Saturday, August 05, 2006

Up yours, Charter!

Ok, this isn't necessarily political, per se, but I've got to rant. Please note, if you're an elected official, there's a special note for you at the bottom of this post. So, Ms. Publius and I have Charter cable and high-speed internet over at the dojo. Now, a few weeks ago, Charter was kind of in and out, or in our our neighborhood, pretty much just out. I called Charter a few times, was told that there was an outage in my area due to some maintenance and upgrades. I was told we'd be back up and running in just a few days.

Not so much.

In fact, we've now been almost three weeks sans internet at the ol' homestead. The supposed maintenance outage has been resolved, but still no internet. So, we call in to the helpful folks over at Charter. After 45 minutes on hold (while listening to recorded ads touting their great customer service), we finally get to a real live human being in their tech support department. Now this guy is clearly on top of his game. In fact, we can actually hear him flipping the pages in his "resolve any technical issue through asking questions" notebook. After an hour of back and forth, Einstein has a solution: It's clearly our network card.

Well, no, says Ms. Publius (who was kind enough to spare me most of the tech support ordeal), you see we both own laptops, and his (mine) worked on both a wireless and plugged-in connection at work, only a few hours ago. And, to boot, we have no connection on hers either. So, if it's the network card, clearly, both of our laptops would have had to have lost their network cards independently within the last two hours.

"Ma'am, listen to me, it's your network card," says Einstein.

"Can I talk to your supervisor?" says Ms. P, "I don't think you're understanding our problem."

"Why? So he can tell you the same thing? It's your network card!"

...and so on. Here's the best part, though. Einstein (hereafter referred to Captain Technology) actually asks Ms. P if she could "put her husband on, so that he can explain it" to me. Aw shucks, lil lady. Don't you know that having a Y chromosome actually gives the bearer the ability to understand a higher level of technology? (Shit, I can't even program the VCR.)

Finally, we convince him that it isn't the network card and that Ms. P is perfectly capable on her own of understanding big words like "network card," connectivity," and "douchebag," and he promises to send someone out on Monday between 1pm and 5pm. Well, Ms. P is pretty strong-willed, especially when she's pissed off. She semi-politely informs Captain Technology that we have jobs - jobs which *gasp* require our presence at a location other than our home during normal business hours. Captain Technology, suitably cowed, arranges for a Saturday appointment.

Well, AthPo readers are pretty bright, and you've probably noticed that I'm actually typing this post on a Saturday. You might assume that Charter showed up, fixed the problem, and I'm happily sitting on my couch, watching tv, and luxuriating in my refound internet.

Not so much. In fact, we called to confirm this morning that Charter would be dropping by today. Nope. After another 45 minutes of holding, etc, we get to another service moron. Our appointment was in fact not scheduled for today, it was scheduled for Monday, or perhaps Thursday. Ay, there's the rub. So Ms. P asks again for a supervisor. No problem, but you'll have to hold, as there are about 6 people ahead of us waiting to talk to him too.

Sigh. If anyone needs me, I'll be here. Political stuff returns tomorrow. Don't forget to vote Tuesday.

A special note to all of our readers who are candidates or elected officials:
Guys, I know we just signed on with Charter for another ten years or so, but seriously, can't we allow some competition or something in the marketplace? Charter is shit. Don't believe me, ask around. I'll bet there are hundreds of your constituents who have had equally shitty experiences with these douchebags - I know most of my friends have.

Less than two hours after I slapped this angry post up, I got a very nice email from none other than her Honor herself, Mayor Heidi. She brought my rant to the attention of the proper folks in the local gummint, which was far more than I was expecting.

See, I wrote this post initially for two reasons: first, I was righteously pissed, and second, there's an old saying in customer service/marketing that every customer who has a bad experience tells ten friends. I just took that adage to the next level.

But with Mayor Heidi getting involved, well, it's a good thing. I doubt this will ever progress much farther. Charter will (hopefully!) come by and fix my shit tomorrow, and all will be right with the world. Still, this is a good reminder of why Heidi got elected and why she's most probably going to get re-elected. Details and retails, kids. She gloms on to the little details - very little that goes on in this city is off her radar. And she's a master of retail politics - reaching out to folks one-on-one. And, for a lot of voters, "I can't believe she supported rental registration/the smoking ban/what have you" is trumped by, "I bitched about something and she called me personally."

Anyway, the substance of my Heidi email was that she forwarded my complaint over to the right folks, I can file a formal complaint (which probably won't do much good), and as many of you said, the dish and dsl is the way to go. She also mentioned, rightly enough, that I probably wouldn't be particularly satisfied with any of the other providers. (Judging by context, I'm guessing that the lack of competition thing is more FCC than ACC.)

So, the bottom line of Heidi's email is that there isn't a whole hell of a lot I can do, unless I'm into filing compaints and shaking my fist in impotent rage. (I'm not. Well, ok, I sorta am.) But none of that really matters. Like I said, my shit'll get fixed, or I'll switch to BellSouth. The important thing, from a political perspective is that sometimes, City Hall is on your side. And just like I told ten friends about a bad experience with Charter, I'll give credit where where credit is due, and tell you guys and more about a good experience with the ACC gummint.


Chuck said...

Charter once said that I owed money I did not owe, and I had to just end up paying them in order to be allowed to sit for the Bar Exam. I second the call for competition in the cable marketplace in Athens.

(This is probably the first thing the hosts of this blog and I have agreed on?)

Chuck Jones

Anonymous said...

CHUCK---How did the bar people know about the debt? Do they get your credit report?

Anonymous said...

DSL through Bellsouth is pretty nice - plus DishTV (with Sirrius Radio) is even better. Chater hasn't had a dime from me since Dec. 2000.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

DSL through Bellsouth is pretty nice - plus DishTV (with Sirrius Radio) is even better. Chater hasn't had a dime from me since Dec. 2000.

Ditto! I got tired of paying late fees when they applied my payments to the wrong account and required me to prove to them that I had paid. I was doing their work for them and getting nothing but shit back from them.
My DishNetwork also has a much better picture than I was getting with cable.

Vote with your wallet and your feet!

Chuck said...

Yes - when you go to take the Bar, they will run credit checks on you as well as make you explain any outstanding debts you have.

DoubleDawgDareYa said...

I likewise have had the experience of Charter claiming monies owed that were not owed. I finally got them to take that off my credit report. But yeah, Charter is for shit. I've got the DIRECTV and the Bellsouth DSL. The one and only time my DSL was out, their tech support actually helped me get it back up (one of the few times any tech support anywhere has actually helped me). My DIRECTV never goes out except for brief times during very heavy rain (like yesterday). Small price to pay to avoid dealing with those Charter douches.

whatsideareyouon said...

Charter'll never get another dime from me - they repeatedly overcharged me when I just had cable with 'em, then when I added internet, they became even more inept. We need some outright competition in cable service. Charter had terrible excuses about not being able to control content when they were gently asked about providing some local cable access channels during their recent re-up period. Austin, Texas has had some great locally produced music programming, and we could use the same, along with an outlet for other local arts, news and commentary.

Anonymous said...

While the addendum regarding Heidi was good props for her - I'm not sure this is any different than her entire story. She is for nanny government. I'll tell you where you can smoke, if you can smoke, and I'll tell you who can live in your house. I'd love to tell you which roads you cannot drive your car on (bikes would be much better, you know) - just give me a chance. And I'll also help you get your cable fixed.

Who knew that a nanny could do so much? She needs a sit com.

Anonymous said...

Spoken like a true spoiled child with all the venom and without a shred of understanding of the history or facts of any of the issues.

Be as pissed off at Heidi as you want - it's your right to be wrong.

Heidi did not initiate the smoking ban and cast only one vote on that issue - the vote that attempted to postpone the 24-hour ban by trying to effect a compromise with the "11 o'clock" thing.

Heidi does not get any credit for the definition of family stuff, either. That ordinance has been in place since sometime before 1990. She cast no vote on any of those issues but she allowed the commissioners the freedom to do what they were elected to do.

Heidi does get credit for attempting to stick with the bicycle master plan that was adopted sometime a few years before she took office. The Georgia Department of Transportation's own policy statements encourage exactly the kind of bike accomodations that we've been seeing - finally!

Heidi can take credit for doing exactly what she promised. She promised to let the commissioners debate and vote on issues that their constituents wanted. She has never tried to take the heavy-handed approach of the previous administration by refusing to allow items on the agenda just because she did not personally want to have them pass.

In fact, let's put the smoking ban and the definition of family thing on the ballot as a referendum - both will pass with more than 70% of the vote.

So, go ahead and rant and rave and try to lay all your gripes and bitches at Heidi's feet if that makes you feel better. You'll be wrong and look pretty stupid but, that is also your right as a citizen and a voter.

Or, you could choose to actually examine the issues and the history of those issues objectively but, that is too much trouble, I guess. Besides, it's so much easier just to pitch a hissy-fit and try to find a scape goat.

Dawg Corleone said...

Re DSL, Bellsouth: Wish I could get it at my house, which is in a nice neighborhood just off a major main drag in the A-T-H.

The school across the street has it. The stores up the street can get it.

But not my neighborhood.

Mike said...

No lover of Charter am they are the main reason behind our switch to DirecTV (which I second the love for), but we signed up for Charter's cable modem service a few years ago because Bellsouth's DSL didn't extend into the W-N-T-R-V at the time.

Never had problem number one with it. No significant unexplained outages. No billing problems. Maybe we're lucky but I wanted to throw that out there.

hillary said...

In fact, let's put the smoking ban and the definition of family thing on the ballot as a referendum - both will pass with more than 70% of the vote.

Can we pause a minute here and agree in civil fashion that a huge majority being in favor of something does not necessarily make it right?

Anonymous said...

I do think it ironic when people claim that Heidi tries to control too much when you consider who she beat.

Sandi Turner, Public Information Officer said...

A few points of reponse from the ACC Public Information Office, which oversees cable issues:

1) Competition: ACC’s cable regulatory authority is limited by Federal regulations in many ways. A common misconception is that ACC confers a monopoly to one cable provider. This is not true. The Athens-Clarke County Cable Ordinance states, “a grant of authority to operate and provide cable in Athens-Clarke County…shall not be exclusive.” No other provider has submitted an application for the service area covered by Charter.

2) Internet: Non-cable services such as Internet service are not under ACC’s authority to regulate. The FCC, federal courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court have all upheld previous decisions to deny local authority over non-cable services. However, if you experience continued Internet problems that Charter doesn't resolve, let us know anyway (see 'Problems' below), as we still can bring issues to their attention.

3) Local programming: Channel 23 on Charter offers leased access programming with a local focus. Although the channel is operated by Charter, the ACC Public Information Office is currently working with them on an information packet for citizens who want to air their own leased access programs, whether in music, arts, news, commentary, or other areas.

4) Problems: If you have problems with Charter, call their Customer Service Center (1-888-GET-CHARTER) first. If that fails to resolve the issue or you run into additional difficulties, visit, e-mail or call 706-613-3795 for bringing complaints to the ACC Public Information Office for further assistance.

There is more information about cable issues on, which will be updated as other questions and issues arise. The leased access information packet and an online complaint form will also be available on this site soon. Any other questions can be directed to the ACC Public Information Office as noted above.

Anonymous said...

Given the choices, I guess I will vote for Heidi again, but I'll be hating it.

She thinks that we didn't see thru her ridiculous year long "discussion" of poverty, which I hear was actually spearheaded by Pat Allen and the Chamber, not by our Mayor. She knows that we expected more than a year long discussion of poverty from her oath of office speech in which she claimed it would be her priority. Well, it wasn't.

Under her watch, user fees for the pool at Rocksprings were doubled, making it too expensive for the neighborhood kids to use. She didn't do anything to promote extended hours, etc. for Transit until the last budget before her re-election bid. She is a stooge for her clique of insider/supporters, and their agendas, and lied to us about how she'd run her office, and what she'd do. She's just a puppet for Bike Athens and Grow Green.

I've gotten old enough now that I don't just vote for candidates on the issues. I don't believe any of them when they say where they stand after John Barrow turned into a right wing despot, and sold out his liberal supporters. I vote based on the access I think I'll have to the candidate/official, and the extent to which they'll treat my issues and me with respect.

The fact that Heidi and Pat and Larry dearest didn't invite even ONE member of the poorest of the poor, or ANY of the activists she knows are working on issues like transit, child care, homelessness, mental health and addiction shows that all they want to accomplish with PPA is a cluster f..k. They are going to blame the poor ad nauseum, as always, and the Chamber and UGA will sit right there on their checkbooks, and continue to exploit the 28.6 percent of Athenians that they're abusing to their own benefit.
And don't even get me started on the social service structure, which is no more and no less than a racket. All those supposed do-gooder orgs are just more people standing around (like predatory lenders, buy here pay here car salesmen, etc.)waiting to make their chunk of the tax dollars that are supposed to go to the poor.

Everyone at that table (PPA) is stakeholders, alright. They have a huge vested interest in keeping the poor poor in Athens. And we who have survived in spite of the system are not fooled by their talk, their staff, their website. We want them to show us the money.
Period. And I'll believe it when I see it. I notice the recommendations/results aren't expected until after the election. So she's going to run on the claim that they'll eventually make some recommendations.

One thing I must say, now that 750 folks showed up, there is a huge light being shone on the procedings. So everyone will know, and notice when the PPA comes up with every idea BUT living wages. When PPA holds the poor responsible for not attending our lousy schools... when PPA recommends funding the same crooks (EADC springs to mind, huge budget, no help at all to real poor people), people will notice. So their little public relations exercise may just backfire on them and force them to do more than sit around talking about it for a year.

We can hope, anyway. And you know, the fact that she hasn't ever asked me to support her is very telling. At least Tom asks for your vote, and doesn't just assume he'll get it.

Please don't be fooled by Heidi's election year demeanor. She's making 45K a year to represent us, and as far as I'm concerned, she has let us down at every opportunity.

I am actually afraid to sign this, so I won't. But I'm not the only person who holds these opinions of Heidi. There are lots of us who are dreading holding our collective noses and voting for her. What a disappointment she's been.

Jmac said...

With all due respect to our most recent poster, you appear to be missing the boat entirely on the efforts of the PPA. If anything, the individuals who have showed up to attend these meetings - which, I'll agree, do need to be streamlined - give proof to the exact opposite of your argument, and that's there is much to be done to assist the poor in our community.

In following the steps and process being undergone by PPA, I haven't once seen the poor be blamed for their current state of living. And in following the steps and process, I've seen many ideas tossed out, including a living wage.

This is a big issue and it requires big solutions. Suggesting it's in the community's best interest to keep the poor poor is absurd. The government wants wealthier citizens who are employed and spending money, just as much as does the business community and the schools.

You may not care for the leaders involved, and that is fine (though I disagree) ... but your criticism is one-sided. If they weren't doing anything, you'd be upset. Now that they are doing something, you're upset.

It's hard for anyone to meet your high standards apparently.

I will step aside from this broad defense to raise one specific objection - a living wage, while helpful in the short-term, is not an effective long-term plan to combat poverty. The economy will always adjust and inflation will always occur and the cost of living will always rise ... meaning this living wage will always be on tenuous economic ground.

What can help in the long-term is an adequate social support structure, better education and job training, more employment oportunities and a concerned effort by society - from rich to poor - to commit themselves to seriously addressing this issue.

Anonymous said...

I had a bad experience with Dish for the couple years I lived in ATL. Weather outages, then all kinds of hardware problems (I suspect it may have all stemmed from a poor placement decision by the original installer). Plus, whenever the shit went out, you had to wait like three weeks to get some third-party repair person out there.
Charter sucks too, they all suck. And it's quite a ripoff.
I just wanted to note that, at least in my experience, Dish wasn't any better.


Anonymous said...

The poster who says he/she will vote for Heidi while holding her nose is one of the most bi-polar posts I've read in a while. He gives credit for PPA to the Chamber of Commerce, lol! Then says that the PPA will come up with every idea but living wages. If PPA works for a year and comes up with living wages as the solution when it has already been banned by the state legislature, I'm going to be very disappointed.

Fishplate said...

Can we pause a minute here and agree in civil fashion that a huge majority being in favor of something does not necessarily make it right?

Hooray for Hillary! She gets it!

retired_cowboy said...

Can we pause a minute here and agree in civil fashion that a huge majority being in favor of something does not necessarily make it right?

I agree with that statement 100%! But the problem comes when reasonable people don't agree on what is "right". To a lot of people, it is "right" that they can go into any business and not have to breathe in my cigarette smoke.

To me, it is "right" that my property values are protected by knowing that the houses all around me won't be packed with 6 college students and their 6 dogs and their 6 SUVs parked all over the lawn and the street. Personally, I like zoning laws protecting my property rights.

When folks can't agree on what is right, we usually vote on it. And that brings us back to that whole "majority" thing again.

hillary said...

When folks can't agree on what is right, we usually vote on it. And that brings us back to that whole "majority" thing again.

Actually, I'd say the times "we" vote on it aren't the best example. Because we frequently don't have the best grasp of the laws that are already in place, how a new rule we're voting for might work out, the long-term picture, the Bill of Rights, and so on. And not that our representatives always do, but it's at least slightly more their job to know those things and quorum and discuss and write law appropriately. I'm not exactly against ballot initiatives, but there are down sides to them.

That said, you're absolutely right that there are always difficulties.

Adrian said...

Charter's Internet service worked well for me when I had it in 2000, but I was always aware of many people having problems. One reason I don't have it now because it is not priced competitively. I'm not happy with BellSouth DSL's outsourcing of customer service, or their requirement that competing DSL providers get a 12-month contract from users, or their policy on blocking port 25, but at least it works for me.

Yeah, local governments don't have a lot of authority over franchises. The only useful leverage is enforcement of the agreement, but the items that go in that agreement are probably constrained by federal regulation.