Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 6

MSO of the Year
With growth in mobile and even
video over the past year, Charter
Communications sets a high bar.
In May, a rather significant Charter Communications milestone
passed relatively unnoticed. The operator hit the five-year anniversary
of its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House
Networks. Perhaps the fact Charter was able to quickly deliver on
M&A promises and quiet those worried about integration is the
reason that few noticed the occasion. As for the Charter team, they
have been too busy moving forward to look back. However, if they
did, they'd see a stock price that's climbed more than 250% since
the acquisitions closed.
The past year and a half has been one for the record books for
Charter. It has continued to beat expectations on broadband additions,
with total internet customers surpassing 29 million at the end
of second quarter. It even managed to grow its residential video
customer base in 2020, while its peers posted declines.
The operator accelerated self-installations from roughly 50% of
sales at the end of 2019 to about 90% during the peak of the
COVID-19 pandemic. That figure now consistently hovers around the
80% mark. It added more than 450,000 new customers through its
60-day free broadband offer for families with students and teachers
and forgave more than $85 million in overdue balances. Internally,
it made a commitment not to lay off or furlough employees early on
in the pandemic and pledged to raise its minimum starting wage to
$20/hour by 2022.
Customer service VP Anabel Chavez discusses operations with CSR
Andy Martinez at the McAllen, Texas, call center she oversees.
Charter CEO Tom Rutledge credits the company's employees and
network for its success over these path 18 months. " As a critical
services provider we never closed. Our employees rose to the
challenge and their commitment and hard work kept customers
connected and brought millions of new internet customers onto our
network, " he tells CFX. " Since 2016, we invested over $40 billion in
infrastructure and technology. This includes investments in our fiber
backbone, and customer-facing projects like Charter's conversion
to digital self-service and installation capabilities. Because of these
investments we were able to provide exactly what our customers
need-reliable high-speed internet with enough capacity to support
the highest of bandwidth activities. "
John Bickham, Charter's president and COO, believes part of the
success during COVID-19 came down to doing a better job than
competitors. " We were willing to do what we had to do to get [customers]
installed, to fix their service-related issues, to deal with their
inability to pay, " he says. " The interesting thing is, while we were
doing that, we continued to do everything else that we normally do.
We kept building plant. We kept building and opening
call centers. And we augmented the network in a
substantial way because of all the growth. "
More growth is coming, with Charter committing to
extend its network to an FCC-estimated one million-plus
unserved customer locations in 24 states over the next
several years. It's a $5 billion commitment, offset by
more than $1.2 billion in awards from the FCC's Rural
Digital Opportunity Fund auction. " We just see it as an
opportunity to do well for Charter and do the right thing
actually in the country, because ultimately, broadband
will change who's willing to live in rural America, " Bickham
says. " We think that's good for Charter. We think
that's good for America. "
Bickham is gearing up to retire at the end of next year, but
in the meantime, he's not slowing down. Charter has put a
major emphasis on growing Spectrum Mobile, believing it
has the same sort of potential as landline phone did when
first introduced by cable operators. The Spectrum Mobile
business ended 2Q21 with 2.9 million lines.
6
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Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021

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Cablefax The Magazine - September 2021 - 1
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