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The Internet Businesses

Broadband ISP Betrayal Forces Homeowner To Sell New House 222

New submitter knightsirius writes: A Washington homeowner is having to sell his new house after being refused internet service from Comcast and CenturyLink despite receiving confirmation from both that the location was able to receive broadband service. The whole process took months and involved false assurances and bureaucratic convolutions. The national broadband map database frequently cited by Comcast as proof of sufficient competition lists 10 options at his location, including a gigabit municipal fiber network, but he cannot subscribe to it due to Washington state direct sale restrictions.
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Broadband ISP Betrayal Forces Homeowner To Sell New House

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  • Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheReaperD ( 937405 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @07:47AM (#49353309)

    Quick and effective solution to this problem. Pass a law that if a service provider says that they offer service to an address they must do so by law. No fines, they have to install service. If that means $30,000 in new cable to be laid, then so be it. The service providers will get their service maps in order really quickly and we'd have accurate coverage numbers for the country.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
      I guess it depends on what the fine is for not complying. For your above scenario to make sense, the fine itself would have to be more than the cost of installing the line. Otherwise, they would just pay the fine and forget about it. Also, there would need to be timelines for how long they can take to get the service working. If you have to live in the house a year without good internet before they get the service up and running then the law isn't very helpful. Also, what happens if you move in in Decemb
      • Re:Easy Solution (Score:4, Informative)

        by thaylin ( 555395 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:05AM (#49353437)

        He specifically said no fines, that they have to provide the service as the fine.

        • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

          by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:07AM (#49353443)
          He specifically said no fines, that they have to provide the service as the fine.

          And if they don't?
          • He specifically said no fines, that they have to provide the service as the fine.

            And if they don't?

            OK, fine... add a fine. Set a deadline. If they don't comply after that deadline it's a $10k/day fine :).

            • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:26AM (#49353571)

              Fines don't work.
              Just revoke the companies existence if they refuse.

          • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:26AM (#49353577)

            He specifically said no fines, that they have to provide the service as the fine.

            And if they don't?

            Service is supplied by municipal agency at their expense.

          • by JanneM ( 7445 )

            And if they don't?

            Suspension of business. All business. Until the line is connected.

            • Makes no sense. Comcast is the only Internet cable provider in the area for many locations. You would just be disconnecting thousands of users from the internet, just to be hard nosed, not that I have any particular eagerness to pay Comcast their exorbitant prices.

              Instead, I suggest Kitsap County residents form their own corporation to act as a reseller of KPUD internet. That way local communities will have more control over their installation and prices. It could operate as a "for profit collective".

          • If they don't, the customer is free to hire a different company to lay out the infrastructure, at whatever rate it costs, which the ISP will be forced to connect to their network within a week after they get notified. If they fail to connect the line in time, the ISP will be fined by whatever they make daily.

            All the bills, plus a management fee for the customer will be payed forefront by the State, which in turn will litigate -not the customer, to get their money returned.

            • Litigate? Just have the state use civil forfeiture to seize their recompense from among the offending ISPs possessions. I'm sure that'll be enough to get all the ISPs to delete the state from their coverage maps and say "We don't claim coverage in Washington State."
          • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

            by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:08AM (#49353913) Homepage Journal

            He specifically said no fines, that they have to provide the service as the fine.

            And if they don't?

            Fine them enough to bring in that line from the telco, installation and service. If that means they're paying for a fiber pull so you can get a fractional T3, so be it. It makes it a simple cost decision. I'm tired of blatantly fraudulent coverage maps, too.

          • Have them pay the customer a sum equal to the amount the customer paid for the house.

          • that would either get their attention or get them replaced with someone more competent.
          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

            The guy in the story says that there were some wireless options but they were extremely expensive. Just fine them the cost of the wireless service until they install the cable.

          • Then have the homeowner (after seeking a court order allowing him to do so) run the fiber at his expense, and the company pays 125% of the cost. Companies paying what courts dictate is already a solved problem.

            As for them hooking up a paying customer when the additional cost is almost nothing? I'd imagine a relatively small fine ($500/day) would be sufficient if you allow like a week or something reasonable before it kicks in.

          • Then the state does it for them and attaches the bill to their tax liability. If they don't pay that, there is already a way to deal with it.

      • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:18AM (#49353525) Homepage

        Home Owner: But but but, thats price is outrageous!!! How can I run my business if you guys are stomping my entire profit margin?

        Comcast: Because...we can :)

        Home Owner: But I have a business to run!

        Comcast: Look into my eyes; you don't work for yourself, you work for Comcast!!! *evil laughter*.

        Home Owner: What's your name!?

        Comcast: Skeletor!

      • I guess it depends on what the fine is for not complying. For your above scenario to make sense, the fine itself would have to be more than the cost of installing the line.

        Sounds good. Let's set the fine to be twice the cost of installing the line.

        Also, there's no law saying how much they are allowed to charge you, and they often don't charge the same fees for everybody.

        So the law says they can't charge you more because you're on a line which was installed under this program.

      • by c ( 8461 )

        I guess it depends on what the fine is for not complying. For your above scenario to make sense, the fine itself would have to be more than the cost of installing the line.

        It doesn't have to be a big fine. It just has to be a fine that continues to apply until they install it. $50/day until the service is turned on would get compliance... eventually.

        Once they've installed your lines, you're basically a slave to paying that provider's rates.

        That's a tougher problem, but I'm sure it could be managed.

      • I guess it depends on what the fine is for not complying. For your above scenario to make sense, the fine itself would have to be more than the cost of installing the line. Otherwise, they would just pay the fine and forget about it. Also, there would need to be timelines for how long they can take to get the service working. If you have to live in the house a year without good internet before they get the service up and running then the law isn't very helpful. Also, what happens if you move in in December and they can't install the lines until March when the ground has thawed? Also, there's no law saying how much they are allowed to charge you, and they often don't charge the same fees for everybody. Once they've installed your lines, you're basically a slave to paying that provider's rates. If they want to jack up the rate 6 months down the road to recoup costs, there isn't much you can do about it, other than try to get some other provider to put in lines as well.

        Actually there was only one important caveat: "Pass a law that if a service provider says that they offer service to an address they must do so by law." So the goal is not to get service to every address in the US, the goal is to make paying the fines more painful than generating a correct national broadband map. Correct map in hand, consumers can make a more informed choice and national providers will have a more flimsy straw man from which to argue behind.

        • So the only thing this would accomplish is forcing Comcast making it clear that thousands of residents have no expectation of internet service.

          You can't expect people to fund other people's internet access for free and the constitution prohibits bills of attainder of the type you are attempting to write anyway, so your approach is moot before it even gets of the ground.

          Much better is to find ways to actually create competition in markets like Kitsap County that doesn't actually have any.

    • by xmousex ( 661995 )

      Except that in some cases, like the one I am presently dealing with, the final connectivity cannot be established because of environmental laws protecting nearby state park land. So even though they say they can do it, when they show up there are things they just cannot legally do.

      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        Not sure that really changes the thrust of the idea since, unless you land is completely contained within protected parcels, they can run a line via another route. It is no different than them saying 'well, your next door neighbor does not want us digging up their lawn, so it is their fault you do not have service'
    • by alen ( 225700 )

      and the maps will change and no one will promise anything until a survey is done for which there is a fee. like when you are buying a home and have to pay a bunch of people before you close the deal.

      • I would prefer that. I would pay as much as a few hundred just to have that assurance before closing on a house. I just bought a home with no assurances of broadband, but for some of my choices I really wasn't sure and it weighed heavily in my decision.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by omnichad ( 1198475 )

      I'm just waiting for a "free market" troll to come in here and say that this is self-regulating. Just don't buy service from them, they'll say, and the market will sort it out..somehow. And...I really don't know how that argument will make any sense.

      • Re:Easy Solution (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Cassini2 ( 956052 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:03AM (#49353865)

        Some markets naturally favor monopolies. Telecommunications is a good example. 23 years after the breakup of AT&T, the phone system, internet and cable systems in the US are back to being monopolies in many areas. The lucky areas have two or three near-monopolistic competitors, and these competitors behave suspiciously like cartels.

        Economics 101: Free markets only work under specific conditions. [wikipedia.org] In this case, a free market requires low barriers to entry. Telecommunications has huge capital cost expenses that decline with the number of customers served. Thus, a monopoly that actively excludes competitors can maximize profits. If new entrants enter the marketplace, the monopoly can cut prices sufficiently that they can always bankrupt the new entrant, and continue to make a profit.

        This is also why states have laws blocking municipalities from offering Internet. Once a municipality builds the infrastructure, the resulting system is almost guaranteed to be profitable. As such, the big telcos hire lobbyists to pass laws to prevent construction of such systems, as they will be long-term competitors against the big telcos.

        • Right - and once you become a monopoly, you behave like one without tight regulation - which we're lacking. That's why it's time for municipalities to start offering Internet along with water, sometimes electricity, contracted group trash pickup, etc. The Internet still needs a backbone and lots of secondary networks, but I think last mile is no longer a viable consumer product thanks to the telcos screwing that up.

    • Much better solution than all the whiners saying "tough luck".

      Start holding these scummy ISPs responsible and break all their little municipal and other "agreements" that amount to effective monopolies...

    • The problem is, something like this will never happen. The ISPs will stomp their feet, throw a tantrum and lawyer up. Only when folks are standing at the doors with pitchforks and torches will they change...
    • Re:Easy Solution (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:40AM (#49354205)

      Pass a law that if a service provider says that they offer service to an address they must do so by law. No fines, they have to install service. If that means $30,000 in new cable to be laid, then so be it. The service providers will get their service maps in order really quickly and we'd have accurate coverage numbers for the country. .The service providers will get their service maps in order really quickly and we'd have accurate coverage numbers for the country.

      This is the problem with people who typically see regulation as the solution to everything - they assume the best possible outcome for themselves. When in fact the best possible outcome for the company targeted by the regulations is what will really happen.

      If your proposal were implemented, the best possible outcome for the company is that they simply discontinue providing coverage maps for the country, and require you to call in. You will verbally be given a quote with a disclaimer that quoting a price does not constitute a guarantee that your address is within their service area. And if you need that guarantee, you will need to subscribe for a year and put down a deposit so they can send someone out there to survey the location. If it turns out they can't provide service, they'll refund your deposit. But if they can service you, you're committed to the year's subscription (thus neatly preventing you from finding if another ISP also covers you).

      How do I know? Because I just went through this trying to get Time-Warner cable internet at the commercial building I manage.

      • If your proposal were implemented, the best possible outcome for the company is that they simply discontinue providing coverage maps for the country, and require you to call in

        It's not so simple. Large ISPs are always touting how much coverage they provide and how many options people have for broadband Internet service at their houses. Without the maps, they won't be able to make these claims and their political ability to suppress competitors (especially competition from city-owned infrastructure) will b

      • None of what you went through in any way seems onerous. The use-case is when someone is buying a new property, not every six months. It's a big deal.

        And, I don't see what's even marginally offensive about what happened to you. You call N providers to get quotes. All tell you the same thing you quoted. You start with the best choice at a one-year contract. If that fails, you call the second best, and so on.

      • by neminem ( 561346 )

        Fixing that for you:
        > If it turns out they can't provide service, they'll claim they refunded your deposit, but never actually send you a refund. When you call them later that month to ask about it, they'll insist that they did, redirect you a couple times to people who don't have your information, then eventually say they'll call you back tomorrow about it, which they also won't do.

    • Fining the Cable Companies won't get very far as they simply have enough cash to buy all the politicians they need to stay ahead of the curve, particularly since they only need about 1/3 of the politicians to stymie any positive solution.

      However, there is an interesting twist to this and being a resident of Kitsap county it has made me curious.

      Under state law, the KPUD (Kitsap Public Utility District) can not sell its internet connections directly to customers, but must sell to resellers. The question then

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2015 @07:48AM (#49353315)

    As annoying as the experience must have been, it still reduces to the home owner wanting a house away from civilization, but still requiring the products of civilization.

    Cities and towns have perks because city and town living is more efficient.

    If you want to live in the middle of nowhere, be prepared to make sacrifices.

    • by jythie ( 914043 )
      It is one thing to blindly expect things to work out, but this person did their due diligence and made their decision based off the promise that the expected service was available. It is fair to want things that are promised to you after handing over massive amounts of money.
    • This is EXACTLY why we regulated the phone companies. We feel these services are needed by EVERYONE, so much so that we force the companies to provide reasonable access to every single address that is practically feasible. We do this so people can live anywhere in our great nation. It has nothing to do with market forces, We The People decided its too important to let companies pick winners and losers. Part of the deal with granting them right of way is that they have to do things that arent always profitab
    • Exept the part where he verified service with two broadband providers before buying the house. Both lied then claimed they'd made an error. Error or lie, he relied on their information to his detriment. There's even a phrase for that in the law. Detrimental reliance.

      I just went throught this crap last year when I was shopping for a house. I had a wonderful region picked out but had to scrap it completely because nobody down there could tell me what internet service was available. "That's the first que

  • ... and we don't need to do it again.

  • Didn't the FCC Net Neutrality ruling pre-empt the sates bans on municipal fiber networks?

    • The problem here is that this house seems too close to the municipal fibers, even though Seth isn't allowed to connect to them. Therefore, Comcast has nowhere to put their wire, and CenturyLink is based on renting wires that are already there. That seems like an undisclosed material fact at the time of the sale.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 27, 2015 @07:49AM (#49353329)

    When I bought my home, I was assured by AT&T that they provided Uverse up to 18mbit at my address, and the employee on the phone actually directed me to the National Broadband Map.

    After I moved in, I ordered service, and what do you know? I can only get legacy DSL at 768k. I filed complaints with FCC and FTC over the false claims and false representation on the broadband map, only to receive "thanks but we don't care" letters from both agencies, along with a courtesy call from AT&T confirming that 768k was the highest speed I could get.

    The county fiber network runs right past my house, but since AT&T was able to get a municipal network ban passed as state law in SC (fuck you very much for signing it, Nikki Haley, you steaming piece of shit), I can't connect to it (only people who have NO Internet options from a major ISP can connect to it, and since I can get 768k DSL, I can't connect to the county network).

    Fuck you AT&T
    Fuck you FCC
    Fuck you FTC
    Fuck you Nikki Haley
    Fuck you South Carolina

  • Dupe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Slashdot Parent ( 995749 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @07:54AM (#49353361)

    This is a repost [slashdot.org].

  • Comcast would have gladly put in a node when they were building their current network, but it seems the previous homeowner didn't ask for their house to be served... either this property didn't exist when this was happening, or it was occupied with a Luddite. If whomever sold the house promised there would be Internet, it's cause to reverse the sale.

  • Was whether or not he offered to finance the build out. I don't know what closing costs are like in his area, but in my area, they're easily $6k-$8k. Comcast doesn't want to drop the money on him, but I bet they'd have jumped if he agreed to pay for the build out since it was already nearby.

    • The problem is that the companies told him repeatedly when he was purchasing the home that they would provide service to the house. After his purchase was completed, they decided that they really don't serve that property after all. Why should he pay for the build out when they originally told him that no build out was needed? If the cable company tells you that they'll serve Property X, they should be held accountable to that and be forced to serve Property X - not suddenly decide that this property isn

  • Choice? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khr ( 708262 ) <kevinrubin@gmail.com> on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:12AM (#49353479) Homepage

    Shouldn't the headline be more like "Homeowner Chooses To Sell New House after Broadband ISP Betrayal".

    • Re:Choice? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:38AM (#49353679) Homepage

      If he can't get broadband, he can't do his job. If he can't do his job, he (probably) can't make his mortgage payments. If he can't make his mortgage payments, he can't live in the house.

      So there's quite possibly not much choice about it.

      • There are a lot of ways to get broadband internet which are a lot cheaper than selling a house. He mentions the nearest Comcast plant is 2500 ft away, and that he goes to a local Starbucks for their free wifi when he hits his cellular cap. So it sounds like there's a clustering of businesses about a half mile away, with broadband Internet. All he needs to do is make friends with a one of the businesses there, offer to pay half their monthly Internet bill if they'll mount an antenna on the roof, and mount
        • One of my available providers is a local equivalent of your American Starbucks. It's located half a mile away. No idea about the clear line of sight. I tested a link with a 90-cm dish and Ubiquiti Rocket, then put it aside due to 4 other working uplinks.

      • Re:Choice? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @10:41AM (#49354779) Journal

        If he can't get broadband, he can't do his job. If he can't do his job, he (probably) can't make his mortgage payments. If he can't make his mortgage payments, he can't live in the house.

        Except that he can get broadband; he just can't get it quite a cheap as he wanted. Either this story or yesterday's mentions that he was paying $5 a GB for cellular data (3G?), and running up about 30 GB a month in usage. So, $150 per month. The hookup he wanted would have probably cost, what, $40 or $50 a month? If he's living so close to the edge that an extra hundred a month puts him on the street, then he couldn't really afford to live in that house anyway. (Some of us are out of pocket more than a hundred a month for a bus pass to get to work. We suck it up; it's a cost of doing business and living where we choose.)

        Of course, this guy also claims to have offered to pay "a good chunk of the cost" of installing the cable to his house, which would have run into the tens of thousands of dollars. If he was willing to splash out for that, then he could have afforded to pay even utterly ungodly cellular data rates for years. Bluntly, the only plausible explanation is that there's more going on here than meets the eye--the financial and technical case don't credibly add up to being "forced" to sell his house. Either he's got additional reasons that he wants/needs to move that he isn't sharing, or he just really craved some attention.

  • by WoodburyMan ( 1288090 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:18AM (#49353529)
    We live in a somewhat rural area. Fiber isn't even close, and DSL service (6mbit max) only became available a year or two ago. Cable internet through Charter has been available for over a decade though, and we've had Cable TV since the early 1990's. About 5 years ago, relatives next door finally caved and wanted cable. They are literally one house before us, and equal distance from the road. (100ft or so). Every time we called they said it was not available for their address. It took 6mo of fighting, and a call/complaint to the local cable/communication oversight committee, to get them to send a survey crew (A single guy), who immediately got out of the car, looked, said "The f**k, there's no problem here you can get it" who then went on about a rant about how their database is so messed up and inaccurate.
  • by alen ( 225700 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:21AM (#49353535)

    Always verify everything yourself and don't trust anyone.

    Pay for the previous owner's internet for a month or two just to make sure you can have it in the home. Ask for utility bills

    A lot of sellers will try to hide major problems like mold and previous flooding which is why you need a good inspector. And don't trust the realtor

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @08:39AM (#49353693) Homepage

      More - don't buy an entire house on the expectation of a company delivering a product.

      Because selling an entire house just because you couldn't get Internet you were promised some dumbness of inordinate magnitude.

      Did they not bother to ask neighbours first? If those neighbours have Internet, can't they piggyback on the wifi or put a microwave connection across at worse?

      All I take from the article (twice now!) is "tech guy still trusts in suppliers' promises".

      If it's that important you'd sell the house, you didn't do your homework beforehand. If it's REALLY that important, you'd probably consider leased lines, satellite and other more expensive methods.

      Hell, just as a bog-standard geek the first thing I did in my house was check the phone lines, check 3G connectivity (now 4G but that wasn't around at the time), and look out in the street for the CATV manholes that UK cable operators dig lines to your house from. The only thing I didn't bother to do was properly check wifi signal propagation because I could already see half-a-dozen of the neighbour's wifi networks from upstairs. And that's in the suburbs. Stick me out somewhere in the sticks and you bet I'd be checking stuff on anything other than supplier's promises.

    • So much this.
      If that single factor (be it "Xmbps broadband", or "no cat dander" or view of the fucking Eiffel tower) is the controlling factor of whether you can live in a house or not, then just put it in the closing documents as a contingency.

      Done.

      Not one line of new regulations or laws required.

  • Repeat Submission (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GrooveNeedle ( 3847301 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:02AM (#49353855)
    Why is this not caught by an editor?

    http://tech.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

  • Sounds familiar (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Pumpkin Tuna ( 1033058 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:44AM (#49354239)
    I'm having the same situation. AT&T swears up and down that they can give me U-verse service . . . until the tech gets there and finds out that the nearest box is miles away. They then tell me that they can probably get me DSL. But when I talk to the call center folks, they say they can't process a DSL order while the system says U-Verse is available. Don't worry, they say, as soon as the maps are updated, we can order your DSL. Almost a year later, the maps aren't updated. It's almost like they vigorously don't want my business.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've had many incidents of this same situation with various telcos and cable companies over the years.

    Specific to Comcast, they told me I could not get service at my house but yet came out 2 weeks later to disconnect service from the previous owner of the house.

    Verizon with DSL, getting letters in the mail and calls to home to get DSL. I signed up and at least 5 times in two years. Every time they would send someone to my house and find out I could not actually get it. Another strange one with Verizon.

  • by netsavior ( 627338 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @09:51AM (#49354305)
    I moved into nice apartments in Westlake Village, California. Called Verizon, had them hook up DSL. It was fast and worked well... for 12 hours.
    My service was shut off.

    I called and they said "Service is not available in your area.

    I told them I had service yesterday, and they confirmed that I did, but that it was a mistake, and service was not available.

    We went around and around, I finally gave up after 2 hours on the phone, vowing to sign up with someone else. No other service available, and since I was at the bottom of a valley, EVEN SATELLITE was not available.

    After a few more days of phone calls and escalations, I finally straight up asked them "Is the CO/RT full and you didn't realize it until you hooked me up?" they admitted that yes it was.

    I made a deal with my neighbor, bought her network equipment and paid her phone bill every month just for letting me use her wifi.

    THEN to add insult to injury, I got a contract cancellation fee bill from Verizon in the mail, because I terminated my contract for DSL before a year was up.
    • I've lived at my current location for going on 8 years. Started out with Sprint provided wireless broadband and then had to switch to a couple of other providers when Sprint sold their spectrum to another entity. Our land line at the time was provided by AT&T, but they were using an old zip code so it actually took us a month or so to get that established after we moved in. So as you can imagine the zip code issue made trying to order broadband service from AT&T fun. At first I get told service
  • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Friday March 27, 2015 @10:24AM (#49354599)
    If the previous owners and/or their neighbors don't have service then assume you can't get it. Especially if you're livelihood depends on having broadband at home.

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