The Summer The Cable Went Out

On trying to get the best of Time Warner, Verizon, and more

Kimmy Schmidt

About five years ago, my roommate and I faced something that seems a rite of passage any New Yorker faces after living in an apartment for a few years: Time Warner was raising its rates.

We knew what to do: we’d been told that if you call Time Warner and tell them you need your bill lowered, that you’re willing to cancel and take your business elsewhere, they will give you your old rate again. Stephanie was ready, and I was confident when she made the call. Unfortunately, she returned empty handed. Time Warner wouldn’t budge.

“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” she said, noting that we could probably get our services for cheaper from another provider.

Thus began the summer where our apartment was almost completely devoid of cable or internet.

Our first idea was to sign up for Verizon after seeing a million commercials about how great FIOS was. We didn’t know FIOS from Fahrvergnügen, but we did like that Verizon did seem to have a lot of different packages, all at a much lower price than the competitors. Stephanie called and made plans with Verizon; the salesman made great promises of premium channels and other upgrades that probably sounded far fancier than they were.

Verizon told us they were mailing us our internet equipment, but a couple of weeks passed and we didn’t receive anything. The company and I played phone tag as I tried to figure out what was going on. Verizon claimed that the box had been left at our doorstep a week before, but it hadn’t arrived and we’d never had trouble with packages at our apartment. Finally, Verizon agreed to resend the equipment. The new package would take three business days to arrive, and we had already cancelled our Time Warner service. Patiently, we waited.

A couple of days later, a technician came by to install the cable. It wasn’t until he arrived that we were told that the type of cable we were signed up for would require dish installation on the roof. The sales guy had never told us that was a part of the plan.

Desperately, we called our realty office, only to be told what we already suspected: no, we could not install anything on the roof. By then, we had the internet up and running in our apartment, but no cable. Not wanting our Verizon efforts to be in vain, we considered keeping the internet with Verizon but getting another cable provider.

However, after canceling the cable part of our package with Verizon, the internet started going out often, and it became impossible for us to get a solid connection. Customer service was so bad during these times that Stephanie and I would call simultaneously and then report to one another the vastly different diagnoses our respective technicians would give.

Finally, we decided to get rid of Verizon altogether and try RCN, the only other dish-less cable option we had. Because we cancelled within 30 days, Verizon said we didn’t owe them any money, but that also could’ve been because Stephanie also told them, as described in an old email exchange, that she “would hurt them.”

RCN made a good impression from the get-go. The employees that we talked to on the phone seemed knowledgeable and very nice. They sent a technician who installed cable and internet, and we felt good about our choices — that is, until our internet went out almost immediately after the technician left, and it refused to connect again. RCN sent out another technician to try to repair the modem, but we quickly realized that the company had very old equipment. While their good-natured customer service was refreshing compared to the dozens of clueless Verizon employees I ugly-cried at, the service was not anything worth paying for.

At this point, I was staying late at work and going to the nearby Starbucks on weekends, since it was the only way I could get some of my weekly blogging assignments done. It was frustrating to have to pay to sit and do work when I wanted to do it from the privacy of my own home. I was also at my wit’s end because I had used up a lot of personal days waiting at home for these technicians, and Stephanie had done the same. We had bills coming in constantly from different companies, and we were seemingly always on the phone, trying in vain to set the record straight and not have to pay money for services we never got to enjoy.

Finally, we went back to Time Warner with our tails between our legs, and weirdly enough, they gave us a better rate than they had offered before. It wasn’t as low as what we had started with, but honestly if they had offered this to us from the get-go, we would’ve accepted it. By the time we had the last people coming in to do installations, I was soliciting friends with abnormal work schedules to come wait for the technicians, since Stephanie and I couldn’t take any more time from work.

True, we saved some money over the course of that summer, since we didn’t pay for our almost nonexistent service over three months and ultimately got a lower rate. But we ended up back where we started. At least we finally had cable to watch our terrible television shows and I could finally stop pretending to drink a grande Pike Place roast for four hours so I could get some work done. Things were getting back to normal. At least, they were until the fridge then broke down …

Kimberly Lew recently switched from Optimum to finally try Fios for the first time, now that she lives in a compatible building. She has already cried a couple of times on the phone with customer service. She is not impressed. www.kimberlylew.com

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