• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >
Terry Cowgill
A Charter-Spectrum service van parked on Main Street in Great Barrington.

AMPLIFICATIONS: Spectrum — the evil empire

By Saturday, Aug 11, 2018 Viewpoints 79

I thought my head was going to explode last Monday. At the very least I expected to have an embolism. I was entering my sixth hour on the phone with Spectrum Cable and there was no resolution in sight. I told my daughter that, if I suddenly keeled over, she was to ask the coroner to check my cortisol levels and hire a lawyer, naming Spectrum’s parent company, Charter Communications, as the cause of my demise.

It started with the phones. People could hear me, but I only heard a few words here and there. That took about an hour to straighten out. It was not the first time this has happened. I was told that there had not been an update to my system in months. If that is true, one has to wonder why there hadn’t been an update? Are we all supposed to call periodically and remind Spectrum to do their job?

A few hours later, my power wobbled during a storm on Friday. It never went out, but the lights dimmed. No one else living in this old cow barn lost their services, but my phone, premium stations and internet disappeared; for some reason, basic cable stayed active.

I immediately called Spectrum Cable. I was told I could have my services back on Tuesday. Tuesday! I was on deadline and needed to file a column. Nothing I said mattered; my whines fell upon deaf headsets. I was told, however, that, since I work at home, my case was a “high priority” and a technician would call me “first thing” on Saturday morning. The word “promise” was used.

No one called “first thing” or at any time on Saturday. I called twice more, both calls were interminably long, and I was told a technician would phone me by 1 p.m. After my next call, I was told someone would call me by 3 that afternoon. So I sat at home, missing the farmers’ market and all my errands, as I fumed. During that first phone call on Saturday, I was told a technician would arrive at my house between 8 and 10 in the evening on Monday instead of Tuesday. I was not asked if I wanted a stranger in my house late in the evening; the time was just assigned to me.

On Monday, the internet and all services miraculously returned. When I called, I was not given a straight answer as to why. “Something must have fixed itself in the line,” a woman told me. “Is that like having a ghost in the machine?” I asked.

I then spent another 90 minutes on two phone calls trying to get a refund for the days I was without service. When I suggested I be reimbursed for the extra money I spent upping my cellular data for our cell phones, I was told that was “not possible.” I was informed I could be reimbursed for services, and that I was only out for three days, which was within the window of acceptability.

“Oh yeah,” I said, “There’s a window? Does that mean I have a three-day window paying my bill? There won’t be a surcharge if I am within the ‘window?’”

“It doesn’t work that way,” came the response.

“It most certainly does,” I barked back. “Spectrum entered into a contract with me and the company is not currently fulfilling its part.”

I eventually was given a $10 courtesy credit, totaling an expected reduction in my next bill by $32.34, making my wasted time worth just over $5 an hour.

As I would like to stay out of jail, I am not going to drive my car through the front of the Spectrum/Time Warner building in Lee. I did, however, call all our senators and state reps and suggest we oust Spectrum from Massachusetts, just as attorneys for the state public service commission in New York are doing. The very nice lady in Gov. Baker’s office (617-725-4005) said I was the second person that day to call with such a suggestion. Several other people had called with the same proposal earlier in the week.

A quick Google search confirmed what I had read a couple of years ago: The USA has some of the slowest and costliest internet services in the world. According to the Telegraph from London, 20 other countries have faster internet speeds, led by South Korea. Perhaps Trump should think about sinking that $10 million he plans on spending for a military parade into our electronic infrastructure (though I’d really love it if he invested it into veterans’ programs, but that’s another story). Or maybe Congress should allocate some of the $717 billion we are going to spend on the military to Make America Less Mediocre when compared to the rest of the virtual planet.

Since I do not actually expect the government to enforce improvements from the mega corporations providing us with wifi or cable services, please make calls to your representatives to complain if you are unhappy with Spectrum/Time Warner/Charter Communications. Call the governor’s office. Write letters. Send emails. Let’s bring another company into the state, one that knows we will toss it out if it does not provide adequate service to its customers.


More by »
»