Monday, September 16, 2013

Low value neighborhood

I have T-Mobile for phone service. I like their service for the most part. Their signal has been good in most of the places that matter. But for some reason, my home doesn't matter that much to T-Mobile. My calls are dropped often and data speeds leave something to be desired.

I called T-Mobile about this and spent several minutes on hold while they researched the problem. The conclusion? T-Mobile has 51 recorded complaints from my neighborhood about the same problem. What is cause of the problem? The closest tower to me is a slower, older, 2G data tower. The solution? Replace it with a new 4G LTE tower. They add that the problem is not expected to be resolved soon, but do not expect resolution any later than the end of 2015.

So I did some shopping and found that Verizon offers what appears to be a pretty reasonably priced plans that are comparable to what I have. My wife's plan won't expire until 2015, but given our poor signal here at home, I think it might be worth the early termination fee to move on. I'm getting really tired of dropped calls from T-Mobile and the move might spur them on to fixing the problem.

Then I have Centurylink. Their internet access plans for this neighborhood are terrible. I can't get anything better than 5mbs here from them. I have to use Comcast if I want faster speeds and most properties that I use on internet don't really function at less than 5mbs. In fact, Centurylink only guarantees 4mbs or better. After spending a month nursing their poor excuse for a modem, I gave up and went back to Comcast. I have a pretty good introductory deal and hope to keep it that way. At least until UTOPIA shows up.

UTOPIA might have been able to run fiber down my street past my house (but stopped a block and a half away) were it not for a ridiculous lawsuit filed by Qwest (now Centurylink) to stymie their efforts to provide broadband at reasonable prices and speeds. Here's how low Qwest was willing to go: Qwest moved for discovery on more than 20,000 telephone poles, one at a time to keep UTOPIA from rolling out fiber to the home.

We have another problem, the "Municipal Cable Television and Public Telecommunications Services Act", an act that protects local incumbent interests from communities that want to run their own cable systems. Why would a community want to do that? Small towns and communities are getting fed up with cable and telco companies when internet access is slow, and the incumbents refuse to upgrade.

The Community Broadband Networks website has documented numerous cases where cable and telcos have reluctantly upgraded their infrastructure when city hall moves to create a public internet service. Cable companies and telcos just love to sit on their networks, providing inferior speeds and customer service while protected by their agreements with local government. But when local governments decide to build their own networks, incumbent interests got all huffy about it.

What did they do? They worked with the American Legislative Exchange Council to craft legislation that would prevent local governments from running their own public networks. 19 states have pass such legislation and Utah was the first state to do so.

So yeah, I live in a low value neighborhood. I have Comcast, but that is only after spending more than a year and half to try and get service from Comcast. I had to beg them to hook me up so that I have a better option than Centurylink. Just writing that last sentence makes me think of the lines in Communist Russia. The irony is that I have a choice of two private monopolies and the government provided option, UTOPIA, actually provides better service than the private options.

Russia proved that pure government isn't the solution. T-Mobile, Comcast and Centurylink are proving that lax or unregulated utilities don't work, either.
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