Posts Tagged ‘cable’

If you have been following my blog for the last few months, thank you. I really appreciate your taking the time to read my posts and share your comments and criticisms.

And, if you’ve been following my blog you should be familiar with my unsuccessful efforts to have cable Internet service installed in my house. Well, I decided to try again this morning. I have been wanting to contact the Cable One corporate office in Tucson, Arizona, but their website only lists a mailing address – no e-mail address or phone number (the number they do publish routes you to their local office). But, as it turns out, Cable One has a Facebook page, and being a Facebook user myself I decided I would try to post a note on their Wall and see if they would provide a response.

Because of Facebook’s text limitations, I had to post my note in two parts – an initial posting on their Wall, and then a comment attached to the posting. Here are the two parts of the note.

First, the Wall posting:

I’d like to ask Cable ONE to give me a REAL reason why my local office (Sherman, TX) will not provide service to my home. I’ve been trying for 10 YEARS to get service, my latest attempt a couple of months ago. I have neighbors 350 feet away from my house and a large subdivision bordering my property who’ve had service for several years, but when I ask for service I’m denied. The excuses I was given this time included “your house is set back too far from the street” (but not my neighbors), “we only construct cable where there is a housing density of at least 25 homes per square mile” (there’s a subdivision next door), and my favorite: “well, the cable has to end somewhere” (it ends on a pole in front of my property). They promised a technician would contact me and give me a detailed explanation… and I’m still waiting for that call. I don’t think I’ll ever hear from them, since there isn’t any technical reason preventing them from installing service.

And then, the comment I added on below the posting:

I wanted to e-mail or call someone at the corporate office to calmly discuss this matter, but they do not publish an e-mail address or a direct phone number — the only numbers they list point to local offices, and I’m through dealing with the one in Sherman (they do list a mailing address in Arizona, but since they’re pushing their Internet service you’d think they would at least have some sort of generic e-mail address?). So, I’m using the only other online outlet I can find.

I highly doubt this posting will stay up on FB very long; the last thing any company wants is someone ranting on a social network about their unsuccessful attempts to obtain service and the ridiculous excuses they were given for being denied.

At this point, if there’s anyone at Cable ONE who really cares about my request, I will be genuinely surprised. In the meantime, I guess I’ll stick with my AT&T satellite Internet service (crappy as it is, it’s still better than dialup).

As I had said in the comment, the complete posting did not stay up on their Wall for very long. Within an hour, the add-on comment had been deleted by their page moderator, and with it a response from another Facebook user (which I received via e-mail before it was deleted). Curiously, the original post stayed up… and even more curiously, someone from Cable ONE actually posted a response to it, asking me to send them a direct e-mail with contact information so they can follow up on my issue.

I sent an e-mail to the address they gave me, briefly detailing what I’ve been through over the past 10 years or so. A short time later I received the following response (I have removed the sender’s name):

Hi Michael,

Thank you for the detailed response and I am glad you contacted us on Facebook! We want to have another outlet for customers to talk to us, even if it isn’t always good news.

In addition, I am sorry if we deleted a post. It wasn’t intentional.  It’s only two of us that have administrative privileges and we rarely delete posts.  We have done it a couple times; let’s just say the posts and posters were memorable. Again, please accept our apologies.

I am forwarding your email to our Technical Operations Manager in Sherman with a request to contact you. If anyone can answer your question, he can. I hope we can work something out for you. We would love to have you as a customer.

Thank you. Please let me know if you have additional concerns.

That was certainly unexpected. Of course, now I have to wait and see if this local manager will actually contact me. Based on their previous track record, I’m not very hopeful. But, I’m willing to give them a chance… just like I have over and over again for the past 10 years.

And so the saga continues…


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…


I’ve Been FAPped!

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

Before I get too far into my subject, I want to wish everyone a belated Happy New Year. I have been quite busy the past few weeks, but now I have plenty of time for writing.

Why is that? It is because I have been “FAPped” by my Internet service provider (ISP). Here is a little background:

I live just outside a small town in north Texas, and I do mean “just outside”; my north property line IS the city limits. Because I live outside the city, the local cable company, Cable One, will not provide me (or my neighbors) with any form of service. Zip, zilch, nada. Even though my house is physically less than 1/4 mile away from the city limits, they absolutely refuse to run a cable down my street. Every January for the past ten years, I have called their office to ask if they now provide service on my street, and every year the answer has been the same: “No, I’m sorry; we don’t provide service in your area, and we never plan to.” Really friendly-sounding, you think?

I have also looked into getting DSL service from the local telephone company, which happens to be AT&T. The last time I asked them about service, a technician actually came out and measured the distance from their office to my house. The technician told me they could not provide us with service because my house is 1800 feet too far away from their office. 1800 feet? That happens to be a distance of a little over 1/4 mile.

I even tried getting a wireless ISP to provide me with service. They sent several technicians out to check out my house and test their signals, and like the others they told me we could not get service from them. The reason? We live just a little too far from their nearest transmitting tower. It seems they can reach out to about the city limits, and no further.

Are we starting to notice a pattern here?

My last chance for an Internet connection that was faster than dial-up was to go with a satellite-based ISP. Because I am an AT&T customer for home and mobile telephone service, they suggested I contact AT&T WildBlue, a partnership they had established with WildBlue Communications in Colorado. They offered a 512Kb/1Mb/1.5Mb/second “high speed solution” for people who are unable to get cable or DSL service (by comparison, cable and DSL services can run at 10Mb/second and higher). After reading their literature, I decided to give them a try. I ordered the basic 512Kb service, and after buying their satellite equipment and having it installed (at least the installation was free), they turned it on and set up the connection to my computer. I was immediately amazed at how fast their service worked compared to dial-up (of course, ANYTHING is amazing when compared to dial-up). All was finally blissful and pleasant with the world.

And then about a year later I got FAPped for the first time. What I had failed to read carefully was something WildBlue calls their “Fair Access Policy”, or FAP. The FAP is a set of rules that customers agree to follow, including specific limits for downloading from and uploading to the Internet. These limits are measured over the previous 30-day period, and are constantly updated every day (they call it a “rolling 30-day period”). If they find a customer going over their limit, they are in violation of the policy; as “punishment”, they slow the customer’s connection to a crawl (just fast enough to allow e-mail and some basic web surfing) until their overall usage over the rolling 30 days drops to 70% of their limit; at that point, the higher speed is restored. The WildBlue technicians I have talked with have nicknamed this “FAPping” and someone who has violated the policy and has their connection slowed is said to have been “FAPped”.

That first FAPping took me by surprise, but I had an out: if I upgraded my service to a faster connection speed, the limit would be raised and the FAPping would be removed. So, I called WildBlue and upgraded. Since the difference between 1Mb and 1.5Mb was only $10 a month, I decided to go for it and upgraded to the limit. I thought 512K at home was fast, but 1.5Mb simply blew me away. I could actually stream music or videos and not have them pause or freeze up periodically as they were playing. Software updates were much easier to download and install, and everything seemed to be working so much better than before. Once again, all was blissful and pleasant with the world.

Over the years, my children have become very computer- and Internet-savvy, and even my wife started taking a liking to going online from time to time. I also began working from home, and when all those different users are added up it amounted to as many as five different computers being connected to the Internet at the same time. The connection was still working fairly well with all of us online, but our usage began to soar. WildBlue sends out warning messages via e-mail when the rolling 30-day usage starts to approach the limit, and I began getting those on a fairly regular basis. I got into the habit of checking our usage daily, sometimes several times during the day, to make sure we were not getting too close to the limit.

Despite all of the warnings, which I dutifully passed along to the rest of the family in the form of pleas not to push us over the limit, we were finally FAPped again a couple of days ago (funny how no one seemed to hear me then, but they are listening now). Since we are already on their most generous (and expensive) usage plan, there is no way to work around it this time – we simply have to wait for the rolling usage to drop below 70%. At the current rate it is falling each day, my guess is it will probably take another week or so for our speed to return to normal.

The slower speeds make it almost impossible to do much more than send and receive e-mails; if we attempt to go online to a web site that is even the least bit complicated (and unfortunately, most of them fall into that category these days), more often than not the browser will freeze and has to be turned off. When it does work, the pages are sometimes not loaded correctly and we see words and pictures thrown haphazardly onto the screen. My take on it is, the poor performance is a very good incentive to stay offline and let the usage come down more quickly.

But for anyone who knows me, you know that this is not the end of the story.

I have noticed that not being so closely tied to the Internet has caused all of us to do other things in the evenings that we always seem to be putting off. My daughter is reading a book or two she has had for a while, my son and I are catching up on old movies we have been wanting to see, and my wife spends more time away from her computer watching television or playing with the dogs. “Life without the Internet” is actually refreshing in a way…sort of like going on a vacation where you do things that you normally do not when you are at home.

It is hard to say whether this “revelation” will last once the service speeds are restored. One thing is certain: it will give us all a reason to pause and think about whether we really need to spend so much time, all the time, online.