 250 to 500 GB, but internet junkies will rejoice in Spectrum’s unlimited supply. And as entertainment trends continue to advance and technology like 4K streaming normalizes, the data demands will increase. Charter’s lack of data cap will ensure your plan can keep up.
Spectrum Customer Satisfaction
- Customer service: When Charter rebranded, it focused on improving a poor customer service reputation. In 2017, Spectrum received a 65/100 from the ACSI, 66/100 Reader Score from Consumer Reports, and a 5/5 from J.D. Power. While its customer satisfaction ratings can’t compete with AT&T or Verizon, it rates about average and has improved since it was separately Time Warner and Charter Communications. We’re optimistic about where it’s headed.
- Reliability of performance: The Federal Communications Commission tracks the performance and reliability of internet providers. They found that 90% of the time, Charter Spectrum is giving customers more than 95% of the advertised speeds. Only falling behind Optimum and Comcast, but beating out every other provider.
What Others Are Saying
Last year, Charter Communications allegedly misled customers about the speeds they were getting.
According to CNET, “New York's attorney general is suing the second-largest cable operator in the US, claiming the company lied about internet speeds.” The majority of its customers in the New York region were receiving an average of 80% slower speeds than they were paying for. The suit was against Time Warner specifically, in regards to its performance before the merger. Charter has since worked to improve the performance for its collective customers.
Spectrum now offers its own TV streaming service, but it’s not necessarily a better value than traditional cable.
The LA Times reported on Spectrum's new streaming service, launched quietly this year. On the surface, it appears to be an a-la carte option that’s cheaper than the competition's cable streaming services, “But there's a big catch: You have to be a Spectrum internet customer. Once all the costs are added up, it still might make more sense to stick with cable.” Unlike other streaming service, you have to be connected to your Spectrum home internet to use the service. If you’re on the go at an airport or Starbucks, you won’t be able to use the streaming service.
Charter Spectrum vs. The Competition
Charter Spectrum vs. Mediacom
A high-speed provider that offers speed ranging from 60 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps. You can also choose from a range of data options: 400 GB to 6,000 GB. Both of its max caps are more than the majority will need. Be wary of its customer service though, as Mediacom consistently tanks in rankings.
Charter Spectrum vs. Cox Communications
One of the few providers that offer speeds below 10 Mbps, although 5 Mbps will cost you $30 in most cities (a terrible value in comparison to other providers). For $10 more, you can 50 Mbps with Charter Spectrum.
Charter Spectrum vs. AT&T Internet
Consistently achieves the top customer services scores and will subvert some of your most terrible service provider expectations. It has generous data limits of 1 TB, but you may only have a 50 Mbps internet-only plan depending on your address.
Cheaper (or Free) Alternatives
When it comes to price, Charter Spectrum offers some fair prices with solid value. There are a few ways you can make your current internet plan more affordable.
- Test your speed: Internet plans carefully articulate that your package will get speeds “up to” a specific Mbps. Calculators like Speedtest and Fast.com will tell you how much speed you’re actually getting. If it’s slower than what you pay for but is fast enough for your usage, consider lowering your plan to a cheaper package.
- Purchase your own equipment: Rather than paying $10 to $15 in monthly rental fees, you can buy your own router for less than $100. Chances are it’ll deliver better speeds, too.
- Call to negotiate: It’s a tried and true fact that your internet service provider wants to keep you as a customer. Call up and tell them you’re considering another provider, and keep in mind that sometimes only a manager has the authority to adjust your rates.
The Bottom Line — Charter Spectrum Cable Internet Review
Charter Spectrum is a promising internet provider with some great promotional deals. If it’s available at your address, consider bundling to take full advantage of price cuts and free services.