Spectrum customers with email service through EarthLink will need to pay a monthly subscription fee if they want to keep using EarthLink, say customers and an email sent to EarthLink users last week.
"Our records show that you are receiving EarthLink email service but are not currently being billed for it or an internet service that includes email," the Spectrum email dated Aug. 22 said.
Charter Communications, Spectrum's parent company, bought Bright House and Time Warner Cable in a $71 billion deal in 2016.
Now, customers with EarthLink email addresses say they have been told they have until Sept. 25 to subscribe to a $4.95 monthly rate for EarthLink Premium Mail. If they don't agree to the fee, the email said, "your current EarthLink email account will be inactivated."
According to Scott Morris, spokesperson for EarthLink's parent company Windstream, that's because those customers at some point had internet through EarthLink that was likely in a bundle package offered through Bright House or Time Warner.
EarthLink discovered just under 15,000 accounts this year that were not paying for EarthLink internet anymore but still had active EarthLink email addresses.
Spectrum does not have a similar bundle package with EarthLink, Morris said, but it is unclear when those customers switched away from EarthLink internet and if it was directly related to Spectrum's acquisition.
Bill Beattie, a St. Petersburg resident, received the email last week. He called EarthLink to verify it was real, but wasn't able to get a clear answer from EarthLink or Spectrum about a reason for the change. Beattie was previously not charged for EarthLink service as a line item. He has used the email provider since the early 2000s.
"I'm just so tired," he said. "You can't get a decent answer here; you can't get a decent answer there."
Joe Durkin, director of Florida communications for Spectrum's parent company Charter Communications, said Spectrum has no involvement in the charge.
Across the country, Ronald Perry, a Santa Clarita, Calif., resident, has long used Earthlink as his email provider. He also has internet service through Spectrum, previously Time Warner.
Perry received the same email from Earthlink that Beattie did. Both companies, he said, refused to waive the fee.
"I've been with them (Earthlink) for 25 years," Perry said. "If that isn't a valued customer, I don't know what is."
Perry canceled his Earthlink account and spent hours switching his various accounts over to his new email address through Google.
Spectrum has come under fire from consumers for additional and hidden fees since it took over for Bright House. After Spectrum assured customers their rates wouldn't increase, some customers reported that their rates went up nearly 20 percent.
Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo on Twitter.