Seth’s quest to get broadband from someone, anyone
March 25, 2015 7:31 PM   Subscribe

What happens when broadband companies lie and claim they service areas they don't? If you're reliant on your home internet connection to work, you may end up having to move out of a house you just bought.
posted by Pope Guilty (79 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jeez, what a story. I guess from now on "Is there a cable hookup" should be part of the standard home inspection.

I wonder if he considered getting the satellite internet for home & family use and then a dedicated mobile account just for his work/VPN stuff that could be reimbursed/deducted. Not cheap but must be cheaper than completely uprooting.
posted by bleep at 7:47 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Before I even read the story I thought "I'd bet someone would give him a T1, but since he expects to pay only $40 a month he won't do it", and turns out my guess was right.

As someone who's had to face up to the fact that the phone/cable company isn't going to spend tens of thousands of dollars to upgrade stuff just so my house alone can have better internet, I can sympathize. But at the same time, I can also see why PacBell (in his case Comcast) didn't want to do something that would take 50+ years of service fees to pay off.
posted by sideshow at 7:49 PM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why should a T1 cost more than $50/month? It's only 2 pairs of wires instead of one.

It is insane how much we pay for what should be a free government funded infrastructure.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:54 PM on March 25, 2015 [59 favorites]


Oh man I have been there too. I moved into this apartment only after checking my QWest DSL account could be transferred and working at this location. I get there and no QWest DSL is available, they said I am too far from the DSLAM to get a working connection. So I was stuck with a cable modem in an overly congested area, I forget the exact speed but it was some awfully low number like 256kbits down 128 up. I was complaining to a friend about this problem, she said her husband was a QWest installer and he just built a DSLAM 1 block from my house, it's up and running. I went down the block and dammit there is a brand new DSLAM box right on the edge of the local park. So I called QWest and they said it was not available. Right. It took me 6 months of griping to them and the local public utilities commission before I gave up. Meanwhile my multimedia projects are all dead because I can't get enough bandwidth to upload video to my server. Then one day I get a junk mail flyer from QWest, would I like a new high speed DSL line? Argh.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:03 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lived just far enough north of Minneapolis a few years ago, and got much the same story. Went with Hughes and the VPN actually worked (though it required a lot of patience on my end any time I wanted to do more than edit a document remotely), except for the couple weeks a year where due to the position of the sun (Equinox ring a bell?) and the satellite I would lose access most of the day. Having to drive to be able to get a 4G signal (just far enough out that at home was 3G) to check email was quite the experience.

And yes, AT&T was willing to quote a price rather similar to the one mentioned here for a T-1 connection. They did also discuss possibly setting up a banded ISDN connection (anyone remember those?), but at that point I decided moving was better than continuing to put up with that.

Of course a year after we sold the house it fell into the local cable service area - as if to mock me just that little bit more :-)
posted by EwanG at 8:06 PM on March 25, 2015


We Americans are so screwed by these companies.

I just had my cable internet rate triple because the "introductory" rate (the only one on their website) expired and they just don't do negotiation any more. They know there is no competition. (A coworker surprised them because UVerse had just been run in his neighborhood. Their act changes if they know.)

They also sneakily did the real "rate raise" 6 months ago but hid it with another "introductory discount" so that it wasn't apparent with my bill being auto-paid online. So my rate didn't just go up, a discount I didn't know I was getting expired. Way to game it, guys.

So Charter's story is that $60 a month is their cheapest tier of service. "And we doubled your speed!" I don't need 60 mb/sec for streaming video, but if I want faster than dialup that's what I have to pay for.

OK, fuckers. I bought a ChromeCast and let's check out this showbox thingie. You insist I get internet capable of streaming video even though I don't want or need it, I'll stream some fucking video.
posted by localroger at 8:09 PM on March 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


I dunno, his house seems to be in unincorporated Kitsap County in a forest. It most likely doesn't have water, sewer, or natural gas service either. It's one of the costs of living in a rural area.

Of course the providers should be upfront that they can't do it.

I wonder if he could set up a virtual server somewhere, and RDP into it over his cell connection? I've done this before, it works better than you would think.
posted by miyabo at 8:25 PM on March 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


We've just had more or less the same thing happen--Verizon came out to install our shiny new FIOS, and the guy says, you're not connected! And my housemate said, well, yeah, that's...why you're here. And he said no, no, you don't even have a phone line coming into this house. There's not an internet line to the house. There's not even a line down this road.

In our case, we were exceedingly lucky and after only three appointments and probably six or seven hours on the phone, they did, in fact, run a wire down from the main road, and we now have shiny, beautiful internet, but we were bracing ourselves to have to move out literally weeks after we'd moved in. Absolutely ridiculous.

It seems to me that at this point, broadband internet access should be one of the things that has to be available. MA requires that all rental units have phone lines, even if the resident opts out of phone service--at this point, I think that internet is far more crucial to most of us than landlines.
posted by MeghanC at 8:29 PM on March 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


But at the same time, I can also see why PacBell (in his case Comcast) didn't want to do something that would take 50+ years of service fees to pay off.

The thing is, aside from the internet these days being a very necessary thing, the government has given these companies very, very favorable treatment. I can get bad DSL--but if I don't want Time Warner, I cannot go out and get some other cable company to compete for my business. In exchange for this, yes, I do expect these companies to be required to service less profitable locations, subsidized by the profits they make off of more profitable locations. If they aren't to be held to higher standards than every other industry, then why have they been offered protections that other industries don't get? If I have to bite the bullet and buy cable from only one company living in a central area that could very well have been serviced by many if they'd been forced to compete, then those companies should be forced to service the people in outlying areas. If it's close enough for anybody at Comcast to think it's in their coverage area, then it's close enough for them to run cable.
posted by Sequence at 8:38 PM on March 25, 2015 [52 favorites]


> I can also see why PacBell (in his case Comcast) didn't want to do something that would take 50+ years of service fees to pay off.

If they don't want to provide access to all, then they shouldn't have taken the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in tax breaks they got for promising just that.

Can you imagine if the telephone or the post office had been set up that way? Where rural households simply never got telephone access or mail because it was too expensive to run wires or run a mail route?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:49 PM on March 25, 2015 [45 favorites]


Reminds me of Rural Electrification:

Although nearly 90 percent of urban dwellers had electricity by the 1930s, only ten percent of rural dwellers did. Private utility companies, who supplied electric power to most of the nation's consumers, argued that it was too expensive to string electric lines to isolated rural farmsteads. Anyway, they said, most farmers, were too poor to be able to afford electricity.

When farmers did receive electric power their purchase of electric appliances helped to increase sales for local merchants. Farmers required more energy than city dwellers, which helped to offset the extra cost involved in bringing power lines to the country.

Part of the New Deal. Damn socialists--they ruin everything.
posted by librosegretti at 8:56 PM on March 25, 2015 [44 favorites]


2,500 feet isn't actually that far. If he owns the land or can otherwise get permission he could build an access point and distribute the signal via his own cable, line-of-sight transmission, or some other means. I bet it would cost a lot less than $60,000. There might be reasons he can't do this, but he describes himself as a hacker and software engineer; he must have considered it; I'd like to know why he rejected the possibility.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:57 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I tried to get Comcast once (since I'd be moving in a year anyway). Called them up and they were happy to sign me on. Yep, the database says you're good. Even got a call a few days later trying to upsell me to a TV triple play whatever.

The tech shows up for the install. "Hey, sorry to be the bringer of bad news, but I don't think you have cable at this apartment." Looks around for a while, confirms. So I ended up having to stick with AT&T. This wasn't even a rural area, it was in a college town.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:21 PM on March 25, 2015


Why should a T1 cost more than $50/month? It's only 2 pairs of wires instead of one.

There is a lot more involved than just how many wires are involved. Biggest difference is distance from the Central Office doesn't matter. So while the phone company won't give you DSL because it will suck due to you 2.5k distance from the CO, or not work at all, they can give you a T1 just fine. What you are really paying for is the SLA. You'll know your connection has been interrupted/degraded because someone from att is calling you to keep you in the loop.

If they don't want to provide access to all, then they shouldn't have taken the hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars in tax breaks they got for promising just that.

AFAIK, the promise was to give residential phone service, which I had just fine, and I assume this guy had as well. Actually, some phone call quality issues come up during our quest for fast internet and they did dig up the street and do some phone stuff since that was part of the deal. But, fast internet (specifically DSL) required even larger changes and they weren't willing to do them.

In fact, if you get UVerse and complain to the California Public Utilities Commission that 911 doesn't work when the power goes out (like my dad did), they send back a form letter stating that UVerse is not considered residential phone service and doesn't have to follow all the laws about phone service and all that.
posted by sideshow at 9:25 PM on March 25, 2015


2,500 feet isn't actually that far. If he owns the land or can otherwise get permission he could build an access point and distribute the signal via his own cable, line-of-sight transmission, or some other means. I bet it would cost a lot less than $60,000. There might be reasons he can't do this, but he describes himself as a hacker and software engineer; he must have considered it; I'd like to know why he rejected the possibility.

As a hacker and software engineer myself ... I wouldn't, in his shoes, or at least would have strongly resisted it. Because maintaining a janky half-assed workaround that I rely on for things like 'work' and 'contacting the outside world' is not necessarily a hobby I want to have to take on.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:29 PM on March 25, 2015 [13 favorites]


Joe in Australia: "2,500 feet isn't actually that far. If he owns the land or can otherwise get permission he could build an access point and distribute the signal via his own cable, line-of-sight transmission, or some other means."

Leaving aside whether or not nearly half a mile is actually far and leaving aside the fact that -- if my Kitsap County property search was correct -- there are two or three heavily-wooded lots (that he does not own) between this guy's house and the nearest main roads, is the idea that you would just be able to insert yourself into Comcast's connection point? Why would they allow that? How would they allow that?
posted by mhum at 9:37 PM on March 25, 2015


is the idea that you would just be able to insert yourself into Comcast's connection point? Why would they allow that? How would they allow that?

They do. I have a friend who has set up microwave and WIFI repeaters in remote areas here (western CO) to provide internet.

That said, they are total dicks about it. He's had to file a few lawsuits to get them to live up to their contracted Service Level Agreement (SLA). The SLA might specify how much downtime and how much bandwidth, and Comcast routinely fails to deliver on that.

Not that it should be a surprise. Comcast Customer Service is a pit of hell unto itself.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:45 PM on March 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I too live in Kitsap County, so I can 100% sympathize. We initially had CenturyLink DSL at our house in rural Seabeck, but we had to move to Bremerton after a house fire. Sure enough, when we went back to our rebuilt home CenturyLink told us our node was now at capacity so we were SOL. We contacted Wave (oddly not mentioned in the article) for cable, and they assured us they could give us cable internet. I was immensely skeptical, but sure enough there was a hitherto unnoticed cable hookup in front of the house. It happens to be significantly faster than the old DSL, so CenturyLink can go to hell!
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:54 PM on March 25, 2015


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: "They do. I have a friend who has set up microwave and WIFI repeaters in remote areas here (western CO) to provide internet. "

Wow. That's pretty interesting. I had no idea that this was something that people did. Compared to, say, Ma Bell's old reluctance to let anyone use non-Bell phones (or answering machines) on their network, this seems downright progressive.
posted by mhum at 9:56 PM on March 25, 2015


Welcome to most of the world. I have a hard time feeling badly for someone so otherwise blessed. Can't work from the house you bought? Damn, man, you might have to work in an office or something. That would suck. Oh, snap, I have to work in an office.

Where rural households simply never got telephone access or mail because it was too expensive to run wires or run a mail route?

Frustratingly it seems that the voices loudest and most strident in this country against redistribution of wealth come down those same paths. If its food or health care; fuck you, got mine. But by god, we don't have equitable broadband there will be Hell. To. Pay. They are the least content of the subsidized people and the least charitable towards their fellow subsidizees.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:09 PM on March 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Ogre Lawless: "I have a hard time feeling badly for someone so otherwise blessed. Can't work from the house you bought? Damn, man, you might have to work in an office or something. That would suck. Oh, snap, I have to work in an office."

I'm not sure I follow. As far as I can tell, this guy moved from the San Francisco bay area to Washington state partly on the basis of Comcast's assurances that he'd still be able to work for his Silicon Valley-based employer remotely from his home. And now he's supposed to lease an office space in Poulsbo or wherever because Comcast screwed him over and that's supposed to be just a-ok? Or is it the fact that he's able to afford to buy a home in unincorporated Kitsap County that makes his situation unsympathetic?
posted by mhum at 10:52 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


The mistake here is that he believed Comcast. If this was such an important consideration to him, he should have made it a condition of purchase that the seller demonstrate working broadband in the house. Never, ever take Comcast at their word.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:16 PM on March 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Can you imagine if the telephone or the post office had been set up that way? Where rural households simply never got telephone access or mail because it was too expensive to run wires or run a mail route?"

But that is how rural telephone service worked and still works, just like with electricity. You either pay to run the wiring yourself, for as much distance as it takes, or you and your neighbors get together and form a co-op and build out the shared infrastructre and then you still spend a lot of money on cable.

At this point, in most areas the latter part has been done and there are rural telephone co-ops serving most rural customers and in many cases those have been purchased and conglomerated into regional rural telephone companies. But if you build a new home in some rural area, you're still going to have to pay to run a lot of cable, electric and phone, just like you'll have to dig a well and put in a septic tank.

There's a lot of exurban, unincorporated areas that have slowly, and recently more quickly, become more populated and people have expectations of all the services you get in urban and suburban areas. But why? Why would it magically be there, and for no cost to you? I mean, if someone else already made the investment, sure. But if not, you'll have to.

"The mistake here is that he believed Comcast. If this was such an important consideration to him, he should have made it a condition of purchase that the seller demonstrate working broadband in the house. Never, ever take Comcast at their word."

I totally think that Comcast deserves all the opprobrium we can throw at them for this -- not to mention on general principle -- because this is some spectacularly shitty customer service. Even so, I don't understand how someone buys a house without doing this sort of due diligence, because not only is this a crucial matter to him given that he needs to work from home, this also bears upon the (correct) appraisal of the home, what he paid for it, and its resale value in the future. Broadband access isn't a trivial concern these days.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:24 PM on March 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


qxntpqbbbqxl: "he should have made it a condition of purchase that the seller demonstrate working broadband in the house"

Is this a normal thing now? Asking prospective sellers to sign up for Comcast if they're not already Comcast subscribers?
posted by mhum at 11:32 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thing is, unless the market is really flat, you're never going to get a seller to agree to show working broadband if they don't already have it. I sure as shit wouldn't jump through those comcast hoops unless I was desperate for a sale.
posted by maxwelton at 11:34 PM on March 25, 2015


qxntpqbbbqxl: The mistake here is that he believed Comcast. If this was such an important consideration to him, he should have made it a condition of purchase that the seller demonstrate working broadband in the house. Never, ever take Comcast at their word.

Thank you for making sure to tell us how he's the one at fault here.
posted by flatluigi at 11:39 PM on March 25, 2015 [10 favorites]


Back in time, when Chicago streets were regularly being torn up for crisscrossing fiber installations and the like, I tried to get DSL through Speakeasy. (I can tell you roughly when it was, sometime in 2000, because jessamyn was my Speakeasy CSR. I do not blame her or Speakeasy.) The local provision was through a chain of subcontractors, alas, and here's where it broke down. I had scheduled appointments that I took off work for that didn't show, at least twice, and when I finally connected there was an incident toward the end of the work day where we tramped around the apartment building and couldn't find where the hookup was supposed to be. He did come back the next day or something similar and we found that while my AT&T (SBC then) phone drop was in fact in MY part of the building, the DSL would have to come into the building at ANOTHER place, and then I had two options. I had to get a separate electrical contractor to run a phone line through the building (1920s masonry structure) to my apartment somehow, or I had to hire a separate telephony contractor to run a line on the outside of my building, around a corner, around two exterior staircases, and in through a window. The estimate for the building was something like $1250, the estimate for the exterior was still like $500 -- more than a year's cost of service. Or I could buy 500' of exterior-rated CAT5 and guerrilla install it myself, at the risk of getting reported to the landlord and/or having it all ripped out on me. I imagine in 2000 I could have done this as well without the risk of being reported to the police....

I assume it's a bit easier to get DSL now -- SBC/AT&T eventually rolled out their own DSLAMs everywhere. The thing was, within six months they gave my parents' home in their podunk city (where I am now) one of the standard connection boxes and we got DSL there (here) basically the moment we asked. Sheesh.
posted by dhartung at 11:44 PM on March 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he could order a T1 line and resell bandwidth to his neighbors.
posted by mecran01 at 12:03 AM on March 26, 2015


I can also see why PacBell (in his case Comcast) didn't want to do something that would take 50+ years of service fees to pay off.

But we don't know that. That's the gtfo bullshit number that Comcast gave him which even the article mentioned was too high. I've paid to trench cable over similar distances in a rural area. That number is more than five times higher than what we paid. It's a greatly inflated figure.
posted by bonehead at 12:30 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


mhum: Is this a normal thing now? Asking prospective sellers to sign up for Comcast if they're not already Comcast subscribers?

No, and there's no guarantee that a seller would agree to such a condition. But since this was a utility of critical importance to the buyer, it's not ridiculous that he would treat it on the same footing as electricity, gas, or water. Those utilities are always tested by demonstration during an inspection, why not add internet?

The telecommuting tech worker is actually pretty common in rural Washington. I wouldn't be surprised if this comes up fairly often. It's a great way to escape the life of a Seattle cubicle drone.

Still not excusable on Comcast's part, of course. They're reprehensible as usual.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:02 AM on March 26, 2015


I wonder if he could order a T1 line and resell bandwidth to his neighbors.

A T1 is 1.5Mb/s, so there's not a lot to share. It is symmetric, and there are truly no data limits, but it's not fast.
posted by Combat Wombat at 1:03 AM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Comcast were the assholes here BUT I would have knocked on a few neighbours doors before buying the house and said "I might be a new neighbour, how we doin' for broadband around here?"

Assuming he's not right out in the sticks on his own.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:04 AM on March 26, 2015


I've basically written this article twice in AskMe trying to get the DSL that AT&T spent years swearing was available at my location, only to have offshore support call me and tell me it wasn't available, directly contradicting the local support that repeatedly came to my house to check lines. I'm 2 miles from a switch.

I tried to get a quote on a T1 with zero leads or help (I knew it would be at least $500/mo but guess how much renting an entire other house cost - which is what I ended up doing). Some utility had run a fiber line through my actual yard but I still could not get online without using a mobile hotspot.

I finally called the water department a half mile from my land and asked them how they got internet, which is how I discovered the radio wireless company that gave me the first unmetered bandwidth I've had here (1mb up and down whether I need it or not!).

I'm watching some weird British movie from the 80s on Netflix at 3am as I type this just because I can, damn it.
posted by annathea at 1:15 AM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Given that the article outright states he tried to get Comcast to put in writing that they'd provide service (and failed), I'm fairly satisfied in my belief that he was not naive and actually tried to do due diligence. He could have possibly done more, but hindsight is 20/20.
posted by flatluigi at 2:15 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


About ten years ago I contacted RCN to ask about Internet service in Boston. I was told I needed to pay for a phone account also. I didn't want or need a house phone but agreed because I had to. The service man arrived and installed my phone line. A few days later I called to ask about the Internet service and after some run around I was told they don't service my area. As frustrated as I was then, I am now a happy RCN customer for the single reason, they are not Comcast.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:12 AM on March 26, 2015


His grossly inadequate due diligence is not Comcast or the phone company's fault. Would he have trusted the water company's website to make sure he didn't have to build a well?
posted by MattD at 4:25 AM on March 26, 2015


All too familiar. I moved to the UK a few years back and discovered my new home did not have a phone line. At all. And because it was a recent conversion the flat did not exist so far as cable internet providers were concerned, so Virgin and Sky refused to install a line. (place order, order cancelled, many many calls, yep). I bought a 3G dongle to cover the *4 months* it took to convince BT to come and run a phone line which was a disaster since I work from home - all the dongle providers banned skype calls over the 3G network which made my call-heavy job pretty difficult to do. Needless to say, it's the first thing I check for in a new place now.
posted by wingless_angel at 4:28 AM on March 26, 2015


Rural Canadian village. Before moving out here Bell told us broadband Internet would be available immediately. When we actually got here they clarified that by immediately they meant imminently. Imminently turned out to be a code word meaning six months, which was in turn an optimistic way of saying eighteen months.

That was the last time I bothered to call for an update.

NINE YEARS LATER I met a senior Bell engineer socially and she elected to look into the matter, just as a matter of morbid curiosity. She was actually directly involved in infrastructure expansion in my region, so getting a real answer was easy. "Definitely nothing available to you before 2019."

It turned out we were able to get Rogers broadband, because the poor bastard who lived here before me prior to the new zoning regime had the property declared commercial which allowed him the privilege of paying for the dig so Rogers could get their network out to him.

So I guess the moral of the story is try not to be the FIRST resident in a particular dwelling to get appropriately broadbanded. Wait for someone who really likes bandwidth to pass away. Maybe scan the obituaries for references to gaming or thrones or Space Cruiser Yamato.
posted by Construction Concern at 4:52 AM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I was told I needed to pay for a phone account also."

Phone companies are not allowed to do that, they have to provide a DSL without POTS if you ask for it. Around that time, though, there were a lot of stories of phone companies making it extremely difficult for customers to do this -- there'd be mysterious delays in installation and other stuff.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:52 AM on March 26, 2015


I can (and currently do) get DSL without a phone line. For this honour, I pay a monthly dry loop fee of $10 on top of my $25 for unlimited but slow-ish service.
posted by jeather at 5:04 AM on March 26, 2015


Washington is like a black hole where internet service goes to die. I swear, i don't understand how it's so fucking bad. I have a binder full of stories, both from places i've lived and places i've worked/jobsites/clients.

I've had almost this exact same experience with comcast. I had an apartment right in the middle of capitol hill in seattle at the beginning of college. After my one bedroom apartment(initially with two people) grew to um... five people and a dog, we decided to rent a house. Finding a place we could have a dog was a nightmare.

So we finally get a not quite satisfactory but big enough and in a good location spot! cool!

I call up comcast, and tell them i'm moving. I give them the address and say they can swap it over right now. They assure me they can do it and schedule an appointment and bla bla bla. So we go ahead with the whole process and pack things and rent a truck and all that. Get there and... no service. The cable line isn't even connected from the pole to the house. What the fuck? It turns out the house is between the territory of "wave broadband"(broadstripe at the time, which i've heard people call brownstripe) and comcast. And they decided midway through the process they wont touch it. Our neighbor one house north has comcast, but not us. We could see the comcast box on the pole!

So i call wave/broadstripe and shit gets surreal. They refuse to believe we aren't previous tenants of the house who didn't return equipment and have some massive unpaid bill in collections. They want a letter from our landlord, and a TON of personal information from me. I'm talking pay stubs, etc. Personal shit they have no standing to demand. Oh, and a deposit, even once they believed we "weren't them". For crappy 15mbps/1.5mbps service like this is 2002 or something. At $75 a month. Our landlord was an absentee slumlord who would barely even talk to us and totally ghosted on responding to them in any way, so that one was out the window. We still tried though even though it was a shit sandwich. Especially later on.

Then i call centurylink. Salvation... maybe! They claim i can get 20mbps service. My coworker gives me a really nice ADSL2/VDSL netgear modem/router that was probably worth a couple hundred bucks, they wire up my house... and i can't get more than 1.5mbps with short bursts to 3. I call them, and they say it's only provisioned for 7. I fight them on this for literally months, putting along on a terrible 1.5mbps connection that goes out once a day, has horrible latency/snr, and just sucks. It's basically unusable. I ended up running a brand new cat5 rj11 cable directly in to the demark on the outside of the house, barely 4 feet long in the window and directly in to the modem. No difference. They keep kicking the can down the road and insisting it MUST be the wiring in my house, bla bla bla, wont even run a new line from the pole. Eventually i find out i'm outside of their service area and it'll never get better. I fought and fought, and finally got to a really snide assholey rep who pointed out in a really condescending tone that i should read the contract and i wasn't guaranteed more than 1.5mbps, and that even if i was getting 3 or 5mbps 7 was just a "peak" speed. And that this plan actually has a name, the "3-5-7". You were supposed to average somewhere in the middle, and never go below 3, but you weren't guaranteed anything because there's no SLA since it's a home connection and even the 1.5 is only company policy to adhere to. This basically killed the fight dead.

The bizarre end to this story is that they kept my shitty service going, but gave me so many discounts it was about $10 a month. Every month i'd call, escalate to a higher up rep, and calmly explain the stupid situation again. Then i'd pay the $10 online right after i got a bill credit. I moved out with 6 months of free service sitting on my bill. When i moved i transferred the account to my moms house and she had free internet for months. It kept the discounts for freaking years too before they mysteriously dropped off when someone noticed.

I would have moved, like this guy is, if we hadn't signed a year lease. That was just the tip of the iceberg of problems i had there but holy shit it was terrible. We were sharing a 1.5mbps flaky connection between 5-7 people at any given time who were all trying to stream netflix and game and stuff.

We all abused tethering on our phones until we got in trouble. Hotspots were too expensive at the time(and still would be for that many people to hammer on), and LTE didn't even really exist and was just vaguely being deployed and talked about.

Oh, and it's worth noting, this house was in a weird elbow of the central district. I could ride my bike to broadway in 10 minutes, and the core of downtown seattle in maybe 15. This wasn't in some rural area. I got played by 3 companies right in the middle of town.


Now everyone is cheering because the city is talking about killing the cable franchise agreements and letting it be open season. I'm not, because calling the city/county cable commissioner is your only fucking recourse when they pull stuff like this. There has to be SOME kind of regulatory oversight or just something to prevent this shit.

I'd say we need some kind of "everyone has to be delivered a minimum service of X" type of law or regulation, but with the level of regulatory capture going on now it would never happen.
posted by emptythought at 5:28 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


If our country wasn't pwned by billionaires we could reprise the Rural Electrification Act.
posted by bitslayer at 5:40 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't believe how many people here are saying "well, that's what he gets for living in a rural area! What did he expect! Why would a corporation want to service his area? Suck it up!"

He did not agree to buy the house until he was assured, by multiple sources, that getting broadband at his house would be possible. He was charged for service (by another provider) despite the fact that he had been told service from them was impossible!

If Comcast wants to own a monopoly (and our government wants to allow it), then it seems like the very LEAST they could do would be to have accurate information. He was willing to keep looking for another place to live, if they had just said, in advance, "no, we do not service this particular house, and we are not willing to do so".

Is it really so much to ask that the megacorporation funding the campaigns of all our senators be willing to at least disclose which areas they consider unworthy of their bounty?

Just thinking about it (and then reading comments here blaming the consumer who took Comcast's promises/assurances in good faith only to learn the hard way that everything they say is almost certainly a sales pitch rather than actual information) makes my pulse speed up in frustration.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 5:44 AM on March 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Verizon did this to me when I moved into my present house 12 years ago. Also working from home, I called them to verify service was available at the house we planned to buy and was assured it was. I made an appointment for a hookup and we closed on the house. On the day they were supposed to arrive, I had a funny feeling and called. Not only did they not have any not about the appointment, now they were insisting that they did not service this area and had no plans to.

My story had a surprise ending as Comcast, who had told me before they didn't service this area, revealed that they actually did, and could hook me up. Imagine that! Comcast being the good guys, having MORE service than they claimed, and being part of actual competition!
posted by Legomancer at 5:53 AM on March 26, 2015


I do think the companies here are jerks, but...he has work-critical bandwidth and latency requirements that literally will force him to move if they are not available and he has chosen to live in an area where the availability of such service is certainly not a given. Believing Comcast is a grossly inadequate way of protecting your own interests in this case. Comcast is responsible for lying to him, but he is responsible for putting himself in a position where a lie, or even just a mistake, could force him to move.

If you can't get it in the contract, and it's a dealbreaker, then don't buy that house. This is just common sense. Sorry, Seth.
posted by snofoam at 6:28 AM on March 26, 2015


I agree with snofoam and certainly have complete sympathy for this poor guy. I can't imagine having to deal with Comcast like he did. But there is a lesson here: before one purchases a property it's wise for the buyer to make sure everything they consider essential is there. In this case, he knew he would 100% require a broadband connection so why not have that installed before the closing and make it's operation a requirement for the sale? As long as the buyer is paying all the costs if that's not acceptable to the seller then walk away from the deal.
posted by Dean358 at 6:41 AM on March 26, 2015


Ubiquiti's AirGrid wifi gear is easy and good for setting up point-to-point links. The only thing that really screws it up is heavy tree cover... ah.
posted by flabdablet at 7:37 AM on March 26, 2015


The only thing that really screws it up is heavy tree cover... ah.

The solution to tree cover is height. He may need approval for an antenna over 150ft if he is near a runway, but otherwise, he can (theoretically) go as high as he likes.

Antenna towers are pretty cheap - compared to the hardware on them. If I were in his shoes, it's what I'd do.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:05 AM on March 26, 2015


Certainly cheaper than selling and buying a house, I would have thought.
posted by flabdablet at 9:44 AM on March 26, 2015


By the way, you would actually spend a lot more on a decent antenna tower than you would on an AirGrid radio; those things are under $150 each.
posted by flabdablet at 9:46 AM on March 26, 2015


What a nightmare! I had similar issues with AT&T, although I was able to finally resolve it, thanks to the Hive Mind!
posted by chara at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2015


I'm writing this from a house with a similar problem. Rural California, my own well and septic, but less than a mile from the city boundary and 3000' down a road from a full AT&T + Comcast deployment. They refuse to extend the service because it's not profitable for them and no regulator requires them to. It's infuriating.

Fortunately I have a sort of solution; a fixed wireless ISP, much like the StarTouch described in his service. It works better than I feared. But I'm limited to 900MHz service which means 1Mbps. That's remarkably slow. When I come home after being away a week I turn my Mac on and wait an hour for it to download the usual system updates. I carry my game console to a faster network to download games to it. And forget trying to stream video. 360p just barely sort of works (data rate is about 800kbps), as long as nothing else tries to contend.

The CEO of alt-ISP Sonic has a great explanation of how we got to the current duopoly. The FCC's plan for competition in 2001 was that there'd be five modes of Internet: Cable, Telco, Power Line, Satellite and Wireless. But only the first two really work. Power line never happened, satellite is not acceptable, and wireless is very awkward and expensive at best.
posted by Nelson at 10:16 AM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


In this case, he knew he would 100% require a broadband connection so why not have that installed before the closing and make it's operation a requirement for the sale?
There is no way to even begin this process on a property if you aren't the owner/renter. I've tried similar things with my previous two home purchases. No one lived at either place before I purchased, but I could not get anything scheduled for either one until after I had the closing papers signed & recorded with the county.

That meant that internet was turned on sometimes weeks after I moved in. I am not surprised by this story in the slightest.
posted by Four Flavors at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is no way to even begin this process on a property if you aren't the owner/renter.

Then buy a different house, maybe one where the current owner can show you that they have functioning high speed internet. Perhaps the word of a Comcast rep was the best he could do to confirm broadband for that house, but that doesn't mean its the best you could do for any house. For his specific needs, he bought the wrong house.

I live in a place with slow internet and insanely expensive desalinated water. It's kind of infuriating, but I'm fully aware of the tradeoffs I've chosen. A lot of things should be better than how they are, but I make decisions mostly on how things are in the real world today. As far as I can tell, both Seth and I have a great deal of choice about where we want to live. We aren't trapped in a location by poverty, for example.

A real bummer, but it still seems mostly like someone making a big mistake. One could phrase that mistake as buying a house without being sure it satisfies your absolute requirements or one could phrase it as believing Comcast, but it still comes down to the same thing at the end of the day.
posted by snofoam at 11:40 AM on March 26, 2015


Ogre Lawless: "I have a hard time feeling badly for someone so otherwise blessed. Can't work from the house you bought? Damn, man, you might have to work in an office or something. That would suck. Oh, snap, I have to work in an office."

Man, you and all the other people in here sneering at this are like an object lesson on how the big money beats up unions year in and year out. What do you mean those people have this sort of protection? I have this shitty deal here, why should I feel anything for them? Work till you drop dead just like I'm going to have to! Meanwhile all the ISPs get massive corporate welfare in the way of public right-of-ways and somehow manage to continue to be effectively unregulated.
posted by phearlez at 12:07 PM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Man, you and all the other people in here sneering at this are like an object lesson on how the big money beats up unions year in and year out.

Really? I think the Ogre Lawless comment was basically unique in the thread. Far from sneering, the handful of people in the thread who feel that Seth made a mistake also state that they think Comcast is shitty and that they feel bad for Seth. There's no reason someone wouldn't think all three of those things, I certainly do.
posted by snofoam at 1:07 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea that numerous commentators are floating that Seth himself is largely to blame for his predicament. I think it boils down to a difference in opinion in what constitutes due diligence in this case. I thought that checking their website and calling to confirm twice with Comcast was sufficient. Other commentators seem to disagree and suggest that he should have done something like force the previous owner to actually set up a Comcast connection before proceeding with the sale -- which the previous owner would have to deal with if the sale didn't go through. I find the latter view kind of over-the-top and maybe a bit "just world-y" for my tastes but I want to explore what the implications of putting the burden on Seth are.

I guess the reason why he should have forced the previous owner to establish a Comcast connection is because Comcast is full of liars and/or incompetents. Okay, if we take that for granted, maybe we should ask why does Comcast lie? Because they can get away with it. Seth appears to have no reasonable recourse, neither via the market (because they have no competition), nor via governmental agency (something like UK's Office of Fair Trading), nor in the courts (go ahead and try to sue Comcast for estoppel or something, I'll wait here).

So, I guess how I'm going to have to deal with the kind of suggestions that people are providing is to treat it as purely descriptive and not normative (i.e.: that Seth should have taken heroic measures because Comcast is objectively terrible and just because that is how the world should function). Although, at the same time, I have to wonder if we would be telling people who got sick from e. coli tainted strawberries that they should have taken bacterial cultures of all their food before eating. Or if someone gets hit by a drunk driver on New Year's Eve (or Christmas or Memorial Day or Fourth of July or St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo or etc...), that they should have known that the roads are full of drunks on the drinking holidays and stayed home. It's often easy to describe what someone could have done to avoid a terrible outcome in hindsight. The bigger question is whether those measures really made sense ex ante.
posted by mhum at 1:33 PM on March 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


mhum: "that Seth should have taken heroic measures because Comcast is objectively terrible and just because that is how the world should function"

Whoops. That should read "and not just because that is how the world should function".
posted by mhum at 2:01 PM on March 26, 2015


Man, you and all the other people in here sneering at this are like an object lesson on how the big money beats up unions year in and year out. What do you mean those people have this sort of protection? I have this shitty deal here, why should I feel anything for them?

I couldn't read about this guy and think about those whose problems are considerably more significant and feel deep rivers of sorrow and indignation. At that hour, yeah, didn't come off great; honestly I was thinking about folks here who've talked about their experience with connectivity while being homeless and folks whose life savings have turned into a real estate nightmare and this guy's problems didn't seem all that terrible. Sucky situation, sure but a middle-class dude's problems with Comcast of all entities was not seven pages worth of compelling. The broader issues or rural connectivity and monopolization are more compelling than this guy's story but apparently if we're not for Seth, we're for the decay of the American workplace.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 2:03 PM on March 26, 2015


I'm trying to wrap my head around the idea that numerous commentators are floating that Seth himself is largely to blame for his predicament. I think it boils down to a difference in opinion in what constitutes due diligence in this case.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I think there are a few factors for me, personally:

1) I would never base my own personal decision-making on the word I got from a company in this way. When I interact with a big company, I basically always assume that the person I am speaking with has incomplete information. To me, it isn't rational to believe that someone on the phone could truly know that a service is available without at least visiting the location to confirm that everything is in working order.

2) Seth clearly seems to have had choices here, both in moving to a rural area with the positives and negatives that go along with that and the choice of the specific house.

3) He has very specific data needs. I would be more inclined to think something was very wrong if he bought a house that was suitable for no one and had no way of knowing it. As it stands, he bought a house that could be perfectly fine for many people, but does not fit his needs. This makes me more inclined to see this as bad decision making on his part.

4) The problem he faces relates specifically to his ability to do business out of his home. It's not an issue of residential services or anything that seems like a basic human right to me.

5) I don't necessarily expect cable or phone companies to provide data to anywhere that anyone chooses to live. This issue seems to be related primarily to cost and the practicality of adding a pretty remote connection. If it were a case of a company systematically discriminating by not providing data service to a poor inner city neighborhood or something, I would feel much differently.

I feel bad for him, but I really do think he made a mistake.
posted by snofoam at 2:05 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The bigger question is whether those measures really made sense ex ante.

I believe in consumer protection and think we should have an FDA, specific training and licensing for doctors and architects, etc. but this is really a business-to-business issue that happens to be also tied to Seth's residence because he chose to live and work in the same place. In the article they mention tools that do exist to help consumers make informed decisions about data access. They don't help Seth because they are incomplete/inaccurate to some degree, but also because his business needs are much more specific than what might satisfy a residential consumer. It seems there are shortcomings, but it's not clear to me that there has been a wholesale failure of consumer protection here.
posted by snofoam at 2:25 PM on March 26, 2015


but apparently if we're not for Seth, we're for the decay of the American workplace.

Not at all. But the shrugging off of the work challenges and financial suffering of other people at the hands of monopolistic operations with oh boo hoo now they might have to do the same sort of thing the rest of us already do is the same sort of divisive thinking that gets mined by folks who want to turn citizen against citizen.

This guy did research to see that this place had what he needed and took it at face value, which gets a lot of eye-rolling above. But even if we accept that this was insufficiently rigorous, which I do not, that still means he's going to be on the hook for some sort of financial suffering. Maybe it's moving again. Maybe it's having to get in a car and burn fuel and time to go to a workspace. Either way, it's not what he signed up for.

Comcast and other carriers, on the other hand, are ditching having to make expenditures which they should be doing in exchange for the giveaways and access we as a nation are providing them. Yes, this person's property represents an outsized investment compared to most of a dense city's population. But the outliers are part of the package, or at least should be within some limits. Otherwise we quickly come up against cherry-picking in both urban density and financial attractiveness. Right-of-way usage is supposed to be a way we level the field, or at least a way we exchange some of the public good in exchange for another public good.

I don't think that expecting that these companies at the bare minimum accurately represent their offerings is a bridge too far. To shrug off their actions and the difficulty they present this person is to prioritize the money they saved though their inaction and falsehoods over the cost to this person. I'd be a lot more sanguine about this if stories of these companies dropping their side of the bargain and never paying a price for it wasn't legion. But this is no one-off, it's a consistent fucking of the American people and using their own collective property to do it.
posted by phearlez at 2:43 PM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Not that it matters exactly, but I basically doubt that Comcast is somehow profiting off this. I'm guessing they've spent a ton of time going back and forth with Seth and will recoup basically none of that cost. (I'm not saying they should, it's on them for being wrong in the first place.) It's not obvious to me that they would have any benefit from misleading about this. Perhaps I am naive. If step 3. ????? is to get that juicy $60k line extension deal from the occasional sucker, then 100% sue their pants off.
posted by snofoam at 3:23 PM on March 26, 2015


So much of this seems to boil down to "Cable companies are so incompetent and/or evil that no reasonably competent adult should believe anything they say" and that's just depressing.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Imagine that! Comcast being the good guys, having MORE service than they claimed, and being part of actual competition!

This is the first time I have ever heard of anyone having such an experience with Comcast. Are you sure you're not from a different timeline?
posted by winna at 3:44 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


but I basically doubt that Comcast is somehow profiting off this.

Comcast and Verizon and other carriers profit when they make deals for access to public routes with certain promises/expectations and then fail to build out to serve everyone. You can do your own googling to find the multitude of places where VZ has opted to cease expansion of their Fios network after they got themselves the plum subscribers.
posted by phearlez at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2015


Then buy a different house, maybe one where the current owner can show you that they have functioning high speed internet. Perhaps the word of a Comcast rep was the best he could do to confirm broadband for that house, but that doesn't mean its the best you could do for any house. For his specific needs, he bought the wrong house.

This isn't even enough. The previous people in the house in my story HAD cable Internet. Then they moved out and it was empty for several months while some maintenance was done. Then when I moved in, they wouldn't reconnect it from either available service even though it had just recently had it.

Due diligence is not the answer here. It's forcing some kind of minimum connection requirements from the ISPs. He is not in the wrong here, since even previous service in the same structure at the same address is apparently not enough. And they refuse to provide any sort of "yes we'll service this" on paper.

What more could he have Gotten? An SLA from a commercial provider? At a certain point it's unreasonable. If they say they can service it that should be binding on some level.
posted by emptythought at 4:53 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


An SLA from a commercial provider? At a certain point it's unreasonable.

At some point it is unreasonable, but getting an SLA from a commercial provider doesn't seem unreasonable if you require a service level that allows you to conduct business from your home.
posted by snofoam at 5:02 PM on March 26, 2015


Okay, I legitimately need reasonably fast internet service in my home in order to do my (non work from home) job, because I need to periodically do stuff remotely. And, let's be honest, I'm posting on Metafilter, so of course I want fast internet. What exactly are people advocating here? If I understand the bidding so far:

1. Asking Comcast/TimeWarner/Whoever if they offer service is insufficient because they're incompetent or liars
2. Asking if the previous owner, if there even is one, had service is insufficient because service areas change
3. I'm apparently supposed to negotiate some sort of legally binding contract with Comcast where they guarantee a certain level of service

So before I do so much as rent an apartment, I'm supposed to hire a lawyer and enter negotiations with Comcast, who we've already decided is too incompetent to determine whether they can actually offer service or not? Is that right? How much should I expect to pay a lawyer for this? And what if they don't return my lawyer's calls? I'm just not clear on what I'm actually supposed to do.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:06 PM on March 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Comcast and other carriers, on the other hand, are ditching having to make expenditures which they should be doing in exchange for the giveaways and access we as a nation are providing them."

Comcast is a villain and incompetent, you'll get no disagreement from me about that.

But I disagree with you about this specific situation in two important respects.

First, it's extremely important that this house is in an unincorporated, rural area. We're not talking about a municipality where there's the civil issues you describe. It's not the same situation. I do think that, in general, these carriers are the beneficiaries of a public largesse in multiple respects and I'd like to seem them regulated accordingly. And that would matter in this case, especially given the point I'm about to get to in a moment -- whatever matrix of contractual and regulatory requirements were involved with this, they should have been equivalent to those of the other utilities like electricity and water and such. The recent FCC rule change is a significant step in this direction.

Second, buying a home a is huge investment with all sorts of legal and prudential requirements for due diligence and, no, I don't think that consulting a cable company's website or calling their new service number is sufficient with regard to broadband access, which I think should be considered in this context as equivalent to a basic utility, as I just wrote. (As in: "I'm considering buying this house. What access does it have to basic utilities?")

Neither or both those things together mean that I'm "primarily blaming Seth". This is a bit of a digression, but over the years I've become increasingly frustrated, especially in MetaFilter discussions, with this tendency to see responsibility and blame as being zero-sum, as if saying that Seth did something wrong means that Comcast didn't. It's not zero-sum; Comcast is fully responsible for all the awful things they did in this situation independent of Seth's poor decision to buy this particular house given his requirements.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:14 PM on March 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


snofoam: "3) He has very specific data needs."

Huh. I think this might be another point of disagreement. I didn't think that he was asking for anything more than fairly standard residential broadband service (like whatever is in their Triple Play package). I know a bunch of people that work from home on exactly that basis. I didn't think he was asking for anything like data center-style, 99.999% uptime or a T1 line or whatever. I thought the problem here was that even this level of service was not available.

"5) I don't necessarily expect cable or phone companies to provide data to anywhere that anyone chooses to live."

However, I do expect cable and phone companies to provide service anywhere they say they provide service. If there were any kind of halfway decent consumer protection in the US, the guy would be able to force Comcast to live up to their stated promise. I guess another point of disagreement may be how binding their promises are, but that highlights the issue of whether or not a company make whatever claims they want and suffer no consequences whatsoever. It's not as if the request is impossible or even that unreasonable. Comcast sent out engineers to scope out the feasibility of hooking him up. They just decided that it wasn't worth it (probably because they knew they'd suffer no consequences). This guy isn't living in the middle of the Olympic National Park. He's four miles away from two (two!) different Starbucks.
posted by mhum at 6:20 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"So before I do so much as rent an apartment..."

No, I think buying a house is distinct from renting in terms of my argument, anyway. The stakes are much higher.

But, also, when you rent, these considerations are dealt with, or should be dealt with, in the rental contract. Especially if, like you or me, broadband access is crucial. For an apartment, it's much easier to verify that there's actual connectivity, or not. For a rental house, it would be more difficult but still it's something you can ask for proof of from the landlord before you sign a lease. Or insist on it in the lease. Or choose another location.

Honestly, I don't think I'd trust the cable company or even the phone company (for DSL) in the case of either a rental home or an apartment, either. They will probably tell you if they've served that particular address before, but I wouldn't trust this information for making my final decision to sign a lease. I'd hold the landlord responsible for proof -- verify that a neighbor has service or something.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ivan Fyodorovich: "It's not zero-sum; Comcast is fully responsible for all the awful things they did in this situation independent of Seth's poor decision to buy this particular house given his requirements."

Ok, this is a very fair point. But I think there can be honest disagreement over exactly how much blame Seth deserves. There can be spectrum of irresponsibility ranging from "buying a 1978 Datsun with 800,000 miles sight unseen" and "eating strawberries without first sending them to a microbiology lab to test for e. coli". One man's prudence can be another man's paranoia.

Of course, my perception of how much blame to ascribe is partly based on imagining what I would have done in that situation. Leaving aside the fact that I would never want to live in a rural area, I would probably have done exactly what Seth did and been screwed over in exactly the same way. When I moved into my existing house in a residential, semi-urban area, I don't think I even bothered to call Comcast. I just checked the website. And, I didn't even check if phone service was available. I just assumed. Was that irresponsible? I certainly didn't think so at the time. So, maybe my reluctance to place blame on Seth is partly influenced by a reluctance to retroactively place blame on myself.

Ivan Fyodorovich: "I'd hold the landlord responsible for proof"

Maybe I'm coming at this from the wrong angle, but I would like to hold Comcast (or Time Warner or whoever) responsible. If they say they can do it, I think that they should have to do it -- barring extenuating circumstances. And, "it was going to be somewhat more expensive than we thought" isn't really extenuating. Why does all the risk fall on the consumer (whether homeowner, tenant, or landlord) and none to the provider?
posted by mhum at 6:48 PM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Comcast and Verizon and other carriers profit when they make deals for access to public routes with certain promises/expectations and then fail to build out to serve everyone.

Sure, but this is clearly not what I was talking about, which was explicitly, specifically and very clearly Comcast being incorrect about their service area.

I didn't think that he was asking for anything more than fairly standard residential broadband service

In the article it basically explains that wireless is prohibitively expensive and the latency of satellite data made it incompatible with being able to connect through his VPN. For lots of people these could be viable options.

Seriously, though, the thing that makes this a dealbreaker is that there is no connection available (to this rural house) that is capable of satisfying the specific needs of his home office. This really has nothing to do with access to residential broadband and everything to do with how much due diligence one should do before deciding to locate your office in a rural area. It seems like some people in this thread don't actually understand the situation or are worried that acknowledging Seth's mistake makes them Comcast apologists.

He's four miles away from two (two!) different Starbucks.

Perfect! He can do his work from there!
posted by snofoam at 7:45 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Why does all the risk fall on the consumer (whether homeowner, tenant, or landlord) and none to the provider?"

It shouldn't, but this is like anything else and there's contractual agreements, or implicit ones, and then there's the middle-ground of advertising and such, and then there's just consumers making assumptions. I think this example is in that middle-ground somewhere, and the argument that if you specifically ask a provider if they can provide you with their service and they tell you they can then they have a responsibility does, in fact, carry weight with me. But generally so, too, not just about broadband providers but about any business. And that's in that vast grey area where small-claims court and bigger lawsuits happen.

But in that middle-ground, like with, say, a wedding photographer, if the stakes are high then you oughtn't just take their word, even if you likely will have later recourse if they don't do what they say, because then it's too late. Again, it's not zero-sum -- that they have a responsibility to live up to their promises doesn't mean that when the stakes are high, you should just take people at their word that they will.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:53 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


snofoam: "Sure, but this is clearly not what I was talking about, which was explicitly, specifically and very clearly Comcast being incorrect about their service area."

If I'm reading it correctly, according to the county's Master Franchise Ordinance, Comcast's service area is essentially all of Kitsap County (with only a few exceptions that this guy does not fall into). I think this is less an issue of Comcast being incorrect about their service area and more that they are not properly serving their service area. I suppose that it is possible that they are actually able to provide cable TV service but not cable internet to that address but I'm pretty sure that's not how Comcast works; also, the article says there isn't even a cable box at the house. Again, it's not a matter that this guy is living in a place that is impossible or even unreasonable for Comcast to service. It's that Comcast simply refuses to hook him up to their system, whether out of sheer incompetence or mercenary profit-seeking. They weren't even able to provide an official quote for the connection.

snofoam: "Seriously, though, the thing that makes this a dealbreaker is that there is no connection available (to this rural house) that is capable of satisfying the specific needs of his home office. This really has nothing to do with access to residential broadband"

If I'm not misinterpreting you here, I feel like you're making a distinction between what Seth requires and what a typical non-home-based internet worker requires in an internet connection. I don't think I fully understand what this distinction is, at least based on my personal experience. Basically everyone I know who works on the internet from home -- whether on a full-time basis or a flex-time basis -- just uses the standard residential broadband options, usually either cable or DSL. I never really considered satellite and cellular as standard residential options but I'll accept that I may mistaken about that.

snofoam: "everything to do with how much due diligence one should do before deciding to locate your office in a rural area."

This is, I think, at the heart of most of the disagreements in this thread. It seems to me that your perspective is that not physically verifying a broadband connection (which, as pointed out in the article, can take weeks if not months to resolve) in Seth's situation is at the roughly the same level as, say, not checking if the property's well is functional or if all the covenants and easements on the property are tolerable.
posted by mhum at 11:04 PM on March 26, 2015


Ivan Fyodorovich: "if the stakes are high then you oughtn't just take their word"

That's the thing isn't it? I think we take companies at their word (or, at least, don't mediate every aspect of our commercial life via ad hoc negotiations and contracts) all the time, even in cases with even higher stakes. I'm thinking of stuff like auto safety, food hygiene, etc... (i.e.: threats to your life and well-being). If I drive off the dealership lot with a brand new car that then promptly explodes, do I bear blame for not bringing a mechanic to do an inspection at the dealership? If a restaurant gives me food poisoning, how much am I to blame because I didn't look them up beforehand on the heath department's food inspection website? And, come to think of it, in your example where stakes are high of a wedding photographer, I'm having some difficulty coming up with what you would do besides take them at their word (i.e.: that they'd show up and take decent pictures) if any post facto remedy would be considered insufficient. Would you hire a second photographer?
posted by mhum at 12:24 AM on March 27, 2015


And it's not going to be easy to sell that house, now that he has conclusively demonstrated that it cannot receive broadband service ...
posted by alby at 4:11 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just had my cable internet rate triple because the "introductory" rate (the only one on their website) expired and they just don't do negotiation any more.

I feel your pain and just went through the same thing. I'd been "gaming the monopoly" for a few years by calling up Comcast and threatening to switch service and getting them to give me another year at the intro rate. They no doubt have tools available to them now that lets them know I actually don't have a viable broadband choice at my home (I live in a big city, but CenturyLink won't upgrade existing infrastructure, they are only interested in suburban developments where the profit margin is higher).

Since Comcast now realizes they've got me over a barrel, I'm paying over the barrel. I hate them so. much.
posted by mcstayinskool at 7:00 AM on March 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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