Catalyzing Connectivity: Triumphs and Trials in Community Broadband Initiatives - Episode 580 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

This week on a special edition of the podcast, join us as we begin with a discussion with local leaders from East Carroll Parish, Louisiana. First Featured on ILSR's Building Local Power podcast, this first segment reveals the hurdles the leaders faced with expensive and inadequate broadband service. 

Despite resistance from a regional monopoly provider, their grassroots efforts to enhance Internet access triumphed. Explore with them on how they overcame obstacles and misleading data that was hindering competition.

Lest you think the situation in East Carroll Parish wasn't that bad, in the second segment we journey back to a 2014 episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Christopher and Lisa parody the (based-on-real-life!) experience of trying to talk to the customer service of Big Cable companies, maybe hitting a little too close to home.

This show is 41 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Transcript below.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.

Listen to other episodes or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Ry Marcattilio (00:01):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We've got something special this week, two of our favorite episodes that happen to fit together nicely. The first comes from ILSR'S Building Local Power podcast and an interview with two local leaders from East Carroll Parish, Louisiana and the experience they've had with increasingly expensive but also poor broadband service. Over the last several years, we hear how their efforts to [00:00:30] try and improve Internet access by organizing a local effort was almost stymied by that same regional monopoly provider, which doubled down and tried to use junk data to prevent competition. The second half of the episode comes from a community broadband Bits podcast way back in 2014 when Christopher and Lisa asked the question, can you satirize the terrible customer service of the big cable companies? Or is reality so bad that [00:01:00] even when we try to poke fun at it with hyperbole, it ends up sounding a little too close to home. We'll let you be the judge. Enjoy the show.

Reggie Rucker (01:16):
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Building Local Power. I'm your cohost, Reggie Rucker. And on today's show we have the privilege of hearing from two guests who stared down monopoly giants that basically gave them the middle finger when all [00:01:30] they asked was for reliable, affordable Internet service to connect to and take care of their community. And in keeping with this season's theme, how to Get Away with Merger, we look at how this need to even ask monopoly giants for connectivity to community and health and opportunity is only necessary because of the concentration allowed through large mergers and acquisitions. Today we look at Cable One, which now goes by Spark Light and how a series of acquisitions in recent years helped to make them a dominant player in the southern region [00:02:00] with the power to pick and choose who they provide service to and how this requires communities to make heroic efforts just to get what so many are able to take for granted. To tell more of this story, I'm going to pass it over to my co-host who has not once given me the middle finger, at least not to my face. And that's Luke Gannon. What's up Luke?

Luke Gannon (02:22):
Reggie, I would never give you the middle finger. So before we jump into hearing from our guests today, I'm going to provide some background on [00:02:30] Spark Light and its history. Spark Light, as Reggie mentioned, is a part of cable, one's family of brands, and it's a broadband communications provider that serves more than 1 million residential and business customers in 24 states. So a few years ago, cable One changed its name to Spark Light to transition to a broadband first strategy because they saw that so many people were turning to digital video content on their mobile devices or to social media. So as a part of this rebranding [00:03:00] strategy and shifting their focus on broadband, they are now trying to acquire and grow.

Reggie Rucker (03:06):
So Luke, what did you notice as you looked at the pattern of these acquisitions?

Luke Gannon (03:11):
To me, it seems like Sparkly has been conducting a series of smaller acquisitions over the last few years, slowly growing its footprint across the United States. In 2019, spark Light acquired Fidelity Communications, which expanded its footprint by 190,000 homes [00:03:30] across primarily Southern and Midwestern states. Then in 2020, spark Light bought a 45% stake in Mega Broadband Investments Holdings, which is a private equity firm for $574 million. And then in 2021, spark Light announced that it would be acquiring equity interests in hard gray communications, which is a telecommunications provider. So

Reggie Rucker (03:55):
Luke, explain the equity interest. What does that look like in this case?

Luke Gannon (03:59):
So [00:04:00] Spark Light will represent 85% of Har Gray. Its stake in Har Gray will expand their footprint in the southeastern us. So really just over the last few years we've seen Spark light inching its way across the United States becoming larger and larger and as I've read oftentimes providing poor and expensive service.

Reggie Rucker (04:25):
So Luke, what is Spark light cable one, what are they saying as they buy up all of [00:04:30] these telecommunications broadband companies? What are they professing as going to be the positive outcome of these acquisitions?

Luke Gannon (04:39):
In most of the articles I've read about these acquisitions, spark Light has said that by acquiring X company it will create a superior experience for customers and increased value for shareholders. But unfortunately, as the East Carroll Parish story that you'll hear next so clearly illustrates the customer [00:05:00] experience is really bad. And that's why all this organizing happened to build something that actually worked for the community in East Carroll Parish. And that was led by the community, not some outside massive corporation coming in and deciding who to serve and then leaving out a huge part of the population. So in East Carroll Parish, spark Light and at t were really the only two providers [00:05:30] in town in many places across the country. Spark Light has a monopoly in rural towns where they are price gouging their customers, which basically means that because there was no one else to compete with, they increased their rates. And then on top of that, due to this lack of competition, they can also provide terrible service because there is really no incentive to do better.

Reggie Rucker (05:54):
Such a great intro Luke, thank you so much for that. Okay, so tell us what's coming up next on the show.

Luke Gannon (06:00):
[00:06:00] So on the show today, Wanda Manning and Laura Arvin are going to detail their story working with Delta Interfaith and organizing a task force around building their own fiber to the home network where everyone in East Carroll Parish could have access to affordable fast broadband. Without further ado, we are going to start from the beginning of Wanda's [00:06:30] story.

Wanda Manning (06:40):
Well, I grew up here in Lake Providence. Lake Providence is a small agricultural town. It is like the lake we were named after it. It is like a ox bowl and the town is a beautiful little plank town in northeast Louisiana, right at the tip top [00:07:00] of the boot in the northeast corner full of northeast Corner. Well, it's always been a beautiful town to me, and yes, we have our own issues here in East Care Parish like any other town. East Care Parish is the parish and I live in Lake Providence and that's our town. So I grew up in a large family, nine, nine of us, five sisters and three brothers, [00:07:30] and there was always something going on in the house. We lived next door to my grandmother, we call her Mama Lena. And for many years my family pushed education and as my grandmother taught us that old adage, if you give a man a fish, you can feed him for one day, but if you teach him how to fish, you could feed him for a [00:08:00] lifetime.

It was always work. And I chopped cotton. We are in the south as a child coming up. So with education being pushed all the time, I knew I didn't want to chop cotton all my life, right? So it was hot, it was really hot, but it served its purpose and there was a lot of life lessons in it. But although I grew up in a large [00:08:30] family, I spent a lot of time reading books. I spent a lot of time by myself. I was always up to something creating stuff. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I made my own fashion paper dolls. I love watching my family and my friends get together to have fun. And my father loves sports. So we played lots of touch football, what they call it, setback. And to this very day, [00:09:00] I could throw a football better than most guys, but my daddy didn't allow the girls to be tackled and the boys were just furious.

And although I'm a little rusty, I could still throw that football well with everything said about my family and stuff. And education was the main thing. Pushed. I became a teacher and I taught for 32 plus years [00:09:30] and my parents were always assisting in the community in one form or fashion. So one of the stories I called from my childhood is what my father did. One night a family came to our house and it was a knock on the door and we heard the commotion, we all seated getting ready for supper and all of a sudden my dad came in at the table, he took half [00:10:00] of my food off my plate, half of my sister's food off of their plate, and we were just sitting around looking like, so it was years down the road that I figured out that it was a family outside of that door.

They didn't ask for money, they asked for food. So my father made a way to give them food. So I learned in life that whatever you have to share, you share because [00:10:30] in my spiritual upbringing, in my church upbringing is that you were created to be, if you are blessed, you are created to be a blessing. So sharing was a part of what we did. My mom cooked for funerals throughout the town of Lake Providence and all around Lake Providence, always serving somebody. So many funerals that she served at and cooked for. [00:11:00] I can't put a number to it, not to this day. So we were always sent to somebody's house, some elderly person's house clean up or run errands. And I didn't realize just how much of my childhood was spent in the community.

Luke Gannon (11:21):
Today Wanda remains actively engaged in the community. After dedicating 32 years to teaching in East Carroll Parish [00:11:30] in 2020, Wanda like the rest of the world experienced a profound wake up call

Wanda Manning (11:36):
2020 forced me out the classroom with underline the conditions behind Covid, right? The pandemic just ripped the advantage off of everything. So I was in the classroom teaching and this young one of my former students, I thought the kid was just playing in and out of his virtual class [00:12:00] and I was infuriated. And so I did not know at that time, dialog was still a thing you all, it was so frustrating to have a child not stay in that virtual class. So during that particular time, when I came out in November of 2020, I went out and I got a chance to talk to Nathan and his mother, Tabitha. So [00:12:30] I found out in our conversation this kid was on Dialup in a virtual class. It could Dialup, can't sustain a call less long a virtual class. So I told Nathan, I said, baby, I apologize for fussing at you. So because I didn't know you had such poor connection. So I said, if I don't do anything, I'm going to make sure you get some good Internet [00:13:00] out here. And that's how my journey got started with a former student and just dirt poor connection

Luke Gannon (13:09):
As a teacher. When Covid struck, Wanda quickly recognized the significant lack of Internet access that many of her students faced. In 2020, she became actively involved in Delta Interfaith, a broad-based coalition of congregations and organizations dedicated to addressing problems [00:13:30] large and small. It was there that she crossed paths with Laura Arvin. Here's Laura.

Laura Arvin (13:36):
I got involved in Delta Interfaith because I wanted to get more involved in the community. I had moved, I grew up here myself and move back to help take care of my mother. And when she passed, I was looking for some way to get involved into the community. And so it was a perfect because I was able to meet people from all walks of life.

Luke Gannon (13:59):
Laura became a member [00:14:00] of Delta Interfaith when the pandemic struck. Soon after she, along with a group of volunteers, formed a task force dedicated to organizing initiatives aimed at bridging the digital divide.

Laura Arvin (14:13):
The task force met with at and t, who is the old guard incumbent here pretending to offer Internet at and t and Spark Light were the two entities in town that offered Internet. We had those choices [00:14:30] and if you looked at what was needed from the pandemic, the at and t service was not viable. So basically we had one choice if you wanted to do online school in that spark light, which is expensive and therefore not affordable for a lot of people.

Luke Gannon (14:50):
As children transitioned from in-person to remote schooling, Laura and Wanda recognized that the available options for Internet providers were inadequate. [00:15:00] They embarked on a lengthy journey of research meetings with representatives securing funding and forming alliances with electric cooperatives. Their goal was to build a compelling case for ensuring that every individual in East Carroll Parish had access to reliable Internet connectivity.

Laura Arvin (15:21):
We discussed, we met with at and t representatives, we met with Spark Light representatives online, we met with all kinds of local industries. [00:15:30] How were they working to get their Internet? We worked with the school system finding all these things. The task force ended up fighting off this company that came in and wanted to build a magic entity magic. They were going to solve all our broadband problems to the tune of $50 million in bonds that they were going to sell, that if the network failed, the town would've been [00:16:00] on the hook for the town and the parish. So by that time we had researched and we were beginning to get our organizing chops, so to speak. So we were able to fend them off and we identified a partner who had won the RDOF money for our parish who was also building networks for the electric co-op next door to us and also has some customers [00:16:30] in East Carroll.

So Delta Interfaith Broadband Committee worked with them to help them gather information to submit a gumbo grant application. And we worked hard, we helped them gather the information and after a lot of waiting, the grant was awarded and so we celebrated, but there was a protest process in place that we were aware of. [00:17:00] But at the 11th hour, literally Spark light comes in and says, Nope, we serve those people already or we serve the majority of them. So you can't give money to serve those people. And the grant, the Gumbo grant is the granting unserved municipalities, broadband opportunities. So they might have technically had at t, but there were some standards there that [00:17:30] they had to reach and so at t couldn't, so basically they were unserved, but with Spark Lights protests, it pretty much put a halt in things. And at that point, Delta Interfaith pivoted.

We started going out and doing press conferences. We traveled to Baton Rouge, spoke in front of the Office of administration that ran the broadband grant program. We did media interviews. We chatted with Chris Mitchell on [00:18:00] the ILSR community broadband bits and did a lot of print interviews and reached out to public officials. And then we also met with Spark, like directly. We went over to Monroe to their regional office and met on Zoom. And by the way, they had Internet problems hooking into their Arizona and Florida offices where these bigwigs were that we were sitting with the regional manager [00:18:30] who we had spoken with way back in 2020. That was who we talked with saying, can you extend your network further out into the parish? And at that time they said, no, it's not a good return on investment for us. We can't do this. And at t had told us, be happy with what you have. So when we met them a second time, we had a little bit of a fire in our bellies.

Luke Gannon (18:55):
The flames of that fire were fanned out. One day when a Spark light general [00:19:00] manager, Charlie Oaks made Wanda an offer he hoped she wouldn't refuse.

Wanda Manning (19:07):
So Charlie Oakes called me and said, well Wanda, well I'm going to do this and that for you on your bill so it could come down and you have great service and all of this cool stuff. I said, oh really? That's awesome. I said, but are you going to do that for everybody else too? You [00:19:30] don't just do it for one person. There's a whole community of people that coming up short with core services and we pay big money for Spark Life for their services and get poor freaking services.

Luke Gannon (19:45):
But because Wanda wouldn't be bought and kept advocating for all of her community, alongside Laura and the rest of Delta Interfaith today, residents of East Carroll Parish are celebrating Louisiana's office [00:20:00] of broadband development and Connectivity's decision to uphold a $4 million gumbo grant to bring fiber to the home. Internet service to over 2,500 households in one of the most poorly connected parts of the state. Community building is power building.

Wanda Manning (20:20):
My standpoint is that as a community-based organization built with community churches and people that are interested in the betterment [00:20:30] of our town, we wanted change. We had two great assemblies to gather people up to create power because as a young person during the early seventies, late eighties, trying to organize some stuff in school, Howard can be one person, but you struggle so hard with it. But when you got organized people with the same [00:21:00] mindset and growing a thing or a situation, you get great strategies and great ideas. And that's what has happened in Delta Interfaith. We strive for the betterment of our town, we want our children to have better and the only way that we can have better for them is that we lay the foundation

Laura Arvin (21:30):
[00:21:30] And it is about those relationships reaching across all of these possible probable divides, real issues that have been struggled with to learn together about how to do things. I mean, we are learning as a group all the time.

Wanda Manning (21:51):
This fight, it's pertinent to me as an educator with technology is an ongoing entity. We need to stay [00:22:00] abreast to stay abreast and need to be affordable, reliable, and sustainable. There's no connection to other entities outside of East Care Parish if we can't sustain the connection. This fight is so important because I know that there are homes that do remote jobs. Telehealth is very crucial in East Care Parish because even I myself have [00:22:30] to drive 72 plus miles for a doctor appointment, that should not all to be. So some of the things that we can carve out using the Internet, it takes the strain off our pockets, off our time and put things back in the order that is supposed to be especially concerning our children. Everybody don't have the necessary means [00:23:00] to travel to be educated at ULM Grambling Southern or any other university. So with good sustainable Internet, it meets the need and we have to have this fighting just discussion about not being left behind.

Luke Gannon (23:21):
It's that time of the episode for Wanda and Laura to share their book recommendations.

Laura Arvin (23:28):
One of my most favorite [00:23:30] poets is Wendleberry. There's a poem called Manifesto of the Mad Farmer. And every now and then when I get frustrated, I go back and read that poem and it's just awesome.

Wanda Manning (23:44):
The Captured economy, how the powerful enrich themselves and slow down growth and increase inequality by brink. Lindsay and Steve Taylor are interested, read, very [00:24:00] interested. You learn some stuff about the economy and men in big companies, how they just study do the wrong thing. And that scripture or part of scripture said, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poor. And that comes to mind and one of 'em is a hard read, can't be faint or hard would charge Dickens, right? The tale of two cities is what I relate to. And [00:24:30] even coming up the first line, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. And I've always equated that with East Carroll Parish because of the struggles and the parallelisms between the two situations that was battling out in the book.

Luke Gannon (24:51):
Well, thank you so much Wanda and Laura for joining us on the show today. You all have a accomplished, an amazing feat in East Carroll Parish [00:25:00] and really shown the world what is possible for bridging the digital divide. Now passing it over to the incredible Reggie Rucker to close us out.

Reggie Rucker (25:12):
Thank you Luke. Again, what a great job on this episode. And again, Laura and Wanda, thank you for telling such an inspiring and empowering story. It truly is moving to hear about all the great work that you're doing down in East Carroll Parish. And for all of you listening, thanks for sticking [00:25:30] with us until the end. I assume that means you like this episode, so please share with even just one person you think will enjoy it too. We have a goal of 10,000 listens for this episode to help us get there. And if you're not a subscriber to the podcast yet, make sure to hit that subscribe button so you know when every new episode drops. And of course, your donations are essential to help us keep this podcast going and support the research and resources that we make available on our website for free. We truly welcome and appreciate it all. [00:26:00] And last, if you have feedback for us or want to share a story about how your community approaches this issue, send us an email to building local We'd love to share these on a special mailba episode one day. We'll definitely keep an eye out. This show is produced by Luke Gannon and me, Reggie Rucker. This podcast is edited by Luke Gannon and Andrew Frank. The music for the season is also composed by Andrew Frank, thank you so much for listening to Building Local Power.

Christopher Mitchell (26:30):
[00:26:30] Oh, we're recording. What do you know?

Lisa Gonzalez (26:37):
Yes, we are recording.

Christopher Mitchell (26:39):
So we have

Lisa Gonzalez (26:41):
A special treat for everybody today

Christopher Mitchell (26:44):
And we just wanted to introduce it quickly and awkwardly. So basically today, because it's one of those days when some people are working, but a lot of people are already starting to think about the holidays and taking some time off. We wanted to just do something a little bit lighter and [00:27:00] more fun.

Lisa Gonzalez (27:01):
So what we did is we created a couple of scenarios. One has a customer calling to ask about service to a cable company.

Christopher Mitchell (27:12):
And that customer sounds a lot like you.

Lisa Gonzalez (27:14):
Oh, I guess she does. She actually, you'll notice, you'll notice this sound and every time you hear that sound there will be something said in the conversation that is from an actual conversation with a [00:27:30] sales representative

Christopher Mitchell (27:31):
From one of the cable

Lisa Gonzalez (27:33):
Telephone companies, from one of the cable company, from one of the

Christopher Mitchell (27:34):
Companies. We've had a fair amount of these conversations and sometimes they're a little bit nuts. So what we did was we decided that we would have a short conversation and we scripted it based on real events and then a little bit of hyperbole. Yeah,

Lisa Gonzalez (27:47):
We went a little past that, but we did use actual language. Yep,

Christopher Mitchell (27:51):
We did. But I think you'll find that if you look at the range of calls, I mean if you just do a search for Comcast conversations that people have reported, [00:28:00] the things that we sort of exaggerated have been gone far beyond by the cable companies and some of their poor support. I

Lisa Gonzalez (28:09):
Would also be willing to bet Chris that people listening to this podcast right now have had similar conversations.

Christopher Mitchell (28:15):
So the first one is a person that calls in and asks for help and wants to set up a new account. And the second one is a person that is calling in for help. And this was based on a true story that a friend of mine experienced when he had [00:28:30] a service interruption at his house and he got a call center in the Philippines and it was just incredibly crazy the fact that he had to go through this Ragga rule to get his connection repaired. And so in that connection, and that's our second conversation and we've

Lisa Gonzalez (28:46):
Actually probably scaled that down from what he actually had to

Christopher Mitchell (28:49):
Had. Yeah, I think it was probably a bit worse for what he had to go through.

Lisa Gonzalez (28:52):
So enjoy the conversations and

Christopher Mitchell (28:55):
That's right, and in a one week we're going to put up a show with some year-end review type [00:29:00] stuff and some predictions and then we'll be back in early January on the regular schedule with a show back on our normal schedule of things, not any of this sort of fluff and fun stuff. We'll get that out of our system and go back to the normal shows. So thank you everyone.

Lisa Gonzalez (29:15):
Thanks. Have a great holiday.

Cable Recording (29:21):
Congratulations. You have reached National Consolidated Cable. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Your call may be recorded for use on [00:29:30] your permanent record, please enter your account number then press pound. If you want to set up a new account, please say sales. If you have a technical support question, please say technical support. If you want to disconnect your service, please hang up and call back in a few months.

Lisa Gonzalez (29:58):

Cable Recording (30:00):
[00:30:00] Thank you. I will put you right through as a courtesy. Please do not lose your temper with our agents. We pay them the bare minimum and treat them quite poorly already. Have you tried our website? It won't answer your questions, but the wait is shorter.

Christopher Mitchell (30:24):
Thank you for calling Cable Code today where we have some amazing deals. My name's Troy and what's your name?

Lisa Gonzalez (30:30):
[00:30:30] Hi Troy. My name is Stella.

Christopher Mitchell (30:32):
Hi Stella. Did I mention that we have some amazing deals today?

Lisa Gonzalez (30:35):
Yes. Yes you did. Thanks.

Christopher Mitchell (30:37):
We are the home of the best triple play offer.

Lisa Gonzalez (30:40):
That's good to know. Thanks Troy.

Christopher Mitchell (30:42):
Stella. We now have a package of television when you hook up one television with HD and DVR service. Well that's typically 93 99 a month, but I can get it locked in today at only 54 point 99 a month for 12 months.

Lisa Gonzalez (30:55):
But I don't want to get get

Christopher Mitchell (30:56):
To, I can even waive the $300 installation and activation fee [00:31:00] for you and give you three free months of Stars, HBO, Showtime and Cinemaxx, but

Lisa Gonzalez (31:05):
I don't much.

Christopher Mitchell (31:05):
And you might even qualify to get an upgrade to the whole home. HD DVR. This thing is great with over 800 hours of recording space, picture and picture the ability to record five shows at once and it recommends shows to watch based on what you watch. Stella.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:20):
No, I don't think that I want that to.

Christopher Mitchell (31:22):
So if you'd like to just give me your credit card number, I can sign you up for that deal today before it expires.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:27):
Well, I'm not really sure that I want that.

Christopher Mitchell (31:30):
[00:31:30] TikTok, Stella, TikTok,

Lisa Gonzalez (31:32):
I'm not really much of a TV watcher. I'm primarily interested in just signing up for Internet access.

Christopher Mitchell (31:38):
Standalone Internet access. Stella, no bundle at all.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:42):

Christopher Mitchell (31:43):
Stella, I'm just going to give you some advice to help you out. The best way to go is with bundled services because you save on all of the services.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:51):
Thanks for the advice, Troy. But I just want standalone Internet access today.

Christopher Mitchell (31:55):
No, you don't want that.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:56):
Yes I do.

Christopher Mitchell (31:58):
No you don't. Stella.

Lisa Gonzalez (31:59):
Yes I do.

Christopher Mitchell (32:00):
[00:32:00] No you don't. Stella.

Lisa Gonzalez (32:02):
Yes I do. Look, I think I know what I want,

Christopher Mitchell (32:05):
Stella. You have to understand I'm a professional and I understand what you need and what's going to help you out the best.

Lisa Gonzalez (32:11):
Just give me pricing for standalone Internet access please, Troy.

Christopher Mitchell (32:16):
Alright, let me take a look and see what we have. Alright, why don't you just give me your address and we'll take a look at what deals are available.

Lisa Gonzalez (32:24):
24 Sycamore in Springfield.

Christopher Mitchell (32:30):
[00:32:30] As I look at our system, I see that you're in luck. We have some incredible fantastic one-time only introductory prices available for you today, Stella. We can get you a basic package at 1999 a month for 12 months or standard at 49 9 9 a month for 12 months. Turbo's going to roll in at 69 99 a month for 12 months, but you can also go up to Extreme Turbo at 89.9 a month for 12 months or if you're really, really looking for the fastest speeds, ultimate extreme turbo [00:33:00] at $115 and $99 a month for 12 months.

Lisa Gonzalez (33:04):
And what are the prices after the introductory rates?

Christopher Mitchell (33:08):
Well, the price will be the same for all 12 months because our promotions change frequently. I would not be able to give you prices after the promotion. And what we suggest you do, Stella, is to contact us around your 10th or 11th month to see if we can roll you into another offer or promotional price at that time. This will ensure you're always getting the very best price for your services, Stella.

Lisa Gonzalez (33:29):
Well, what are other [00:33:30] people paying for those speeds after the introductory rates are done?

Christopher Mitchell (33:33):
It depends on the area. I can't give you an amount, not even an approximate amount. That's why we tell the customers to call us so that we can enroll them in new promotions.

Lisa Gonzalez (33:43):
Well, I can't really plan or commit to cable co if I don't know what my rate will be.

Christopher Mitchell (33:48):
I'm sorry, Stella. I can't give you accurate information and I don't want to tell you an amount because it's going to be a lie. I prefer to be honest with you, Stella, and tell you that it's better to call us before your promotion expires anyway. There's no contract [00:34:00] over here. You can cancel with no cancellation fees if you don't like the price afterwards. But I'll tell you what, Stella, you give me your credit card number and I can sign you up for our ultimate service.

Lisa Gonzalez (34:09):
I'm not so sure

Christopher Mitchell (34:11):
TikTok, Stella,

Lisa Gonzalez (34:12):
I don't like the fact that you won't tell me what I'll be paying after the first 12 months. What am I supposed to do? If the price doubles or triples?

Christopher Mitchell (34:20):
You can always cancel and obtain services elsewhere. Stella, you're not bound by a contract when the introductory period's over and after all, this is a very competitive industry. You're

Lisa Gonzalez (34:29):
The only [00:34:30] cable provider in town.

Christopher Mitchell (34:32):
Well, there's always DSL. You could do satellite or dial up. I

Lisa Gonzalez (34:36):
Don't like your attitude, Troy.

Christopher Mitchell (34:38):
No, no, no, don't hang up. You don't know what it's like here. I have to make two more sales before I get a bathroom break. Please, lady. I drank three cups of coffee this morning.

Lisa Gonzalez (34:53):
All right, sign me up for the middle tier.

Christopher Mitchell (34:56):
Great. You're not going to regret this. I'll get you a great deal. The turbo [00:35:00] Internet at 69.99 a month though I do have to say that if you added a few video channels to that package, I can lower the price to 64 99 a month. That

Lisa Gonzalez (35:09):
Doesn't even make sense. Why would I pay less if I agreed to add channels?

Christopher Mitchell (35:14):
Well, Stella, that's how Comcast does it, so we do it that way too.

Lisa Gonzalez (35:18):
Why is it that my friend over in Shelbyville pays even less for that same package?

Christopher Mitchell (35:23):
Our prices are based on a variety of factors. Stella,

Lisa Gonzalez (35:26):
Doesn't Shelbyville have a municipal network over there? I'd at least [00:35:30] have some choice.

Christopher Mitchell (35:32):
Well, the decisions about the rates are made above my pay grade, but let's get you signed up for that turbo connection. Can you tell me what your address is again?

Lisa Gonzalez (35:39):
24 Sycamore Street in Springfield.

Christopher Mitchell (35:41):
Alright, just give me a second to look that up and in our system so I can enroll you in the product. Oh man, God bless America. Stella.

Lisa Gonzalez (35:53):

Christopher Mitchell (35:55):
It seems like our system, there's just something that's a little off. [00:36:00] I originally checked your address in a different system that that's the one that we used to tell the state where we offer services. And when I looked to place this order, I found that we don't actually serve your house yet, but we could set you up if you just wanted to pay a one-time fee and then we'd build the network out to you. I

Lisa Gonzalez (36:16):
Wish I lived in Shelbyville. I'd rather put my money in a community network.

Christopher Mitchell (36:21):
Look, I can't just make this offer to anyone, but because you're really quite close to our network already, we'd only charge you $7,500 to expand the network to you. [00:36:30] This is really quite a deal. Stella.


Hey Fred. Pass me that Coke bottle. Will you?

Cable Recording (36:52):
Congratulations. You have reached National Consolidated Cable. We pride ourselves on our customer service. Your call may be recorded for use [00:37:00] on your permanent record. Please enter your account number then press pound.

Lisa Gonzalez (37:12):
I never use this anyway. I don't even know why they ask.

Cable Recording (37:16):
If you want to set up a new account, please say sales. If you have a technical support question, please say technical support if you want to disc

Lisa Gonzalez (37:24):
Technical support.

Christopher Mitchell (37:30):
[00:37:30] Hello, this is abed. How can I help you while also trying to sell you more services?

Lisa Gonzalez (37:39):
We had a bad storm an hour ago. My neighbor's tree blew down in my yard. It fell on my cable wire and it ripped it off my house.

Christopher Mitchell (37:45):
Well, I'm sorry to hear that. What can I do for you?

Lisa Gonzalez (37:48):
Well, I'd like you to send someone out to reattach it.

Christopher Mitchell (37:52):
Alright, let me see what my system says. Can you tell me your account number?

Lisa Gonzalez (37:55):
Didn't I already give that to you at the beginning of the call?

Christopher Mitchell (37:58):
I'm sure you did, but we [00:38:00] only have you put that in as part of a strict policy of delaying you at least 10 minutes on the phone prior to you speaking to a human.

Lisa Gonzalez (38:07):
Okay, my account number is 1 2 3 4 6 5 4 4 1 3 3 7.

Christopher Mitchell (38:17):
Alright, that's coming up. And to verify your identity, I need you to tell me what sites you were visiting last night. What We closely monitor your surfing to build a profile for advertising. And I see that you were quite active last night, so [00:38:30] I want to verify your identity and make sure you are who you say you are. And I just need you to tell me one of the sites you visited last night at about 1:00 AM I'm

Lisa Gonzalez (38:38):
Not going to do that.

Christopher Mitchell (38:39):
Okay, well alternatively, you can lean out your south facing dining room and hold three fingers up in the air.

Lisa Gonzalez (38:46):
What will that prove?

Christopher Mitchell (38:47):
I'm not really at liberty to discuss our partnership with the NSA.

Lisa Gonzalez (38:51):
Oh wow. Okay.

Christopher Mitchell (38:59):
Ah, there, [00:39:00] I see you on the monitor and that's a lovely turtleneck you're wearing. While I'm bringing up your account, would you mind verifying that your cable modem is plugged in?

Lisa Gonzalez (39:07):
Plugged into what your wire runs from a pole outside my house into a bush as of 60 minutes ago.

Christopher Mitchell (39:14):
Well, okay, I understand, but I have to use this checklist, so please verify that your cable modem is turned on. This is

Lisa Gonzalez (39:20):
Absurd. Nothing will work until the cable's attached to my house.

Christopher Mitchell (39:24):
Have you verified that it's turned on now?

Lisa Gonzalez (39:26):
Yeah, sure. It is on.

Christopher Mitchell (39:29):
Okay. Please [00:39:30] turn it off and then turn it back on.

Lisa Gonzalez (39:31):

Christopher Mitchell (39:32):
Oh, I'm in our system now and I see you're not taking advantage of our bundle deals. I'd be happy to fix that for you.

Lisa Gonzalez (39:38):
Can you just send a tech my way to reattach the wire?

Christopher Mitchell (39:42):
I understand what you're asking, but I do have to follow my checklist now about those bundles. We have some really good deals for to bundle your service. You can add video. It'll only cost you an extra

Lisa Gonzalez (39:55):
Look. I want the same service I had yesterday. I just want it to work.

Christopher Mitchell (39:59):
Okay. [00:40:00] I'll schedule a time for one of our technicians to visit you

Lisa Gonzalez (40:03):
When? Well,

Christopher Mitchell (40:04):
Because this is a priority. I think I can get you in next Wednesday,

Lisa Gonzalez (40:08):
Six days from now. This is an emergency.

Christopher Mitchell (40:12):
Well, many people have to wait a lot longer for a technician. Can I schedule a time for you between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM that day?

Lisa Gonzalez (40:19):
I just can't believe you get away with this. The electric company is coming out in a few hours. You want to take a

Christopher Mitchell (40:25):
Week? Yes. Well, the electric company is regulated and you wouldn't want that for the cable [00:40:30] industry, would you? We wouldn't be nearly as innovative if we had to fix things so quickly. Now, can I set you up with that 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM slot?

Lisa Gonzalez (40:39):

Christopher Mitchell (40:40):
Excellent. Just to be safe, I'd probably be ready for our tech to arrive anytime between 5:00 AM and 10:00 PM We aim for the four hour window, but achieve it a vanishingly small percent of the time. Is there anything else I can do for you?

Lisa Gonzalez (40:53):
Anything else? You haven't done anything but waste an hour of my day and refuse to give me timely service.

Christopher Mitchell (41:00):
[00:41:00] Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, but let's talk one more time about how much you could save with a bundle.

Lisa Gonzalez (41:06):
Thank you again for listening to the Community Broadband Bits podcast. We hope you enjoyed this episode as much as we enjoyed producing it for you. Don't forget to send us your ideas for the show. Email us at Follow us on Twitter. Our handle is at Community nets. Thanks again to Dicky F for his song. Florida Mama Licensed through Creative Commons.