A Tale of Two Internets

6 Months ago, before Covid, I visited my ISP’s website and saw that they were offering 400Mbps of bandwidth for $50 a month for life. Great deal! At that point I’d been paying over $100/m for 200Mbps of bandwidth. I took the age old route of calling and threatening to cancel my service.

What I wound up with was being stuck on the phone for over an hour with an argumentative sales rep who wouldn’t help me out or send me to retention. I couldn’t get the package because I was not a new customer. After I did the math to show that when the promotion expired I’d still be paying less for more with a new rate, he changed the numbers and continued arguing.

I hung up, frustrated. Shortly after, I was sent home indefinitely due to Covid.

New Internet access was no longer a priority as working from home, getting food, toilet paper, and looking after the needs of my parents and friends were my primary focus. Fast forward a few months, restrictions begin to relax, stress begins to wane, and the power situation in my town began to revert 20 years.

Back when I first moved to Pine Island, a slight breeze would knock out my electrical service for hours. Every day there was another power outage. It became the norm. That was compounded by a major outage affecting the entire tri state area back in 2004 I think. About 15 years ago, changes were made locally which drastically improved the situation.

The past few months though, I could expect the power to drop at least once or twice a week. Not a huge deal as I have a generator, but the problem was Internet. I’m still WFH for the foreseeable future, and a stable Internet provider is what enables me to continue to receive pay checks from the company I work for.

Any time the power dropped, within 15 minutes whatever redundancies Optimum had would shut down and I’d be in the dark. My only options then were to utilize my 4G hotspot on my cell phone (I’m lucky to get 1 bar) or work from another location which had Internet. Every time – the Polish Legion next door would have a working DSL connection.

This all came to a head with Hurricane Isaias which knocked my power out for a day, but knocked out the Internet for nearly a full week. Early on I had hoped the outage would be minor, but duty called and I had a job to do… so I found myself working from the PLAV, from the Tuscan Cafe in Warwick, or from home via my limited 4G hotspot.

It was frustrating, it was inconvenient, and it was drastically compounded by the total lack of communication from Optimum Online. 99% of the communication was automated and generic. No ETA on restoration. My electrical service provider Orange & Rockland always provided accurate estimates on restoration, and had my power back up in a day.

Where O&R provided an outage map with updates, as well as communication via text and phone, Optimum was a pre-recorded message. The 1% of the time where I got in touch with a human being, I was given an actual time estimate which passed by with no restoration. They flat out lied to me and others who managed to speak to a human being.

My only other Internet option out here is provided by Warwick Valley Telephone, it topped out at 75Mbps, cost $35 a month, and throughout every single electrical outage was online. I put in an order on August 10th, and yesterday they installed it as promised. The CSR I spoke with advised I might only see 60Mbps, but speed tests proved that I was getting 72-73Mbps.

Today, I picked up the phone to call Optimum and cancel. Had I gotten the level of service from them today that I was denied 6 months ago, I’d still be using Optimum. The first representative I went through immediately recognized that I was a customer for 9 years and offered me the 400Mbps at $48 a month. I declined.

He then made a few other offers to try and retain me before escalating to his supervisor. I made clear my issues with Optimum, praised both he and the gentleman I spoke to before for the level of service they were providing me. A few more questions to confirm my decision to cancel, and that was it.

I’ve still got 30 days past the cancellation to reinstate with a better rate, but for me – stability is of greater importance than raw speed. I’ll give WVT a year and see where they are with their gigabit services. I’ll also see where Optimum is a year from now, or perhaps Verizon Fios might be available by then.

In the mean time, I have a stable Internet provider that is fast enough for my needs and costs 1/3 what I was paying for Optimum. Hopefully the level of customer service I received today from Optimum continues to improve, as like I said – 6 months ago, or even during the most recent outage, it would have kept me as a customer.

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