Charter told a family their new house was ready for internet, then sent them a $16,000 bill to activate it


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/12/22/oh-charter.html


#2

I’ve seen this in business class connection buildouts but this is the first I’ve read about it for residential.


#3

Charter didn’t lie, the house is ready. The cost is probably for running lines to said house. That being stated, who the heck would want cable for $16,000?


#4

These criminals came to my house to fix a “trap” on the cable line, that was supposedly what had interrupted my service. He said it was installed to prevent other people from stealing my cable? whatever that means
Then after climbing the pole and fixing the issue he had his supe come over and go in my house for no apparent reason. “to look at my router” which was working perfectly

then that night, Someone electronically broke into all the cars on my street, digitally so that the alarms didnt go off. Looking for cash or identity info maybe.
Nothing that i know of was taken from my car, but the door left ajar could have killed my battery overnight.

my neighbor had some papers vanish and a Bottle of blue dye in his car was scattered all over his upholstery and dash, presumably ruining it


#5

This seems to be standard practice with ISPs - the office doesn’t know or care what the actual situation is, they just tell people they can do it and let the installer figure it out. AT&T seems to have the same attitude about broadband in my neighborhood - “Sure you can get it” and leaves it to the technician to let you know you’re too far from fiber for it to work (but he’ll install it anyways).


#6

Thank goodness Charter and their ilk are trying as hard as possible to kill the sort of municipal broadband that saved these homeowners from their bureaucratic catch-22


#7

I guess “broadband evaluation” will have to become a normal part of due diligence when buying a new home. I mean beyond even what this guy did. Similar to having the house inspected. Then maybe you could insist on some sort of notarized document that covers you in a situation like this.


#8

Seeing it actually installed when you look at the house tends to work just fine.

Not so much if you’re building a brand new house obviously. But, if it’s a developer building it and selling it to you, instead of custom built for you, requiring internet is installed should be possible.

Available internet service was a requirement on our last 3 houses. The first of those was long enough ago, in a state with small enough population, that it severely restricted what towns we were looking at. For the last house, we looked for the Fios box in every house we looked at. To be sure it was already there and not just “in town other places”. Without it, that house was an immediate “no”.


#9

True, it does seem like it shouldn’t be hard to verify. Despite Charter’s negligent assurances here it does seem like this guy deserves some of the blame.


#10

I couldn’t find anything in the story to know if this was a “new to them, existing house”, a “new construction bought from a developer”, or a “new home, built specifically for them”.

If it was the first, just look. When it’s not there, find out from the seller why they don’t have it. I would probably not buy the house though. Advice to anyone selling, get your internet installed first.

If it’s the second, and it’s not there when looking, put it in the offer and contract that the developer has it installed. If the developer says no, walk away, there’s a reason they’re saying no.

If it’s the third, just add it to the cost of the house. It’s not like you would build the house and not have electricity run to it.

It’s super unfortunate that calling the company that actually provides the service is the least useful way to figure it out. It’s also sad that a company can get a franchise agreement that doesn’t actually mean they have to service everyone. It’s like a town getting a single garbage contract, to manage costs and road wear, and then not requiring that company to pick up at every house. It’s a sad commentary on the lack of competition for broadband.


#11

New York city (or possibly one of the surrounding cities), IIRC, has been fighting a protracted court battle with Verizon (I think) because verizon was supposed to do a major fiber rollout which was subsidized by the city, and then promptly proceeded to not do it.

I’m probably wrong with the players, but that is happening.


#12

I work for a gas utility and you’d only see a price like that if someone is doing a main extension. Most of the cost is from asphalt and concrete restoration and permits. I wonder if that’s why it was so expensive, but without knowing specifics i can’t know for sure. Still really glad this family had the opportunity to not go with these asshats.


#13

I am NOT sticking up for the cable company here. Is that clear? Not.Sticking.Up.For.Charter. But FFS…

The high price was for the house in Newaygo. The low price was for a house in another town. Somebody in engineering mixed up the envelopes. This was not a “mind change,” just a snafu. As noted in the source article.

Not sure what “activate” means…maybe like with a cell phone, where a few numbers get input and then provisioning checks for a proper connection and you’re good to go?

Not the same as this. This house is 2000 feet off the system; you can’t just string a long piece of drop cable and call it good. At the very least, 1500’ of “distribution cable” – the silver stuff you see up in the air – has to be strung, and a tap plate installed. But pbly also a distribution amp to provide the right signal level and “tilt” (high freqs degrade faster than low freqs; amps “equalize” this tilt to provide relatively uniform levels at the tap).

And for whatever reason, it seems that Charter has to hit the house (500’ off the road) with a buried line. Given all the tree roots, that means laying conduit below frost line to carry the drop cable. (And depending on signal levels tied to several electrical engineering realities, that drop cable to the house may need to be distribution cable as well, not just a fat RG-11 coax or somesuch.)

Add in a pole or two (or 3X more expensive underground cable if the distribution system there is buried); cables and amps and parts; engineering time to design it; construction time to build it; tech time to light it up; and general office time for all the paperwork…$16,000 sounds about right.

Whether the $16K charge is ethically/legally correct depends on the franchise agreement between Charter and Newaygo; these types of situations are usually specified, but I’ve not seen this agreement so ??? (When I was doing cable tv in the ‘80s, our franchise required us to hit everyone house we “passed” with distribution. So much money lost! Typical: rich asshole living 800’ off the system in DeVos-land wants cable…from a system that was designed before his McMansion was built, so big engineering headaches. Fine, we’d eat the $4K and get 'em hooked up…and then after one month they’d cancel. “We just wanted to see what it was like…we’ve decided to go with satellite. But thanks for wiring up the inside of the house with umpteen outlets for only $40!” [That’s a lie – no one ever said thanks.] That money was never coming back… Our next franchise agreement made sure we didn’t have to hit everybody for nothing.)

Yup, cable companies tend to be pond scum. But is telling fish stories about them really the best approach to (forgive me) drain the swamp?


#14

Some C-level at Charter is probably going to get a call from the FCC about this.

It will consist of enthusiastic praise, of course…


#15

Yup, a cable company “installer” is just a burglar who charges you.


#16

At least now we have internet freedom back thanks to the FCC so shit like this won’t be a problem for the media to talk about.


#17

So what do you suggest? For all the stated denial of your support for Charter you described how providers were often victimized. Lets assume a lot of us don’t live in McMansions and really would like to have internet…what’s a homeowner supposed to do with such limited options? I’ve faced this situation and I’d like to know for future reference.


#18


#19

In this case, my “fish stories” characterization was aimed at Cory’s agitprop take on a couple of the facts involved in the Newaygo story. The McMansion section appears just for some context – even Evil can suffer from nasty headaches.

Doing cable right is hard…and expensive. (We dropped hundreds of thousands on shitty customer equipment when addressability was just becoming a thing. Or the $400,000 that simply vanished on a quarter-mile fibre link from sat farm to headend that never worked. Back in the day ('80s), you had to take out a 10-year loan to build a system…but that system was only gonna last about 7 years before it needed a rebuild, and hence another loan. That is not a formula for delivering a responsive, quality customer experience – you needed to be a bit sleazy to make it sustainable.)

To my mind, the chief problem is that cable is not regulated as a utility. Corollary to that, cable should just be a pipe – don’t let the operators branch out into “services” to fluff the bottom line.

What can people do? Not much in today’s regulatory climate. Which means consumers have to be all the more wary. We all know by now that cable operators are largely scummy…so don’t believe what someone at a call center tells ya. If having high-throughput internet is vital and you’re shopping for a home, then talk to the neighbors! Demand guarantees…and if you can’t get them, look elsewhere. (I’m always amazed by folks who move to the country but never bother to have the water & drainage checked…but are then livid when things go thousands of dollars wrong.)


#20

I agree with that. As the internet has become the written word of our era, we cannot have equality unless access is reasonably available. I realize that’s an easy thing for me to say and quite another to deliver. Regardless I believe that access equates to basic literacy in a free society…even more so now that greed has been given the highest office in the land.