Illustration of a house, with frayed fiber wires that don't extend far enough to connect the home to Internet service.

Aurich Lawson | Getty Photos

When Edward Koll and his girlfriend, Jo Narkon, purchased and moved into a brand new home in Draper, Virginia, in late September 2020, they’d each cause to suppose that Comcast Web can be available.

That they had achieved their due diligence earlier than shopping for the home, plugging the handle into the Comcast web site to ensure it had cable Web and contacting Comcast on to make further certain. Each the Comcast web site’s availability checker and a Comcast gross sales rep confirmed to them that the home had service.

However Comcast had given the couple false info due to an error in its protection map, and it did not inform the couple about this error till after they purchased the home. That was over six months in the past, and Koll and Narkon nonetheless haven’t got house Web service.

“It wasn’t till after we closed on the home that Comcast lastly notified us that we had been in a ‘useless zone,'” Koll advised Ars when he first contacted us on February 12, 2021. “The ends of our avenue are connected, however the center the place we dwell doesn’t have the service pedestal.”

This wasn’t the primary time that Comcast, the nation’s largest cable firm, has falsely advised prospects that service can be obtainable.

Though it was Comcast’s fault, the corporate demanded $5,000 up entrance to increase its community to Koll and Narkon’s home. The couple ultimately paid up in late November after figuring out it was the one viable possibility. However whereas Comcast initially promised service inside 90 days of receiving the $5,000 cost, it failed to finish the mission in that timeframe.

Comcast now says the mission will lastly be accomplished by April 15, over six weeks after the unique 90-day estimate handed on March 2. The couple has been utilizing cell hotspots for Web entry the whole time they’ve lived in the home due to Comcast offering false availability info after which failing to finish the set up on time.

Comcast: “[We] didn’t dwell as much as our requirements”

Comcast appeared to take the issue extra severely after Ars contacted the corporate’s public relations division, ultimately promising a $5,000 credit score.

“Mr. Koll’s expertise didn’t dwell as much as our requirements and we’re very sorry for the inconvenience this has brought on, subsequently, we will likely be making use of a credit score to his account equal to $5,000,” Comcast advised Ars on March 29, after a couple of weeks of back-and-forth communication.

“The stunning a part of it was Comcast’s refusal to even personal this,” Koll advised Ars in a cellphone interview final week, after Comcast agreed to the $5,000 credit score. “They simply type of brushed it off and we actually didn’t get any traction on this till we reached out to you [at Ars].”

A Comcast rep referred to as the couple yesterday to substantiate that service will likely be put in on Thursday, April 15, someday between 8 am and 10 am, Koll advised us. Even after that decision, Koll mentioned he’s “not satisfied” the mission is way sufficient alongside to be completed by then. However they’ve ordered Web, TV, and cellphone service, and the couple is switching their cell telephones over to Comcast’s cell service. The overall value is estimated at $249 a month, Koll mentioned. At that value, the $5,000 credit score will final about 20 months. Virginia is among the states the place Comcast reluctantly agreed to delay data-cap enforcement till 2022.

No possibility however to pay $5,000

Between emails, cellphone calls, and in-person visits, Koll mentioned he had dozens of contacts with Comcast over the previous six months to attempt to type the mess out. “Comcast mentioned, ‘yeah, our brokers advised you that service was obtainable and so they promised you that it was proper there at the doorstep, however they had been unsuitable,'” Koll mentioned.

One installer arrived on the home and, Koll advised Ars, “mentioned, ‘I must go discover out the place your service line is,’ after which he disappeared. He by no means got here again. After which we had two different installers and there was lastly the third man who mentioned, ‘You do not have a service pedestal shut sufficient and also you’re a hefty invoice simply to have it put in.'”

After listening to Comcast’s demand for $5,000, Koll complained to the FCC, however the company “adopted up with Comcast and accepted their clarification with out remark,” Koll advised Ars. Koll mentioned he additionally contacted the places of work of US Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) with none outcomes.

Edward Koll at his home.

Edward Koll at his house.

Gigabit Web “is on the market on your handle”

Koll offered Ars a duplicate of the $5,000 bill dated November 30 together with chat and electronic mail transcripts from conversations he had with Comcast.

In an internet chat earlier than they purchased the home, Koll requested a Comcast rep to confirm that gigabit Web service and cable TV can be obtainable. The rep advised him that “the Gigabit Speeds Web plan is on the market on your handle” and {that a} 2-year contract would value “$169.99/mo plus gear, taxes, and costs.”

The rep advised Koll to order service 5 to eight enterprise days prematurely in case cable wanted to be run to the home, making it sound like it could be a simple course of and never a six-month ordeal. However the Comcast rep was unsuitable as a result of Comcast’s system was offering false info. Koll positioned an order for Comcast service over the cellphone on August 25, and the couple closed on the home on September 24, transferring in the identical day. Even when accepting the order, Comcast did not understand that it hadn’t prolonged its community shut sufficient to the home to supply service.

Comcast boasts about its gigabit network in a slide from a press kit.

Comcast boasts about its gigabit community in a slide from a press package.

Comcast

On November 1, 2020, Koll replied to an electronic mail from a Comcast rep within the govt buyer relations division and identified that Comcast’s service map confirmed his handle as having service. Koll’s electronic mail additionally identified that he had positioned an order for service on August 25 “and on the similar time put a deposit into the account in order that service can be put in on or earlier than closing on this home.”

“Given the a number of assurances from Comcast for service and the prolonged delays we’ve got already endured, I anticipate a fast decision to this matter,” Koll wrote in that electronic mail.

However there was no fast or low cost decision. “We reluctantly agreed to pay $5,000 in November to have the service pedestal put in regardless of Comcast’s earlier guarantees concerning current service availability,” Koll advised Ars, months later.

“We actually need assistance”

Koll first contacted us after studying one among our articles a couple of 90-year-old AT&T buyer, Aaron Epstein, who purchased an advert in The Wall Road Journal to complain about AT&T’s gradual Web service. On the time, Koll wasn’t certain that Comcast would set up service in any respect.

“We actually need assistance, much like Mr. Epstein,” Koll advised Ars in his first electronic mail to us. “We have to get the service we had been promised put in. We wish to have the $5,000 again, however at this level are keen to simply accept that as a credit score in direction of future payments. Comcast has supplied two free months, which doesn’t come near the quantity we’ve got paid.”

Though Comcast later agreed to a credit score equal to the complete quantity they paid, the corporate didn’t inform us why it will not refund the $5,000 as a substitute of offering it as a invoice credit score. That primarily means they needed to pay $5,000 prematurely for about 20 months of service, an preliminary expense that new Comcast prospects usually wouldn’t must pay.

Comcast fixes map, months too late

In late March, Comcast lastly up to date its protection map and on-line availability checker to appropriately present Koll’s handle as unserved. So why did Comcast’s web site and a Comcast gross sales rep falsely inform Koll that service was already obtainable on the house?

“This isn’t a typical prevalence and we’ve got to look into these cases on a case-by-case foundation,” Comcast mentioned. “For this particular handle, it was included in a database from an organization we acquired a few years in the past. Our native groups are planning an additional evaluation of that regional database.”

Cable firms have failed for years to develop extra correct service maps. The cable trade’s largest foyer group fought towards necessities to submit address-level knowledge to the Federal Communications Fee, telling the FCC in 2017 that it is too troublesome and costly to determine precisely the place they’ll and might’t supply service.

The FCC lastly ordered ISPs to submit geospatial maps of the place they supply service in 2019, however then-FCC Chairman Ajit Pai didn’t end organising the brand new system earlier than leaving workplace in January 2021. Upon taking on from Pai, performing FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel realized “that we had lots of work to do and hadn’t but begun lots of the steps required to really construct a group system,” she wrote.



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