OLEAN — When an Olean resident opened her latest Spectrum cable bill she was angered to see a $5 increase.
“People, families, are out there trying to make it through a pandemic, and their cable bill goes up? Really?,” the resident, who asked not to be named, said in a phone call to the Olean Times Herald. “This shouldn’t be happening right now.”
An Upstate New York congressman agrees. Earlier this week, Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat from Utica, asked federal regulators to halt price hikes from internet service providers during the coronavirus pandemic while customers work from home.
Syracuse.com reported that Brindisi cited complaints from constituents about Spectrum internet and cable price increases as families face financial setbacks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Parents have no choice but to take even more from an already-squeezed family budget to pay their rising internet bills, or else their children could no longer participate in online classes,” Brindisi wrote to Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
Spectrum says rate increases for services, which include TV, internet and phone, are not across the board.
Lara Pritchard, spokeswoman for Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications, said not all of its customers are seeing rate hikes. She told the Finger Lakes Times that in many cases customers are seeing special-discount promotion packages coming to an end and regular rates kicking in.
Without seeing specifics in individual accounts, however, she said there is no catch-all explanation for changes.
The Olean customer — she and her husband are both healthcare workers — said she has had the same cable service, without deals, for two years and has seen constant increases.
Pritchard also said this week that Spectrum has no plans to increase internet prices for its customers. Spectrum agreed March 13 to offer free high-speed internet service and Wi-Fi for 60 days to households with students in grades K-12 who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription.
Spectrum also agreed to open its Wi-Fi hot spots across its service territory for public use during the pandemic.
In a letter to the FCC, Brindisi also asked the FCC to extend voluntary consumer protections that more than 700 companies and associations agreed to beginning March 13. The companies pledged not to terminate broadband or telephone service for residential or small business customers who can’t pay their bills.
The moratorium, due to last 60 days, included a pledge to waive late fees for customers struggling to pay their bills because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brindisi asked the FCC to extend those protections — and ban price increases — for at least 90 additional days.