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 for high speeds and contract-free service.
If you’re choosing between Charter Spectrum and traditional DSL service 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 an 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 providerCharter 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, with several bundle packages 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||(855) 691-0895|
|Spectrum TV Select + Internet||$8998||100 Mbps Cable||(855) 691-0895|
|Triple Play Select – Top Internet/TV/Phone Bundle Plan||$8997||100 Mbps Cable||(855) 691-0895|
|Triple Play Silver||$10997||100 Mbps Cable||(855) 691-0895|
|Triple Play Gold||$12997||100 Mbps Cable||(855) 691-0895|
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.
Power users are likely to be happier with pure fiber from a specialty provider, but for “the rest of us,” 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||59 Mbps||153 Mbps|
|Brooklyn, New York||46 Mbps||112 Mbps|
|Buffalo, New York||18 Mbps||48 Mbps|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||46 Mbps||104 Mbps|
|Cincinnati, Ohio||45 Mbps||101 Mbps|
|Cleveland, Ohio||29 Mbps||77 Mbps|
|Columbus, Ohio||34 Mbps||87 Mbps|
|Dallas, Texas||57 Mbps||112 Mbps|
|El Paso, Texas||33 Mbps||89 Mbps|
|Fort Worth, Texas||46 Mbps||101 Mbps|
|Kansas City, Missouri||51 Mbps||142 Mbps|
|Los Angeles, California||47 Mbps||109 Mbps|
|Louisville, Kentucky||48 Mbps||99 Mbps|
|Milwaukee, Wisconsin||49 Mbps||103 Mbps|
|New York, New York||55 Mbps||116 Mbps|
|Orlando, Florida||38 Mbps||87 Mbps|
|Saint Louis, Missouri||48 Mbps||109 Mbps|
|San Antonio, Texas||62 Mbps||144 Mbps|
|San Diego, California||46 Mbps||106 Mbps|
|Tampa, Florida||42 Mbps||99 Mbps|
Charter Communications is Data Cap Free
Perhaps the biggest checkmark in Charter’s favor 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. 
We had someone on our team who was transferring between two cities with Spectrum service run speed tests on their service and record the results. The results were similar, with speeds taken on a weekday morning in two major metro areas yielding results within 5% or 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 change 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 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 TV Plans and Channels
Charter TV comes in three flavors: Select, Silver, and Gold.
On the lower end, you’re looking at 125+ channels. On the golden end of the spectrum, you get closer to 200, including sports must-haves like NFL RedZone.
Pricing for Charter’s TV plans in steep as standalone offers, but comes down dramatically for bundled Internet/TV/phone deals. Just keep an eye 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 at a $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 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.
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
1 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
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.