Internet in the Boonies
I wrote an article yesterday about some planned communities in Loudoun County that signed exclusive, long-term contracts with telecom companies to provide Internet, cable and phone service. The communities were built several years ago, when broadband services stopped short of the outer suburbs. So developers hired companies to build a fiber-optic network connecting each house to high-speed Internet.
In the past two days I've received an outpour of comments about the issue. Some readers sympathized with the suburban homeowners, saying they're at the mercy of the company hired by the developer. Others snickered in a that's-what-you-get kind of way, ridiculing the upper middle-class residents who complain about slow Internet speeds.
A few readers, however, asked for more specifics on the problems residents are having out in "the boonies." Since there wasn't room in the story to go into great detail, I thought I'd elaborate a bit more on what some of these Southern Walk residents told me.
OpenBand, the company who provides Internet, cable and phone services to SouthernWalk and Lansdowne, told customers to expect 100 mb Internet speeds. Residents told me they're getting anywhere between 3 and 15 mb. For a lot of homeowners, the lower-than-promised speeds wouldn't bother them if the cost of the service wasn't so pricey. Others, some of whom work from home or want higher speeds for gaming purposes, felt they're getting ripped off.
Problems with telephone service also came up. One resident called 911 for a health emergency several months after moving into the neighborhood. The ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive because the phone number was still registered to the resident's previous home. The resident claimed OpenBand hadn't officially transferred the number to the new address.
Others complained about low-quality cable reception and poor customer service when it came to replacing cable boxes, etc.
Of course, every company is going to have dissatisfied customers. But in most cases, customers can switch service providers when they get fed up. In these neighborhoods, residents feel trapped. The biggest complaint is that the contracts don't contain a provision to adjust service levels or packages to match what competitors are offering.
There's a lot of debate swirling around this story, judging by the number of comments I've received. But a lot of readers seem to agree that a 75-year contract for Internet services seems extreme at a time when technology is changing so quickly.
What do you think of these long-term contracts? Are you using an Internet/phone service through one of these contracts? If so, share your experience in the comments.
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