Need a faster Internet connection? We did, so we gave up our DSL connection for the promise of 30X faster service with the Charter cable company. They made it sound so easy. Ha! Here’s how that worked out:
- I visit Charter store to get pricing and availability info for adding new phone and Internet (but keeping our DirecTV).
- Talk over options with my wife, Eva.
- Call CenturyLink (tick-tock, tick-tock…) to see if unbundling our phone and DSL Internet service would disrupt our DirecTV. (It wouldn’t.)
- Return to Charter office to order service, interact on their phone at length with a government computer-voice to okay changing telephone service providers, and schedule Charter installation.
- Two weeks later, Charter truck with 2 guys shows up. Guys inspect the situation. Long story, short – there’s no buried cable from street to our house. Guys map out route to get to nearest pedestal connection – not the one directly across the street (requiring city permit to bore under pavement) but one on our side of street and 300 feet down the hill and past two neighbors’ paved driveways.
- “Miss Dig” shows up and marks underground utilities.
- I receive a mysterious confirmation in the mail from CenturyLink claiming that we’ve added Internet service to a name and local address I don’t recognize. I call CenturyLink (tick-tock, tick-tock…), assuming it’s something Charter messed up in changing our service, but all CenturyLink can tell me is “It was done on a commercial account which I can’t access,” but was cancelled so shouldn’t be an issue.
- I return to Charter store and show them the strange confirmation letter and they are zero help so I give up.
- One day, Charter’s contractor shows up (unannounced) with truck and 2 guys to dig and lay underground conduit and cable from distant pedestal to our house. After inspecting the situation, and getting specific direction from me that the conduit and cable need to go under the sidewalk to the garage, not just to the closest spot on the house as they hoped, they conclude it’s too much for 2 guys and leave.
- Contractor returns a day later (again, unannounced) with trucks and 5 guys. I’m not home and Eva has to tell them, “No, whatever my husband told you, you do it that way.”
- Contractor returns next day with original 2 guys to finish the job. I watch them bore a small tunnel under my first neighbor’s driveway but not the second one closest to the pedestal since there already is underground conduit from that point to the pedestal. (Bear with me here, as these details turn out to be stupidly important.) No longer active, that old cable once connected to my next-door neighbor’s house. So they just cut him off and pull new cable through the old conduit. I ask why that cable is smaller than the fatter cable going into the new conduit to my house, and they explain that is all that will fit through the old, existing conduit and assure me it will be just fine. They splice the bigger (RG11) cable to the smaller (RG6) cable, then wrench the splice back inside the old conduit and bury the whole thing in dirt. Looks a bit shaky to me, but what do I know? Finally they’re all done and we have new coaxial cable to our house and I wait for a call for an installation schedule.
- I spend a day patching lawn and hillside over the newly-buried orange conduit and cable.
- Charter calls with installation time: Monday between 8 and 10. Okay.
- Monday morning – I wait in vain, then call Charter (tick-tock, tick-tock…) and reach an automated message informing me that my installation is scheduled for Wednesday between 3 and 5. I call back and get live person who tells me my delay was because Charter “was having trouble porting your phone number” and I should call this number. I admit that means absolutely nothing to me, but promise to call the number.
- I call and reach “Charter pre-install” and am told that all appears fine from their end. Okay.
- Next day, I get phone message from Charter saying our Wednesday installation has been delayed again since CenturyLink has “not released” my phone number to transfer to their system. They promise to try again.
- I call Charter (tick-tock, tick-tock…) and this time talk with Phillip, who explains to me the situation and how it might be another week or two. I bluntly explain to Philip my situation and finally he says, “Well, there is another option.” We could start Charter’s service with a new, temporary phone number, he says, and then switch back to our current phone number once CenturyLink “releases” it. I say I like that option, and now we’re back on schedule for Wednesday installation.
- Charter’s installer, Ben, shows up on schedule. He assures me it should only take an hour to finish. He does a nice job, and several hours later he wraps up. Ben has discovered, however, that the signal coming to our house is weaker than it should be, so a crew will return another day to install a “booster” in that pedestal two houses down the street.
- After Ben leaves, we discover we’ve lost our DirecTV connection. I suspect that Ben has incorrectly reconnected some DirecTV cables.
- Once again, I call Charter (tick-tock, tick-tock…) – but with no local phone number posted anywhere, I end up talking with Lisa in North Carolina. I just want to have Ben come back the next day and see if he can fix what he screwed up with our satellite-TV cable connections. It takes all of 10 minutes to explain this, repeatedly, to Lisa, who finally puts me on hold, presumably to talk to her supervisor. Eventually she returns to explain that, no, Charter can’t send someone out to work on DirecTV’s equipment. “But I just want Ben to fix what he screwed up!” I fume. “I’m sorry, Mr. Wayne,” (she insisted on calling me that, despite my explaining that was my first name), “I’m just the messenger, Mr. Wayne.” “OK, Lisa. Thank you anyway. I give up,” and I hang up.
- In the garage, I find a couple of loose DirecTV cable connections, but that doesn’t fix the TV. I go online to see how the “SWM” power gizmo should connect with the other cables, but it’s about as clear as hieroglyphics to me. I call my son-in-law and try a couple of his suggestions, then give up and call DirecTV and schedule a $50 service call for 3 days later.
- Next day, we return home mid-afternoon just as Charter’s 2 big trucks with 2 guys are finishing up work installing the signal “booster.” I roll down the window and they explain, proudly, it seemed to me, that we’re all set now. Okay, and we pull into our garage. “Why didn’t you ask them about the TV being out?” my wife asks. So I walk back down driveway and chat with the Charter guys, who agree to take a look and promptly spot the two switched cables and fixes our DirecTV problem. Thank you! All appears well in our electronics world.
I walk them back to their trucks and we talk about what a huge job this has been. I marvel and how much work it has been to get the conduit installed from way down the street, and I point down that way and suddenly they exchange funny looks. “No, your cable comes from right across the street,” one explains. It dawns on me that our new cable installation just got even more complicated. “Did you install the booster in that pedestal?” I ask, pointing across the street. “Yeah, and we replaced the pedestal with a brand new one,” they say. Both have a hard time believing me when I explain that our newly-installed cable doesn’t even go to that pedestal and, hence, they just wasted a whole lot of time and money. But when we walk the 300 feet downhill to the correct pedestal, the truth is obvious. Moreover, after a bit of digging in the dirt they discover the makeshift underground RG6 to RG11 splice and declare it “completely unacceptable.” Next, they find that their signal “booster” won’t even work in that pedestal.
So they call up Ben, who quickly arrives in his Charter van, but can shed no light on the cabling since he wasn’t involved. I overhear the guy who seems in charge talking on the phone about their contractor’s slipshod work. “Do not pay them for this job,” he orders. I get a chance to show Ben how he messed up our DirecTV and how his mistake got fixed.
Before the guys leave for the day, I give them a short version of this sorry history. “Seems to me,” I say, “Charter has a problem with communications.” One replies, “Well, we used to be Charter Communications but now it’s just Charter. We dropped communications,” and we all laugh. I conclude, “We’ve got our Internet and our TV is working again so from this point on, you’re on your own,” and I head home.
- Next morning I find the Charter guys down the street and hard at work making things right. Eventually, we’ll be getting our own Charter pedestal and the underground cable splice will be eliminated and our connections to the Internet will be a good as it’s possible to get. So they say.
- I call CenturyLink for the last time (tick-tock, tick-tock…) and cancel our old phone/DSL service. We decide to keep our new Charter phone number, not wanting to risk any more “porting our number” complications. The junk calls already have started.
- I go online and add our new phone number to the Federal Trade Commission’s do not call registry.
Although Charter still isn’t done more than a month after we first ordered our new phone/Internet service, the rest of its work shouldn’t affect us. The good news (at least for us): Charter has a set price for new installation – about $30. I figure with what this has cost Charter to hook us up, they should break even in about 20 years. But best of all – our new Internet connection is even faster (at 65 mbs) than Charter promised. In just 25 easy steps!