“You don’t miss your water till the well runs dry” reverberates in the digital age. We take internet connectivity for granted, until we find ourselves cut off from the 21st century world. While smartphones suffice for many tasks, nothing beats a direct wired connection, or at least fast home WiFi, using a computer or tablet. I rely on wired internet to send my radio programs to Chicago and this column to the newspaper, something slow, difficult and expensive to do using my smartphone.
Comcast and i3 Broadband don’t serve small towns and semi-rural areas. Last fall, our homeowners association invited respected local fiber provider Volo to install fiber internet in our development this spring. Volo suggested a plan that would minimize disruption. Three weeks ago, without warning, CCG/Pavlov began trenching fiber in our subdivision, which it can do as a telecommunications provider. It charged straight down the street, in the process disrupting the existing Mediacom internet cable to a few homes. Therein lies the tale.
Never think that a newspaper technology columnist receives special treatment or attention. I pay full price for all goods and services and apparently stand at the end of the line for repairs.
I lost internet connectivity at 9:15 on a Wednesday morning. Assuming it was transient and that Mediacom, which now markets under the name Xtream, was aware of its outage, I waited until 2 p.m. to phone Mediacom. After enduring its insufferable automated robotic protocol, I finally reached a human who verified my internet was out and promised to send a technician. I explained that CCG had disrupted the cable while installing fiber. No sooner did I hang up then I received a text that the service call had been cancelled, because there was no problem. I texted back only to realize that the texts were handled by AI robotic agents. During the course of three hours, I talked to three humans, all of whom confirmed a genuine outage on my block and attempted to order a service call. Mediacom promised a telephone confirmation with the restoration of service. When no call came, I phoned back at 6 p.m. to learn that my service would not be restored until sometime Friday. That was nonnegotiable. Yet that afternoon, someone from Mediacom apparently had come to my block to reconnect my neighbor’s while failing to fix my connection. It took 51 hours to reconnect me.
On Thursday morning, I attempted to phone Mediacom corporate headquarters in New York. I attempted six calls but was shunted around, never reaching anyone interested in helping. The clueless reception operator could not even figure out my issue, because she was unaware of Mediacom high-speed internet. It seems that the company is now part of a conglomerate and is focused on providing service outside the U.S.
I phoned the Illinois Commerce Commission, but it does not regulate internet, only telephones. The ICC representative suggested I phone the Illinois attorney general but warned that office works very slowly.
Here’s the irony: For about a decade, I received regular reader complaints about Comcast in Champaign and Urbana. Those complaints ended over five years ago. I conferred with a Comcast representative who said company policy requires every qualified person at Comcast, even executives, to handle customer complaints and resolve issues. Readers have verified this is the case.
Meanwhile, I desperately await Volo laying its fiber on our block. It charges $44.95 a month for 1-gigabit-per-second unlimited service compared with $69 a month for the same service from Pavlov/CCG. Most people don’t need unlimited, so Volo offers less-expensive tiers going as low as $29.95 for our subdivision, which roughly equates to watching three hours of video daily. Meanwhile, I can’t wait to say goodbye to Mediacom, which Consumer Reports rated as one of the worst cable companies in America.