An Un-Happy Un-Customer

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

I have written previously about my attempts over the years to have high-speed Internet service installed in my house, and how all of my efforts have failed. I recently tried again with our local cable company, Cable One in Sherman.

When we first moved into our house in 2000, there was no cable service anywhere close by, not even in the subdivision that borders our north property line (which also marks the city limits of Denison). A couple of years later, Cable One extended their lines from the city into the subdivision, and I was hopeful we would soon be able to sign up for service as well. But, it was not to be. They did not run the cable the extra distance to reach our street – they literally stopped at the city limits.

With no hope of ever getting cable service, I installed a satellite Internet system. It works as well as it can, but it costs about twice as much as cable, the speed is nowhere close, and to top it all off there is a bandwidth limit. In the six years since we got it, our usage has grown just like it has for everyone else in the rest of the world – keep in mind Facebook, YouTube, and all those sophisticated websites that have complex graphics and streaming media did not exist five years ago. Now, we routinely exceed our bandwidth limit and have our service slowed to an almost-useless speed as “punishment” (you may have seen my previous blog posting about being “FAPped”). I work from home 80% of the time now as well, so when our connection is slowed it directly impacts my job.

To make a long story short, we really need better service.

As luck would have it, there were some new homes set up along the street to the east of us (I say “set up” because they are all doublewide trailers, not stick-built houses like mine). Shortly after two new homes were set up within 300 feet of my house, I saw Cable One trucks out running lines down our street. They ran lines to reach ALL of those new houses, but then they stopped! They attached the end of their cable to a power pole on the front edge of my property and then left (I can look out my windows and see it). Why did they stop? Surely they could see there were five other homes (and potential customers) nearby?

Apparently not.

In the four years since then, I have periodically called Cable One to ask if they were going to offer service to my house. Each time I was given the same answer: “No, we don’t offer service to your address, and we never will.” Not a very friendly response, but it was direct and to the point.

We recently went over our bandwidth limit again, and on Monday I decided to give Cable One another try. This time, the call was very different. After checking my address the saleslady said, “…well, if you are on the north side of the street we should be able to set up service.” When I confirmed my house is on the north side, she said “okay, I’ll send a technician out to have a look.” At first I thought she was simply teasing me, just like that cable at the street has been for the past four years. But sure enough, on Tuesday I saw a Cable One bucket truck rumbling down our street.

Could it be that FINALLY, after all these years of patiently waiting, Cable One was going to give me service? It sounded too good to be true.

It was.

When I did not receive a call by Wednesday morning, I called Cable One. The saleslady said she would talk to the technician and call me back. Five hours later with no return call, I called her again. She said, “I left a note for the technician, but he didn’t call me and he’s already gone home for the day. I’ll check with him first thing in the morning and give you a call.”

This morning (Thursday) comes and the phone is still silent. I decided it was time to chat face-to-face, so I drove over to the Cable One office. The saleslady punched in my address on her computer and then realized who I was. “Let me run back there right now and find out for you,” she said. A couple of minutes later she came back. Clasping her hands together, she said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t provide service to your house.”

“Why not? The end of your cable is sitting on a power pole in front of my property.”

“The technician said your house is set back too far to run the cable.” My house sits about 700 feet away from the street.

“I’ve got neighbors that are only 300 feet away from me, and they have service. It can’t be that hard to run a cable up my driveway.”

She continued to toss out one statement after another, possibly in the hopes I would become befuddled and leave quietly: “The cable has to end somewhere.” “There’s a cost for running a line from the street.” “We don’t install lines unless the density is at least 25 homes per square mile” and so forth. I continued to listen patiently, replying with comments and questions when I could fit them in: “There are six homes along the other half of the street.” “My neighbor is only 300 feet away from me and has service. Why could you run a line up his driveway and not mine?” “Sure, the cable has to have an end, but why did you stop halfway across the front of my property?” “I have service from all the other utility companies; they didn’t seem to have any trouble getting to my house.” At one point I even drew out a picture showing her how the street is laid out, the location of my house and the neighbors nearby, all the poles running up to my house, and where the cable is sitting at the street.

While I did not come right out and reveal to her that I have 30 years of experience in the IT industry (including work with fiber optic cables just like the ones they use, so I know what they are capable of doing), I think she finally figured out I was a bit more technically-oriented than the average customer and stopped tossing out statements. She offered to have the technician call me and provide an explanation. “Yes, I would very much like to have a technical explanation for why it can’t be done” was my reply. I then thanked her and left.

This all took place at about 10am. My phone was silent the rest of the day. Given their previous track record of returning calls, I do not actually expect to ever hear from the technician. So, instead of wasting my time waiting for a call that will never come, I put it to use contemplating whether to escalate this to a higher level of management within Cable One.

I could start with calling the local office manager to discuss it and ask if they would reconsider. If they stand firm on their decision, I could then contact their headquarters in Arizona and appeal to them… but as big a company as Cable One is, the chances are they will simply sweep me under the corporate rug as one “unhappy local” who is not worth their time and go on with their day. Some of you readers may suggest other options I could take, including legal ones; but, I am not a spiteful or vengeful person and cannot imagine myself raising that kind of ruckus just to get a cable installed. I will share my experience, though, and voice my displeasure with their decision.

Yet, when all is said and done, I suppose Cable One does have the right to refuse to offer me service (and they have, in so many words). So much for progress…

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 28th, 2011 at 11:00 pm and is filed under Today's Reality. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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