Monday, January 11

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part V

My goodness but a flurry of phone calls came pouring in on Friday afternoon from all manner of folk representing Comcast.

Here's the problem request was de-escalated to the local market, not escalated to decision/change makers up the corporate ladder who have the vision and authority to say "yes."

One of my favorite quotes from a local representative for Ashland City was, "not only can't we do the build out in your area, but we WON'T."


We are nowhere near done.

Friday, January 8

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part IV

Some of you may have noticed a comment left two days ago by someone from Comcast offering to help. My first reaction was elation, my second reaction was suspicion. How did I know this person was a representative from Comcast and what made him think I would divulge my address to someone on the internet? It also gave me the willies to think that a Corporate Giant is trolling the internet daily for a mention of their name. That's both paranoid and egotistical at the same time. I wonder if the money they spend on this effort couldn't be better spent building out a network that reached everyone across America? Just a thought.

Anyway, I sent him an email thanking him for his comment and requested a phone number at which he could be reached during business hours. He responded in kind and I have now left two phone messages, neither of which have been returned.

Although the idea of climbing the City water tower to voice my dismay is appealing, I'm not interested in breaking laws or launching a smear campaign. What I want is access to high-speed internet service. So...documenting my efforts toward that goal on this blog is the first step. I have some ideas on what comes next.

In the meantime, I'm still getting solicitation materials from Comcast, AT&T and now Charter who all want to sell me bundled business services, which include high-speed internet. Services which NONE of these providers offer in my area. It's disrespectful to wave the metaphorical carrot in front of someone's face only to snatch it away.

I'm not certain how this is going to wash out, but what I do know is that the power of the purse coupled with the power of the pen are mighty. Mighty enough to get the attention of a Cororate Giant and more importantly, some action.

Thursday, January 7

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part III

You're probably wondering how I made the mental leap from my "Dear Jane" email from Comcast to contacting the Executive Director of the Economic Development Office of Cheatham County. In short, the brain is a wonderful tool.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered receiving a survey several months prior from the Office of Economic Development about the countywide need for high-speed internet access. I went to their website and lo and behold, the survey was still on their home page, so I clicked on it, expressing our critical need for service. Since the survey was several months old, I put a call into the Executive Director to see if there were any preliminary results and/or progress with local service providers. My call went to voice mail, so I sent a well-worded and respectful email and waited for a response.

I wasn't expecting a rapid response since escalating the issue to the level of County Government, so waited patiently for a reply. Let me tell you something, living in a rural county does have its advantages. Within a few days, I had a response and not from an assistant to the Executive Director or an Intern but from the Executive Director himself. With a glimmer of hope, I opened the email, which began:

I wish I had some good news to present to you.

My heart sank. He went on to describe how difficult it was to get any of the major providers to be forthcoming with information and/or a timeline for development in our area. Much of what he cited I had heard from Mr. Sales Person; the excuses/justifications for lack of service. Misery may love company but I didn't find a lot of comfort in knowing that he too had been working with the local service providers to no avail and shared my dismay. He closed his email with a chilling statement:

We have had more than one business that did not locate in the county because of the lack of [broad band] services.

I imagine at this point, most folks would say to themselves, "if the County's been working on this issue and can't get anywhere, then surely I can't get anywhere." Except, I'm not most folks when it comes to issues I perceive as an injustice. And this one smacks of injustice when a select few (those like me in the outlying areas of the county) cannot access the same quality of life services as our neighbors. I know, you're thinking "what does high-speed internet access have to do with quality of life?", but think about all the ways you use the internet. I and my neighbors can't take on-line classes to further our education, we can't be competitive in the job market as we have no exposure to rapidly changing/improving technology, etc... In essence, we are stuck in a time warp during a time when the job market is shrinking while the number of unemployed is rising.

Want a little irony in the middle of this saga? Studies have revealed it's the rural communities who benefit the most from high-speed internet access. President Obama knows this and has included money in the economic stimulus package to bring the much-needed technology to those very communities. Do you think someone at Comcast knows this? That there's money to pay for the huge build out costs they claim is too exorbitant to justify bringing high-speed internet access to our area? Hello, is anybody listening?

Armed with this information, I send an email to Mr. Sales Person relaying that it's not just one isolated person [me] on a country road asking anymore, but the Office of Economic Development for Cheatham County and could they kindly see through their myopic haze and get to work?

His response:

Basically, this would be a huge build out cost for Comcast and it will not be available in that area for at least 6 months and quite possibly longer because of all the upgrades that we will need to do to offer services in that area. We may consider it a build out in 2010 but nothing has been decided on it at this point. If you want to check back with me in 6 months, I will attempt to get another update for you at that time. I'm sorry for the bad news.

This is the same song and dance I've been getting for the last 4 years from Comcast and to be fair AT&T as well, who is now also courting me for bundled business services.

My reply:

I am a longtime activist and will not go quietly. I imagine Comcast is profitable in Cheatham County from the households to whom you currently provide service. I'll be talking with [the Executive Director of the Office of Economic Development] about how we might exercise our collective consumer muscle in a positive way. It's the rural communities who benefit most from high-speed internet access. It makes good business sense for Comcast to look beyond the bottom line toward improved community relations.

His final shot across the bow:

*I'm typing this verbatim, so fill in the blanks with the appropriate word choices when what's before you isn't quite on target.

I understand and really appreciate that you want Comcast in your area, but there are several factors, not *such monetary, that go along with providing service in any area. We want to make sure we are *proving the right amount of bandwidth to our customers so that we do not run into problems and so we don't have unhappy customers. So there has to be a certain standard that we will have to attain.

One word comes to mind when I read this...horseshit. I imagine this also came off a script somewhere, just like his sales pitch, but forgive me for scaling the City's water tower and painting "Comcast is full of horseshit" in big bold letters so tall you can read them while driving down Hwy 12.

Tomorrow...Installment 4 or "What will her next step be?"

Wednesday, January 6

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off - Part II

Where were we...ah yes, Comcast has been courting me for "Triple Play" service. I begged the sales person not to use that phrase when talking to me, but a script they must follow and follow it he did.

After an initial conversation with Mr. Sales Person it truly appeared that high speed internet access was within my grasp. I dreamed of spending [wasting] hours cruising You Tube, ITunes and adding music/video to my blog. I was giddy!

Assured that service was now available in my area, Mr. Sales Person asked if he could draw up a contract for my approval. I had butterflies in my stomach just like the first time my boyfriend in the 6th grade held my hand! Let's face it folks, I've been here before, only to be rejected. But he seemed so sincere. We'd had light conversations. He laughed at my jokes. He was ready to make a commitment with this contract. Was it really this easy after so long a wait? Still, I wanted to see it in writing so agreed and waited anxiously for the contract to arrive.

While we're waiting for the contract to come in, let me backtrack a little. I had called in the services of a wonderful tech-savvy volunteer at the beginning of my quest for high speed internet access. Being a small non profit where every penny counts, we needed to do some comparison shopping to ensure we were getting the biggest bang for our buck. She did a great job not only assessing our internet needs, but phone/long distance and cable too.

She made a recommendation accompanied by a color-coded matrix of cost vs. service. I was ready to make a decision and sign the contract. As promised, Mr. Sales Person sent it over and I read every word, which not only meant reading the contract, but all the hyperlinks to their website that contain the "fine print" they no longer include in said contract. I'm nothing, if not thorough. Everything seemed to be in order.

My call to Mr. Sales Person was promptly returned during which I posed one final question, "Are you SURE service is available at my location?" His response, "Yes, I'm sure, but if we get out there and find out it isn't, you have 30 days to cancel the contract." My retort, "Why would Comcast go to the expense of sending a crew out to install cabling if it wasn't available?" I believe his reply was a cross between a snort and a guffaw.

Hmmm...giddy me and jaded me are now having a fist fight in my brain. I end the brawl by agreeing to go on line to Comcast's website and do a little recon work. You see when I had been on line earlier to read the "fine print" for the contract, I noticed a handy search tool whereby you can enter your address and determine if you are in their service area. With trembling hands, I typed in the address and waited for the reply. I must have been holding my breath because suddenly my lungs began to burn. As I exhaled and drew in life-giving oxygen, the screen flickered and the following message appeared...


7 cold, cruel words. I couldn't dial the phone number to Mr. Sales Person fast enough. Upon hearing the news, he was shocked, aghast with disbelief!!!! I asked him calmly if he would check with the engineering department to confirm whether he or the website search result was correct.

I few days later an email popped up from Mr. Sales Person. After inquiring with the engineering department, he was wrong, the website was correct in that NO SERVICE IS AVAILABLE IN MY AREA. He'd sent an email...couldn't even bother to call. Of course, why would he since I was no longer a potential sale?

The post card, the solicitation calls, the contract, all hollow gestures. I felt as if I'd been jilted by a lover. I was not going to take this lying down. My next call was to the Director of the Office of Economic Development for Cheatham County. You see, Comcast does serve PART of the County, just not ALL of the County. least not yet.

Installment 3 tomorrow

Tuesday, January 5

Now You're Just Pissing Me Off

There are conveniences I knew I'd give up moving from a city in Texas with a population of 2.2 million to a small county seat in Tennessee with a population of 4,000. Living in the middle of a thriving metropolis can be invigorating however as an aspiring writer, I craved a quiet, slower pace in which to create.

One of the conveniences I didn't think I'd give up was access to high-speed internet. Imagine my dismay when I called the local internet provider to begin service and was informed that it wasn't available at my location. A long-time activist, I was not about to take this news lying down, so got on the phone and started inquiring [read as demanding] service. Funny thing, the people on the other end of the phone didn't seem the least bit interested in bringing 20th century technology to our humble village. They cited "low population density" and "development costs they'd never be able to recoup" as justification for thumbing their high-speed noses at us.

That was four years ago.

Not to be deterred, I place a call to the respective internet providers in our area on an annual basis to see if we are yet worthy of high-speed internet access. The usual response is laughter, "not yet", or "not in your lifetime". Without high-speed internet access, I can't download files bigger than 1 mb, access streaming video, update our website, etc..., etc..., etc... My only 14 miles to the Cheatham County Library to access their wifi. This is neither convenient nor fun for me.

So imagine my delight when a flyer came in the mail from Comcast several months ago announcing high-speed internet access for our area. The flyer was soon followed by copious phone calls from their sales department. They REALLY wanted our business and not just high-speed internet, but phone, cable TV, etc... All that "bundling" that's so popular now. I gladly took their call and the bait. Sure enough, my dreams were about to come true.


(This post is getting way too long. Check back tomorrow for Installment #2)

Monday, January 4

Hunkered Down

Miss Mocha hunkered down with her new toy, the Ant Eater. It has a wonderful squeaker that has a voice like Lauren Bacall. Fun times are ahead in 2010 for the Brown One.

Sunday, January 3

The Horizon

The Texas horizon allows me to breathe deep, my shoulders to relax, my mind to wander. When a trip home and a steady diet of flat land, long-reaching horizons and sapphire sky aren't possible, then the views from atop Skyuka Mountain serve as an hors d'oeuvre.

Winter is best for horizon-seeking on Skyuka Mountain. In other seasons, the dense growth of hardwoods and their foliage create an effective screen, blocking the magnificent views. And they are magnificent, especially atop the lookout rock which gives you a 180 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Newly fallen snow, high gusting winds and bitter cold didn't allow for any rock sitting to drink in the horizon, but here are a few photos, reminders that a clear horizon is always in sight, offering limitless possibilities.