Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WTF am I subscribed to? Autopsy of a Time Warner Cable Monthly Bill forManhattan Customers (Internet + TV + DVR)

My most recent monthly Time Warner Cable bill was for $154.88.When I first signed up for Time Warner Cable five years ago my monthly bill was about $120. TWC does have an initial subscriber deal where you pay lower amounts for a year, but I'm past that. $154.88 represents over a 25% increase. This is greater than $1,800 per year for TV, DVR, internet, and HBO, and it's starting to seem like a lot of money now.

But what are the details of what I'm pay for $154.88 a month for? What's the full list of channels I bought? Are there services I paid for but not using? What internet performance levels should I experience? Are there packages or bundles of products that TWC offers that fit what I want but are cheaper? Perhaps this review will reveal that I'm getting a good deal?

Let's take a look at my most recent monthly bill to see what I'm paying for. I don't get a paper bill so below is what I copy/pasted from the TWC website (payXpress, Time Warner Cable’s online bill pay system, now for residential subscribers folded into the MyServices of

Account Details

Current Statement Charges $154.88       

Hdxtra Combo Pack            $15.00
   Hdxtra $7.50 and
   DVR Service $7.50
   You've Saved $6.90 By 
   Subscribing To This Package. 

DTV Value And Hs            $124.75
   Converter $8.38, Road Runner 
   Online Svc $39.95, 
   Basic Service $19.05, 
   Package Allocation $.01,
   Remote $.21, DTV $10.01, 
   Standard Service $41.07,
   Extended Discount         -$6.07
   You've Saved $19.21 Subscribing 
   To This Package.

HBO And Pod                  $14.95

Service Adjustment(s)        -$ .06  
Paperless Credit             -$1.00  

View Taxes and Fees
     Franchise Fee            $6.20
     FCC Reg Fee-Cable        $ .08
     Public Access Fee        $1.03 

I know what HBO is but I'm challenged to tell you exactly what nearly everything else is. There's a couple of "You've Saved" lines in there so it appears I saved over $26 this month. Ironically I'm not feeling like I saved anything.

To get the kind of details I am looking for I online chatted with TWC customer support to drill into the bill. Generally TWC support has been helpful. The package "DTV Value And Hs" is the big ticket item on my bill as this is the bulk of my channels and my internet (spread across sub-packages Road Runner Online Svc, Basic Service, and Standard Service). But the TWC product offerings are like an onion and an enigma, there's many layers to their product offerings and they seem designed to confuse and obfuscate. So it's pretty complicated to enumerate all that's a part of my package. Customer support gave me a link to the Time Warner Cable Channel Lineups for Manhattan in a form that at least I can understand. Because the package "DTV Value And Hs" and its constituent parts are complex I'll have pull it apart in its own post. For this post I'll just give an overview of "DTV Value And Hs".

Here's the dirt from my chat with TWC support on each point from the bill above:

Hdxtra Combo Pack - $15.00
This package includes the "Hdxtra" package and the DVR Service for $15 total per month. I have a DVR and there is a monthly charge for it so this service included in this total. Hdxtra includes the Time Warner Cable Sports Pass (FOX Soccer Plus, ESPN Goal Line, and a couple others) and these four channels:

647: MAV TV HD (Movies, Action & Variety)
648: Smithsonian On Demand HD
649: Smithsonian Channel HD
650: MGM HD

I'm pretty sure I never watch these channels, but I have 'em!

How much would it cost for each of these services individually? The DVR service would cost $12.95/mo and HdXtra would cost $8.95/mo. So $21.90 in total but I'm charge $15 hence the line item "You saved $6.90 by subscribing to this package"

DTV Value And Hs - $124.75
This package includes the 'DTV Value' package and my internet connection. The 'Hs' stands for high speed. A few things are broken out under this package on my bill so I'll discuss each listed item:

Converter $8.38
This is the monthly charge for my cable box (I have Cisco Explorer 8300HD DVR).

Road Runner Online Svc $39.95
This is the monthly charge for internet access.

Basic Service $19.05
Monthly charge for the 'Basic Service' channel lineup.

Remote $.21
This is the monthly charge for the remote control provided by TWC.

Standard Service $41.07
Monthly charge for the 'Standard Service' channel lineup.

DTV $10.01
Monthly charge for the 'DTV' channel lineup.

Package Allocation $.01
I don't know what this is for but it's a penny for something.

Home Box Office - $14.95
HBO And Pod $14.95
HBO and HBO On Demand (Pod = Program/Premiums on Demand)

Taxes and Fees and Other
Service Adjustment(s) "-$.06"
This is the monthly interest on the $25 deposit we have to put down to secure the equipment from TWC (cable box and cable modem). That turns out to be a good APY actually, I wonder if TWC offers savings accounts.

Paperless Credit "-$1.00"
I save a buck a month for choosing not to receive a paper bill.

Franchise Fee $6.20
A franchise fee is imposed on cable operators by a city or town and is, essentially a price paid by the cable company to the city, to use the streets, roads and rights-of-way in a community in order to bring service to residents.

FCC Regulatory Fee-Cable $.08
The fees represent cost recovery for regulatory and other programs to offset the costs of complying with governmental regulations in New York State. They are not taxes and are subject to change. This description appears on all New York State phone bills as December 1, 2009 in the “Taxes and Fees” section of the statement.

Public Access Fee $1.03
Public access was developed as a means for residents to communicate locally through cable TV. Any person or non profit organization in the NYC community can learn how to produce a TV program which can be scheduled to be seen on public access. TWC is required by law to set aside four channels in each borough for public access.

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