Charter recently acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Former customers of those networks are currently being transitioned to Spectrum. This transition has generated some growing pains for the company.  That said, their network gets strong points overall for its high speeds and contract-free service.
If you’re choosing between Charter Spectrum and traditional DSL services like AT&T or CenturyLink, Charter is a solid choice — especially if you want to bundle TV service with your plan. Their internet service is free of data caps, making Spectrum a strong choice for “cord-cutters” who want to use a Roku or similar device instead of traditional cable TV.
Important: Before reading, use this tool to make sure you can get Charter Spectrum at your address.
Deal Alert: Charter will pay your ETF with another provider.Charter is currently offering to pay early termination fees for subscribers who want to switch to Spectrum but are trapped in a contract by another provider. Under some circumstances, they will pay up to $500 to release your contract and establish new contract-free service from Spectrum.
Charter’s Plans: One Size Fits All
There are two ways to sell ice cream: sell every flavor and try to please everyone, or pick one that most people like. Charter follows the “pick one flavor” strategy.
The Spectrum strategy of offering one basic Internet plan in every service area isn’t a huge hit with techies. However, it’s honestly a good thing for the average internet subscriber. The speeds are enough to handle HD streaming even on “basic” plans, and they’re expanding their network dramatically throughout 2018.
They spice things up a bit when it comes to TV plans, offering several bundle packages to choose from. These may or may not be worthwhile, depending on how much binge-watching you plan on getting into.
|Deals||Price Monthly||Internet Speed||Phone|
|Spectrum Internet — Best Internet-Only Deal||$4499||100 Mbps Cable||(844) 293-0108|
|Spectrum Double Play Select||$8998||100 Mbps Cable||(844) 293-0108|
|Triple Play Select – Top Internet/TV/Phone Bundle Plan||$9997||100 Mbps Cable||(844) 293-0108|
|Triple Play Silver||$11997||100 Mbps Cable||(844) 293-0108|
|Triple Play Gold||$13997||100 Mbps Cable||(844) 293-0108|
If you're looking to compare plans, make sure to check out our detailed guide on the latest Charter Spectrum deals and promotions.
Charter Spectrum Availability
Charter Spectrum Coverage & Availability Map
Charter has one of the widest coverage footprints among US cable providers. Their acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks has expanded that territory dramatically, and they’ve been working to improve and standardize network performance in newly acquired areas.
Spectrum Speed Report
Charter speeds hit the “Goldilocks” mark: not too slow, but not too fast.
Of course, power users are likely to be happier with pure fiber from a specialty provider. For “the rest of us,” though, Charter’s base plans are just right for a busy household of gaming, streaming, and surfing the web.
Charter Spectrum Download Speeds Over Time
|City||Charter Spectrum Average Speed||Charter Spectrum Top 10% Speeds|
|Austin, Texas||68 Mbps||181 Mbps|
|Brooklyn, New York||58 Mbps||140 Mbps|
|Buffalo, New York||28 Mbps||78 Mbps|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||49 Mbps||112 Mbps|
|Cincinnati, Ohio||54 Mbps||132 Mbps|
|Cleveland, Ohio||38 Mbps||89 Mbps|
|Columbus, Ohio||38 Mbps||95 Mbps|
|Dallas, Texas||67 Mbps||163 Mbps|
|El Paso, Texas||39 Mbps||95 Mbps|
|Fort Worth, Texas||52 Mbps||107 Mbps|
|Kansas City, Missouri||54 Mbps||128 Mbps|
|Los Angeles, California||54 Mbps||114 Mbps|
|Louisville, Kentucky||51 Mbps||108 Mbps|
|Milwaukee, Wisconsin||56 Mbps||107 Mbps|
|New York, New York||65 Mbps||165 Mbps|
|Orlando, Florida||43 Mbps||91 Mbps|
|Saint Louis, Missouri||49 Mbps||111 Mbps|
|San Antonio, Texas||66 Mbps||154 Mbps|
|San Diego, California||54 Mbps||129 Mbps|
|Tampa, Florida||46 Mbps||98 Mbps|
Charter Communications is Data Cap Free
Perhaps the largest advantage Charter holds over other providers is that they don’t have data caps.
This is a great perk for Netflix junkies and streamers who want to enjoy entertainment through the Internet without worrying about getting slapped with a monster overage fee if they go over on their data usage. (Many other cable providers on the market start charging after a terabyte or so.)
Charter Spectrum Actual Speeds vs Advertised Speed
Charter has a strong reputation compared to most cable providers when it comes to delivering speeds as-advertised. The FCC rated them highly in their annual report on fixed broadband in the US, alongside other national cable providers. According to their report, 85% of test Spectrum users were able to achieve 95% of the advertised speed for their area or greater.  Of course, there are always a few things you can do to optimize your Wifi connection even further.
We had someone on our team run speed tests while transferring their Spectrum service from one city to another. The results were similar, with speeds taken on a weekday morning in two major metro areas yielding results within 5% or exceeding the advertised speed:
Charter Spectrum vs Time Warner Cable: What Happens to My Old Plan?
Not all customers are happy with having their Time Warner Cable or Bright House Networks internet plans changed over to Spectrum. It can’t be avoided, though, and it’s actually a good thing for some customers, as Charter is making an effort to eliminate hidden fees and contracts in favor of one-size-fits-all pricing.
Will My Rate Go Up If I Used to Have TWC or Bright House Service?
In the short term, no. In the long term, probably, assuming you’re on some sort of promo rate from Time Warner Cable or Bright House that has a time limit. (New customer promos, special rates, etc.)
Many customers of Time Warner Cable and Bright House have gotten used to being able to call up their provider every year and argue for a better rate. This is great for the customers who are willing to spend a few hours on the phone every year, but it’s bad for everyone who would rather just pay one fair rate that they understand with no haggling.
Charter Spectrum isn’t grandfathering in all of those “extended promo” rates customers argued for over the years, and instead requires customers to pay the sticker price if they want service.
This is a bummer for budget shoppers and deal hunters — but it’s a good thing for the average customer who doesn’t want to get gouged while their neighbor pays half the rate for the same service.
The only real “hidden” fee we found with Charter was the router fee. Otherwise, the pricing is reasonably straightforward and they list out extra items up-front.
Modem/router FeesEvery home Internet connection requires two things to function: a modem and a router. The modem transforms cable signal into digital data, while the router creates your Wi-Fi bubble and routes traffic to your various devices.
Charter Spectrum includes the modem for free with Internet service. The router, however, costs an extra $5/month. For this reason, customers who plan to use Charter for more than a year are probably better off buying their own router from a third party outright. Charter lists general feature recommendations for router shopping on their website.
Charter Spectrum vs DSL Providers
Charter gets high marks for their surprisingly high base speed — usually in the neighborhood of 60 Mbps. (Your mileage may vary, depending on service area.)
This high speed is thanks to their hybrid fiber-coaxial cable network. Unlike DSL, which pipes Internet through phone lines, cable providers like Charter Spectrum use higher-bandwidth coaxial cables from TV networks. This isn’t as ideal as 100% fiber, but it’s usually the best choice for the average Internet-using household.
Because cable networks are underground rather than on phone lines, they’re less susceptible to storm damage and other outages, resulting in a more reliable and secure connection.
Charter Spectrum Installation: The Only Fee Spectrum Lets You Negotiate
We found that Charter’s installation fees vary from area, and according to some customers we spoke with you can sometimes even talk your way out of them if ordering over the phone. This will likely change in the future, as Spectrum is generally strict on pricing.
Compared to other cable providers, their fees were lower than average — which is a bit surprising (in a good way) considering that they offer contract-free service.
They also stick to a punctual installation schedule (advertised as “one-hour appointment window”). A nice perk for those of us who don’t have time to wait for the cable guy all day.
Charter Spectrum TV Options
TV is another area where Charter distinguishes itself, although their plans can be pricey compared to satellite options even when bundled.
If you’re a sports fan, be sure to check the seasonal sports and sports package bundles from DirecTV and DISH before you make the call. In all other departments, we found Charter’s value to be strong.
Charter Spectrum TV Plans and Channels
Charter TV comes in three flavors: Select, Silver, and Gold.
On the lower end, you’re looking at 125+ channels. To Charter’s credit, that is much more variety than what many companies offer with their “value” tier. On the higher end of the spectrum, you get closer to 200, including sports must-haves like NFL RedZone. Here is a breakdown of a few of the sports offerings included in each of the three tiers:
Select Sports Channels
- Fox Sports 1
- Longhorn Network
- NBC Sports Network
Silver Sports Channels
- Everything in the Select tier
- CBS Sports Network
- FOX Sports 2
- Golf Channel
- MLB Network
- NFL Network
- Tennis Channel
Gold Sports Channels
- Everything in the Select and Silver tiers
- ESPN Classic
- NFL RedZone
- Outdoor Channel
Pricing for Charter’s TV plans tend to be a bit steep as standalone offers. That said, the price comes down dramatically for bundled Internet/TV/phone deals. Just keep an eye out for the final pricing once the promo runs out, particularly if you plan to subscribe for multiple years.
DVR options with Charter
Charter’s DVR service is decent and comes in at $11.99/month for one DVR and $19.99/month for additional units. The DVRs themselves vary in make and model depending on your service area and when you sign up, but considering the price is a third what some competitor’s charge, we consider it a good deal for a flexible setup.
Conclusion: Charter Spectrum is Pricey, But Perfect for TV Bingers
To sum it up, Charter hits a lot of the sweet spots for home Internet service: no contract, no data caps, no hidden fees, reasonable pricing, and efficient installation.
What they lack in plan flexibility they make up for in pricing. Hardcore techies might fine some of the specs lacking, but for the 99% of us that just want to get online and be done with it, Charter Spectrum makes it easy and affordable to do so.
Charter Spectrum at a Glance
|Price Range||$44.99 - $139.97/mo+|
|Connection Type(s)||Cable & Fiber|
|Customer Recommendation Rating on BroadbandNow.com||49.9%|
|ACSI Customer Service Rating||63/100|
|Phone Number||(844) 293-0108|
References and Footnotes
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_Communications#2014.E2.80.932017:_Acquisition_of_Time_Warner_Cable_and_Bright_House ↩
- https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/06/charter-we-wont-impose-data-caps-after-buying-time-warner-cable/ ↩
- https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/reports/measuring-broadband-america/measuring-fixed-broadband-report-2016#_Toc464398839 ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_(cable_service) ↩
Jessica Sims is a technology blogger and broadband industry veteran. Her background as an administrator and customer support employee for a major ISP informs her passion for helping consumers understand their service options.
Ana De Castro
Ana De Castro cut her teeth as a SAP consultant for Deloitte during the original tech boom, and now works in a communications role in the telecom industry. When she isn’t explaining technical concepts to confused consumers, she enjoys traveling with her husband and two rambunctious kids.
Questions & Answers
2 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
I have 100 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload speeds. Why is my upload speed so slow?
Most of the things that regular users do online involves downloading – view email, websites, videos, etc. – so internet service providers have design their network to prioritize download versus upload. A connection that has different download and upload speeds is called asymmetrical. Some internet providers offer symmetrical plans that have the same download and upload speeds.
Is Spectrum reliable enough for gaming?
Spectrum is more reliable than DSL, and pretty much in line with other cable companies like Xfinity/Cox/Mediacom when it comes to uptime and dependability. The biggest issue you’ll face is reduced speeds during “peak use” times when everyone in your neighborhood is using the connection at the same time. Not usually a big issue for gamers, actually, since it doesn’t affect latency significantly. Go with fiber if you have the option — if not, Spectrum is good enough for most gamers and Twitch users.