from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
The latest example of this comes via Ars Technica, which tells the tale of a Nebraska farmer who simply wanted something better than the 1.5 Mbps connection he received from Windstream. That line often struggled to deliver him even 512 kbps, so he asked Windstream how much it would cost to connect him with pure fiber to Windstream's core network. According to Windstream's own fiber map, he lived about a quarter mile from the ISP's core network, but Windstream claimed the distance was more like 3.5 miles -- and the price tag to do the work was a rock bottom $383,500.
Mysteriously, when Schneider turned to a smaller local competitor, it was willing to do the same work for a mere fraction of the cost:
"Fortunately, it looks like Schneider will get fiber service for a fraction of that price from a second network provider called Northeast Nebraska Telephone Company (NNTC). Even though the Schneider farm is completely outside NNTC’s service area, even for copper, NNTC told him it would build the fiber line for a more reasonable $41,915.88. While nearly $42,000 is still a lot, Schneider noted that “it is a one-time investment that will enhance my quality of life and property value significantly."When pressed by Ars as to why Windstream wanted to charge eight times as much to connect the farmer, the ISP didn't much want to talk about it:
"What isn’t clear is why Windstream would charge nine times as much as NNTC. Ars contacted Windstream, which confirmed the $383,500 price, saying “the total quoted was for 36 months of dedicated Internet service." We also asked Windstream how it calculated the estimate but did not receive an answer.That's because these totals are often pulled entirely out of an ISP's ass, and are usually artificially inflated to deter customers from signing up for service -- since they don't like the slow ROI showing up on their quarterly results -- even if the line is profitable in the long term. Only in the broadband sector do you so consistently see companies that don't actually appear to even want to be in the business they're in, with such an obvious disdain for the customers they "serve."
Of course even if the farmer had been able to afford Windstream's steep price tag, there's no indication the Windstream network would have performed. A recent FCC study on which ISPs deliver advertised speeds ranked Windstream as the very worst U.S. ISP when it comes to delivering the bandwidth they advertise and users pay for. The ISP was also fined $600,000 by the Atlanta AG last year for false advertising, after state leaders were flooded with complaints about under-performing broadband connections and its congested core network.
This is all of course thanks to the fact that Windstream sees so little broadband competition that there's absolutely nothing requiring it to upgrade networks or give much of a damn. We've also consistently deregulated the broadband industry to the point where most regional regulatory agencies are utterly toothless, something we were told was supposed to free the industry from restrictions and result in a broadband free market Utopia. In reality, the end result has been an endless flood of charming anecdotes like this one, worth remembering the next time an industry lobbyist is busy arguing that U.S. consumers are simply awash in robust market competition.