Ron did indeed try to help me out by sending out another engineer to survey the setup and determine what, if anything, could be done for me. Ron soon reported that according to his new engineer, the existing coax connection to our house (which the previous owners used for cable TV signal alone) originates over 600 feet away at their coax station located on the nearest major road. Our particular connection runs from a junction box ("drop box") that is on the far side of our nearest north westerly neighbor's driveway (not the neighbor just down the hill from us—Jane—whose drop box we have been inquiring on upgrading for six months, but one even further away and on the opposite side of our hill). This info we already pretty much knew from the original surveyor who came out in mid-April. And we were assured that this existing cable connection could not be upgraded because of the distance required and because we only own a fraction of the land between the drop box. Fine.
The next and only other option the new engineer offered was to run new data-capable coax from the coaxial hub at the main road of the neighborhood all along the existing power lines that surround our valley, to our house, for a total of 2666 feet. However, Frontier Cable and the local power company already have wires on those poles. So in order to get Suddenlink wires on it, Frontier would have to agree to adjust the position of their lines on the poles to allow for Suddenlink lines. This option would cost a total of $12,758.77 to accomplish. (Hence the $12,000 figure that showed up with no explanation in our account notes back in late May.) However, Suddenlink suggested that because there are three potential-customer-households along the route of that line, if each house chipped in, and Suddenlink paid the other 1/4, it would only cost a bit over $3000 each to have Suddenlink installed. This was still not an option as far as we are concerned. I mean, how fair is it that we have to pay even $3000 when Jane, our NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOR, has the service for sticker price.
I then again inquired to Ron as to the feasibility of simply upgrading the drop box in Jane’s yard and running a line up the hill to us. The new engineer had not covered that option. In fact, according to Ron, the maps on file at Suddenlink’s local office did not seem to show that particular drop box at all, nor did it show that Jane nor the neighbor across the road from her (Martha) were even customers. I assured him that they were, for I had already confirmed twice with Martha, and she had even given me her account number to pass along should the question arise. Ron agreed that there seemed to be some x-factors at play and he suggested that what he next needed to do was drive over (a 55 mile trip) and survey the situation for himself. Clearly something was amiss in their records if their maps didn’t show two customers where two customers existed.
In the intervening couple of weeks, I spoke again to Martha and learned a bit of history of the neighborhood. Apparently not long after the early houses in the neighborhood had been established, some 15 to 20 years ago, the people who lived here made a deal with Suddenlink that if Suddenlink would establish a central hub for cable TV service at the mouth of the neighborhood, then the residents themselves would pay to have the trenches dug from it so that cable lines could be buried and run to their individual homes. Suddenlink in turn agreed to the upkeep of those lines and had done so since then. Of course, when the lines were initially buried, high speed internet was not a service Suddenlink offered, so upgrades had been made years later in order to offer that to most of the homes. The former owners of our house had either not wanted it, or it wasn’t possible due to the distance from its drop box. But that did not preclude the other drop box in Jane’s yard from being upgraded, to my mind.
True to his word, Ron did come out to survey the situation for himself, about a month after he and I had first begun communication. (And for the record, he was as nice and helpful in person as he was on the phone.) His conclusion was that it might be possible to upgrade to box in Jane’s yard, but he thought the semi-rocky terrain between the box and our house might prove problematic. Plus, Jane would certainly have to sign off on the process for Suddenlink to do the work through her yard. He also suspected that our house might still be too far away from the box to get a strong enough signal. I pointed out that, just eyeballing it, our house wasn’t THAT much further away from the box than Martha’s house across the street was. Surely, this was still worth a try? Ron said he would go away and run some numbers and see what his engineers thought about it.
Weeks passed and I heard nothing back. At any point, I could have called Ron to ask, for I still had his number, but I was frankly of the opinion that I had been the one to initiate communication with Suddenlink more than enough and it was again time for them to start calling me back when they said they would. I wasn’t even mad about it. Over the course of the then 7 months I’d been dealing with this, my emotional spectrum had run from frustration, to blinding red fury, to wild annoyance, to bemusement, to amusement, back to frustration, and had by then settled into a sort of brown indifference. In other words, I wasn’t really expecting Suddenlink to come back with a “yes,” anymore, but if they were going to come back with any answer they were the ones who needed to call.
In October, some weeks later, I received a call from one of Ron’s fellow engineers at the regional tech office. I wish I’d written his name down, but I forgot to. The engineer said that Ron was busy, but that Ron had asked him to call me to let me know that they (the engineer and Ron) had been in consultation and had studied the maps (you know, the maps that didn’t show either of my nearest neighbors as Suddenlink customers) and they had both concluded that the distance between the drop box in my neighbor’s yard and my house was too great for us to receive a proper signal. In other words, Suddenlink was declining to give that method a try. This was pretty much the call I had been expecting to receive, but I wasn’t giving up that easy. I again reiterated that just from eyeballing the distances involved, I could see that while my house might be further away from the drop box than Martha’s, it wasn’t so far a distance that it should make that big a difference. I still thought this was a method worth trying. The engineer didn’t seem to know what to make of this, so he told me that Ron would have to call me back about it.
That, perhaps not surprisingly, was the last communication I had with Suddenlink.
And, again, that’s okay.
I’m not calling Ron out on this. He’s in a tough position because on the one hand he’s got a tech department that thinks that my house is an iffy hookup and they clearly don’t want to burn the calories (and money) necessary to give it a try—particularly if burning the calories involves digging a trench through rocky terrain to try it. It’s just not cost-effective. And after thinking about this issue from that perspective, I came up with a way that the system could be tested at little cost. Had Suddenlink called me back, I would have suggested that it would be easy enough to test my theory that my house was close enough to the box by simply unplugging one of the existing connections in the drop box (Jane’s or Martha’s) and running a coax atop the ground, up the hill to my house and then seeing if they could get a signal inside. This would require no digging and no upgrading of equipment to test. If it worked, they could then worry about that sort of thing. If it didn’t, then they would be proven right and I would willingly go away forever and proclaim myself in the wrong on this blog. Again, I bear no ill will toward Ron. He may very well have been correct that our house was simply unserviceable. I may well have been wrong. But we’ll never know for sure.
During the many months the Suddenlink situation has gone one, competing outfit Frontier Cable has been teasing us repeatedly. This, mind you, is the same cable company that promised us 12 mb download capabilities over the phone back in April, but which turned out to be less than half a meg in reality when the installation guy turned up. This was also due to our home’s distance from their nearest DSL “pizzabox” station (apparently their industry term) which was technically located in another town entirely.
Since then, we’ve received a few more telemarketing phone messages from Frontier promising us that DSL was now available in our area, only to learn that it really wasn’t when we called them back to sign up. In fact, back in October, I received the following Actual Telephone Conversation Heard at My House (#14)...
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: Hello, sir. My name is Brittney and I'm calling from Frontier Communications, your telephone service?
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: Before we begin, I just want to let you know that this call is being recorded for quality purposes.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: Huh. (And this "huh" was said in a tone that one might interpret to mean: "Huh, I’m about to have to read this whole next sentence.”) Sir, do you currently have internet service through Frontier?
ME: Um... if you’re with Frontier, wouldn’t you know that already?
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: No sir. You haven’t given me permission to access your account.
ME: Ah. Good answer. Then, no, we don’t have internet through Frontier—
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: (Interrupting) Well, sir, Frontier—
ME: (Interrupting right back) —because we have been told we cannot have internet through Frontier.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: Oh, no, sir. You can have internet through Frontier.
ME: Not high speed internet.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: Well... it depends on which speed you choose. There are different speed levels.
ME: Yes. And, from what I’m told, high speed isn’t one of them at my house.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: (Pausing to consult her screen.) No, I see that it is not.
ME: And so internet service through Frontier is not of use to me at this time.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: No, I can see how it wouldn't be.
ME: So... (Long pause) You have a good evening, then.
BRITTNEY THE FRONTIER TELEMARKETER: You, too, sir.
Okay, maybe I’m an asshole. But Brittney started it.
Back in early November, Frontier left yet another message with a sales rep sounding very confident that we could have DSL. Seeing no Suddenlink solution in the offing, I took a chance and called Frontier back. The sales person on the phone sounded equally enthusiastic and said the local equipment had been upgraded to allow those living in our area to have service. I was still suspicious. So I decided to test the waters by just ordering the fastest possible DSL speed they offered on the premise that it would likely be another trickle when the installer got here.
A few days later, the new installer turned up and opened up the DSL tap. It’s certainly not a trickle. Granted, it’s still a long way from a torrent, too, but it’s a satisfactory amount of DSL speed. While the 3G hotspot we’d been using for internet had been sufficient for most things, it is sure nice to not have to deal with it anymore. No longer do I have to plug in my phone in order to upload podcasts. No longer do we have to worry about battery power for the wireless hotspot. It’s all just there when we need it. (Well, except for today when it went out for four hours, but that’s not exactly huge.)
So let the word ring out that Frontier got us what we needed and with only a modicum of hassle.