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Time Warner Tales

Steve Grace, the former head of LA Channel 36, saw Cari Beauchamp's post at Native Intelligence on doing battle with the city's most-hated cable company and topped her with his own tale of aggravation.

• Cari,

Thank you for speaking out about Time Warner.

For six years I ran one of two local cable access channels in Los Angeles, LA36. I had a unique position in that I was close to both the City and the cable companies with regards to cable operations and customer issues as well as much political intrigue.

The Time Warner story has its roots in the city's incompetent handling of the old cable television franchises in the City of Los Angeles. Until very recently, cable oversight was a municipal function. In Los Angeles, our City Council allowed cable contracts to expire and through their inaction over a 4 to 5 year period, lost literally tens of millions of dollars and any and all negotiating strength.

And now the State of California has stepped in and taken control of cable away from municipalities.

In the old days, at least you had a local government agency to complain to. In Los Angeles, it is the Information Technology Agency. But now, if you want to complain to someone, good luck. Unless you want to drive to Sacramento and attend a hearing. Maybe we could car pool?

My Time Warner story?

Friday night I got home about midnight and realized my cable TV was not working. I checked my internet connection and it too was down. Hmmm?? Saturday morning, the same. Could it be? I would be unable to watch the USC-UCLA football game??

I called Time Warner, waited on hold for 15 minutes, and finally was told there was an outage in the Eagle Rock area that was being worked on. About 10 a.m, the TV came on, though channels 2-25 appeared pixelated. My internet was still not working.

Like so many people today, I do some of my business work at home and manage a daily sports blog (www.lasportsbeat.com) using my home computer. Having access to internet is.. critical. I was starting to worry.

Sunday morning when the system was still down I phoned Time Warner again. I waited fifty minutes (50) on hold. Thank god for speaker phones. I watched an entire half of an English Premier League game with Time Warner music in the background. When the customer service rep finally picked up, I was told that my problem must be with my modem or some connection to my computer, that there was no longer a system problem and the agent could not detect any problem in my neighborhood. He scheduled a service call for "Thursday," but offered that things might correct themselves and I should re-boot everything Monday morning.

Monday morning at 7:00 a,m. the internet was still down and the TV still oddly pixilated on lower channels. I phoned Time Warner to check again about my high-speed Internet connection. The call was answered promptly, but the results were less than satisfactory. For starters, I felt like I was an attorney trying to wrest a confession from a reluctant witness.

After ten minutes of questioning and more questioning, the service rep finally told me 'Yes, it appears that 15% of your neighbors are experiencing internet connections problems, as well."

Huh?

And to top things off, he (Mr. Time Warner Internet Specialist) said that this percentage still pointed to a in-house problem, clearly suggesting that me and the rest of the 'Incompetent 15%' were all somehow, screwing things up, (my words). He confirmed my service call for "Thursday."

Now, I was angry and... I was very suspicious.

I got in my car and drove to the Time Warner office in Eagle Rock. (Side note: I was saddened to see the Adelphia sign sitting on the ground in the parking lot. Yes, the Rigas family stole the place blind, but at least they got cable and internet to me).

I was the first customer in line. The customer service rep in Eagle Rock was extremely polite and helpful. Thank god, because I was mad, well, firm. After listening to my story (above) she delivered the first shock. "Mr. Grace, your service appointment is scheduled for next Thursday, not this week?"

Time for another, 'Huh?' Even she couldn't figure it out because her calendar clearly showed service call openings as early as the next day. She offered to contact the service dispatch center and find out why they were not coming to my house THIS WEEK!

Off she went to the back of the small office and picked up what looked to be the Hot Line to TIme Warner Dispatch, a solitary phone without buttons, hanging precisely in the center of the wall.

I waited.. and fumed.

After about 5 minutes she came back to the window and said. "Mr. Grace, the reason your service call is next week is that there is a major renovation going on and internet may be down the entire week." ARRGGHHHHHH! My suspicions were confirmed.

In as civil a tone as I could muster, I asked... "Why wasn't I told this on my 3 phone calls to Time Warner."

Of course, she had no answer.

I got in my car, drove home and called AT&T and ordered DSL. It is being delivered and turned on today.

The cable company debacle will only get worse as local control of cable disappears. You can thank the Los Angeles City Council, which sat on their collective backsides for 5 years after cable contracts expired... and did nothing. And you can thank Fabian Nunez, who slept comfortably at Pebble Beach with telephone and cable providers last summer, finalizing the plan to get cities out of the cable business so that our state government could make things right.

There is no pixilation or fuzziness when it comes to the business of government. It's a tale repeated at every level of government, everyday.

Money buys action (or lack thereof). And the average citizen is often, none the better for it.

Anybody want to carpool to Sacramento?

Steve Grace

December 7, 2006 3:58 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor
 

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