from the do-not-pass-go,-do-not-collect-$200 dept
For decades the U.S. newswires have been peppered with stories where somebody bought a house after being told by their ISP it had broadband access, only to realize the ISP didn’t actually serve that address. Generally, the homeowner then realizes they have to spend a stupid amount of money to pay the local telecom monopoly to extend service… or move again.
That happened again recently. A Virginia man confirmed with Comcast that they provided broadband to his new home in Washington State. Then, about four days before closing, Comcast suddenly cancelled the order. When contacted, Comcast stated they couldn’t actually provide service, and that it would cost the man $19,000 to extend service to his home:
Comcast initially told Rowny that he’d have to pay over $19,000 for a line extension. After spending a couple of months investigating his options, Rowny hired a contractor to do part of the work and paid Comcast to do the rest, for a total of about $10,000.
Even then, the work took much longer to complete than estimated, thanks in part to Comcast’s dysfunction and trademark terrible customer service. First the line couldn’t be finished because Comcast wasn’t communicating with its subcontractor. Then Comcast couldn’t finalize the billing to fire up the line because Comcast’s systems still listed service as unavailable at his address.
This flawed data, which Comcast has no incentive to fix lest it highlight market failure and monopolization, is also used to inform federal broadband mapping efforts, which also stink. It’s a big chain of dysfunction that has persisted for the better part of a generation.
Again, this same story has played out countless times. It’s part of the vast pleasures of letting U.S. telecom become highly monopolized, which results in high prices, poor customer service, and companies that aren’t incentivized to actually try very hard (because in the U.S. we have neither competent regulatory oversight nor the kind of competition needed to create genuine accountability).
This is all something well-lobbied U.S. policymakers refuse to even acknowledge, much less meaningfully address. Instead they tend to just throw billions of dollars in subsidies at monopolies and billionaires, and talk about the “digital divide” as if it were some causation-free thing that just dropped out of the sky.
Time after time, local ISPs are found to be flat out lying when they claim they can offer an essential utility (broadband), and the home buyer has little recourse thanks to the slow, steady erosion of U.S. state and federal telecom regulatory oversight.