Saturday, June 23, 2018
Business

Check your Spectrum bill — some say they were charged an improper wifi activation fee

Lara Bartelds has no beef with a broadband company charging customers a one-time activation fee for brand-new service.

But what happens when Spectrum is the new guy on the block and connects its network to the thousands of Tampa Bay customers the company inherited last year when it acquired Bright House Networks?

In Bartelds' case, she still got charged a new customer wifi activation fee.

Spectrum's response Wednesday: Oops, our bad.

Bartelds, 41, a Feather Sound resident in Clearwater, noticed a one-time "wifi activation" fee on her December Spectrum bill and twice called customer service demanding an explanation. She said Spectrum told her this was the charge customers must pay after its parent company, Charter Communications, bought Bright House last May.

Spectrum said the charge was a mistake, not policy, and waived the fee for Bartelds. But four additional Spectrum customers contacted the Tampa Bay Times after it posted a story about Bartelds saying they, too, were charged a wifi-connection charge on their December bills. All said they first signed up for Bright House Internet service years ago and their accounts were assumed by Spectrum.

"I didn't connect with them, they connected to me," said Bartelds, who works as a software technical analyst. "It wasn't my option to go from Bright House to Spectrum. It was their choice to buy Bright House. We're being penalized for their buyout."

Max Perez said he and his mother, Rosa Perez, 82, both of Tampa, saw the wifi-connection fee on their separate bills in December.

"My mom's on Social Security and every dollar counts," Perez said. "Spectrum said its computer system would not allow them to waive the fee. So I gave my mom $10 and said, 'Here, mom. Just pay it.' "

Tammy Sassin, a commercial real estate broker from Lutz, said she, too, was charged a $9.99 wifi fee in December, though she first signed up for Bright House Internet more than a decade ago.

"Mistake?" Sassin said. "No, no, no."

Though the Bright House acquisition was finalized last May, Charter did not begin rolling out its Spectrum brand locally until November, which might account for why such a charge has only recently appeared on bills.

Spectrum spokesman Joe Durkin said the fee should not apply to customers the company inherited from Bright House who already had Internet service. He said Spectrum is reviewing cases the Times has brought to its attention to see if the charges were appropriate.

Previous coverage: Bright House customers: You now belong to Spectrum for cable TV, phone and Internet service

Durkin said the company was investigating the issue but thought any mistaken billings would have been very limited.

"As you know, we've said from the beginning that Bright House legacy customers aren't going to see any change in their service or price package," Durkin said. "We have over a million customers in the Bay area, so this doesn't look like a widespread issue."

Frontier Communications, which acquired Verizon's TV, Internet and landline phone business last year, said it does not charge the customers it inherited any connection fee. Frontier spokeswoman Brigid Smith defended her company's rival, saying she was skeptical it was Spectrum policy to charge any such fee to existing customers.

"We don't want to push (Spectrum) under the bus," Smith said.

Bartelds, however, said she remains skeptical that Spectrum wasn't trying to sneak a charge by her.

"Their customer-service representatives were dismissive of me," she said. "A lot of people don't notice these kinds of charges. I think Spectrum was hoping we're just not paying attention to our bills."

Contact reporter William R. Levesque at [email protected] Follow @Times_Levesque.

Comments
Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

Tampa Bay workforce development initiative looks to Houston for lessons

The biggest hospitals in Houston had a problem.To earn a prized institutional certification, they needed more nurses with bachelor of science degrees in nursing.But local colleges were more focused on turning out nurses with two-year degrees who, to ...
Published: 06/22/18
Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

Health care IT company CareSync shuts down, laying off 292

TAMPA — The days ahead were supposed to be bright.For weeks, the future of health care tech company CareSync had been thrown into question as founder and CEO and founder Travis Bond unexpectedly departed, kicking off multiple rounds of layoffs. But t...
Published: 06/22/18
Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Coal and gas hold onto their share of electricity production, despite massive push for renewables

Here’s an intriguing set of facts: Coal produces the same percentage of the world’s electricity as 20 years ago. Oil and gas remain about level, too.Same for nonfossil fuel sources. In other words, the massive push towards renewables over the past co...
Published: 06/22/18
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes gen...
Published: 06/22/18
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Published: 06/22/18
For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

For sale: A Tampa Bay area elementary school where you can eat tacos and buy wine

ST. PETERSBURG — For sale: a 104-year-old elementary school with restaurant and wine shop. It even has a title company where you can close the deal.Less than a year after completing a major renovation of the historic North Ward school, developer Jona...
Published: 06/22/18
Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

Domain Homes: Buyers love them, some others don’t

TAMPA — When the 2008 financial crash brought down the nation’s housing market, hundreds of home builders went out of business. Among them was Sharon McSwain Homes in Atlanta, forced to liquidate in 2009.But just as developers like to develop, builde...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the companies behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over control of an old city building that sits between the hit eateries. Both want to redevelop the city&...
Published: 06/21/18
Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Orlando airport first to scan faces of U.S. citizens on international flights

Associated PressFlorida’s busiest airport is becoming the first in the nation to require a face scan of passengers on all arriving and departing international flights, including U.S. citizens, according to officials there. The expected announcement T...
Published: 06/21/18
Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Saboteur or whistleblower? Battle between Elon Musk and former Tesla employee turns ugly, exposing internal rancor

Hours after Tesla had sued its former employee on charges he had stolen company secrets, and days after chief Elon Musk had called him a saboteur, the Silicon Valley automaker made a startling claim. The company had received a call from a friend of t...
Published: 06/21/18