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Charter Communications - Charter Cable Problems
Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2010 at 9:29am CDT by 112963c5
Company: Charter Communications
My Experience with Charter Communication
I have lived in a Charter monopoly cable area now for three years, and they have provided me a great deal of insight into how a technology company can totally botch customer service, hiding behind a local monopoly contract. My experiences should illustrate what a consumer has to go through before they actually get mad enough to take action, and what they have to do to try and get rid of Charter.
It started in 2008 when the Charter installer came to install the equipment. He was unable to get service running to the apartment I was in even though I showed the apartments next door had unreliable service (implying the problem was either in the complex wiring or in Charters wiring) and told me that I could not understand the complexity of internet communication and that it was the fault of my non-standard computer. When I brought out three other computers that likewise would not connect he said, you must have done something to them and left without installing the service, requiring that I call, make a new appointment, and have a new installation made. Since the problem was in the Charter office and not in the local wiring, the next tech was able to quickly fix things, but it required me to take time off work a second time to wait for them.
The service at the apartment was bad, but Charter explained it that the Apartment's wiring was at fault and that they could not help that.
In 2009 I moved into a new house, and had Charter hooked up, expecting that the service issues from the apartment would be solved. The house was less than a mile from the apartment, but the service issues where the same. Oddly enough, they were the same at my neighbors. They were the same in the apartment complex behind my house. For all of us the Internet service was fitful and rarely worked for longer than 60 minutes. Playing an online game was frustrating because Charter would disconnect every 45 minutes or so. Video conferencing was problematic, although it usually was more graceful about a lost charter connection.
I called for service and was told that they would send a tech out to see what I was doing wrong. I accepted their offer, but also decided to run a test for myself. (The tech would later report nothing wrong and suggest it was the fault of the new Vista operating system). After the tech came out and said the problem must be in the wire to my house (and said that my neighbor who had the same problems at the same time must also have bad wires.) I started to take my test seriously. For a week, I put Charter through its paces.
Running a log, I recorded more than 40 DHCP resets in one hour during a particularly bad day. On the second week I recorded more than 7 hours of interruptions each day, and I recorded more than 50 interruptions of 30 seconds or more each day for more than a month. During the month of my tests the Internet was constricted for bandwidth on numerous occasions, unavailable many occasions, and these problems extended to my neighbors as well as my own service. Occasionally, I would run a speed test and get 15/mbs, close enough to what I was paying for, but when the system became fitful it would run at 3-7 m/bs.
I tested the service out with Macintosh and Windows computers. The Mac where a bit more graceful at handling the DHCP resets, but online communication was still fitful. My friends brought over laptops and desktops to see if the standard technician's line about nonstandard computers (or the "Window's Vista problem) was the issue. The problems remained.
One evening after cable service interruption crashed two video conferences and brought down a game I was playing three times, I called customer service for the last time, and was enlightened by their response. The CSR rep said if all I was doing was playing games then I should be ashamed to complain about a few interruptions, that it might do me good to get away from my computer. When I said that I also work in the communication industry and video conferencing (for example) was essential to that work she said that the consumer connections dont have to be reliable but that if I really want reliable Internet, I can pay for it by getting a business connection, and she could terminate my Internet contract if she discovered I was conducting business on it.
When I asked her if this was good customer service, she said if I did not like Charter, I could do business with another cable company.
A year later and I have the same poor service despite moving to a new house in a new part of town. During the installation at my most recent house the installer was the most knowledgeable and friendly to yet service my contract, but likewise he could do nothing to make the connections reliable.
Charter is a secure in its monopoly in my town and the only real high speed service provider. Meetings of angry customers, e-mail campaigns, and chat group revolts do not work. Charter is capable of ignoring the complaints of even hundreds of customers.
As a consumer, there is very little left to do, but try and bring out the big guns. In my personal life I have been able to steer around $100,000 dollars of business from Charter, not much (drinking with a local Charter employee -- its a small town -- he says Charter wastes that must in corporate dinner parties in a single day and will never notice it, it only hurts the salespeople who loose the commissions). To fight bad customer service by charter, I have started to contemplate other actions.
1) Try an get an alternate company to come into town and provide a rival service. Comcast, Brighthouse, and Verizon have all provided excellent service to me in the past. Letters to each company so far have come up dry ("We cannot reveal our future expansion goals is the best I got, a form letter) but if I can get competition for Charter, it will offer all of the weary citizens of my town relief.
2) Contact the media. This is not as useful as it seems because with budget cuts in papers, journalists simply do not have time to report on a local monopoly who hides behind its city charter to provide poor service. Still, if enough people contact enough journalists, one will find a story and run with it, eventually.
3) Try to remove the Charter contract with the city. This is tougher than it seems. Charter pays a good bit of change to the city to run a community access television service. The city siphons off most of this money into other uses. This money is always on the mind of city council people when you bring up Charter and its contract. Break the monopoly, and the money is lost to the city.
4) Hope Charter goes out of business and is acquired by someone else. This is not as likely anymore, although it was the hope of many people at the last meeting on this subject I went to.
5) Hope a new technology comes about that allows DSL providers (our local provider Fairpoint is an excellent company with a great local reputation) to compete with cable modem in price and speed. I would pay twice my current bill to get half the bandwidth, if it was offered and came with bullet proof service.