from the dysfunction-junction dept
For example, Seattle startup SmartCar wanted to open an office in Mountain View, California, so last year they asked Comcast if service was available. According to Comcast's website and two Comcast representatives, the company should have been able to get 100 Mbps broadband and television service bundled for $190 a month, provided SmartCar signed a "Business Service Order Agreement” and provided a $2,100 deposit. But as we've seen many times before, ISP availability systems simply aren't accurate, and Comcast soon informed the company that broadband wasn't available:
"The answer came back via e-mail on April 24: “The pre-wire survey shows that your location is just outside of our Comcast service zone,” a Comcast salesperson told Katta. “It just is not a financial feasibility to run the coax cable close enough to bring you service. We have a model and this would not meet the Comcast ‘payback’ model. Comcast doesn’t have any future plans to do a build out there. I understand that this is not good news and I sincerely want to thank you for your interest."Which would have been annoying but not really news worthy if it had just ended there. But Comcast then reached out to SmartCar again to note that while cable wasn't available, the company would be able to provide fiber to the company's new Mountain View address for significantly more money per month:
"...This wasn’t the end of Katta’s dealings with Comcast. After further discussions, Comcast told Katta the company would be able to deliver fiber Internet service—at a much higher price than cable. Construction was required to bring fiber to the building, and Comcast wanted Katta to sign a four-year contract and pay $1,050 a month for 100Mbps symmetrical Internet service. “As we were already stuck in this lease, I had no option but to move forward,” (SmartCar CEO Sahas) Katta said."While Comcast originally claimed the longest SmartCar would have to wait was "90 to 120 days," ten months went by before Comcast finally conceded that it couldn't service the company's address, blaming permitting and construction delays. Which again, would have been annoying but not the end of the world. That's when Comcast demanded $60,000 in payments for broadband service never delivered:
"With the lease expiring and Comcast service nowhere in sight, SmartCar sent a letter to Comcast on January 21 saying the company wished to terminate its contract. As noted earlier, Comcast then informed SmartCar that in order to cancel, it would have to pay $60,900.45 to cover construction costs. SmartCar pleaded its case with Comcast throughout all of February and part of March without any success. That finally changed after Ars got in touch with Comcast’s public relations team. On March 9, a Comcast rep sent Katta an e-mail apologizing while waiving the $60,900.45 in fees. The letter promised a refund of the $2,100 deposit."So in typical Comcast fashion you've got several layers of failure here, from systems that can't accurately state where Comcast can deliver service, to a general tone-deafness to the problem of trying to charge $60,000 for service that was never delivered. And once again, only the threat of media coverage appears to be enough to get Comcast to admit any sort of error on its part. The only broadband service the company was able to get at the address was an AT&T line capable of just 500 kbps upstream, which is pretty common in areas where the local telco has given up on fixed-line broadband.
All told, it's another example of the lack of broadband competition across a huge swath of the country, and how it's only getting worse in areas where local cable monopolies face less competitive pressure than ever before.