aNewDomain.net — It all started when I bought a new Wi-Fi router. I installed it and informed my ISP, Time Warner Cable (TWC), of the change. The folks at TWC told me to bring the old router to the store.
I went to the store and, after giving back the router, the very courteous representative thanked me and said “that’s it” — she was finished with me and ready to go on to the next customer.
I almost left but first asked her what my new monthly bill would be. She replied that it would be $110 (it had been $115 before I returned the router). She thanked me again and was ready for her next customer.
But the $110 bill surprised me — it seemed high — so I kept the conversation going. “How does that $110 bill break down between Internet and phone service?” I asked, knowing I do not get cable TV.
The customer rep checked some more of my info and said, “The phone is $41.84 per month.”
“That is outrageous,” I said. “I want to cancel the phone service.”
She came back with, “I can lower your bill.”
Sounded good to me so I replied, “Okay.”
She entered a few more keystrokes. “Your bill is now $100, not $110.”
“How did you do that?” I said.
“I put you on a promotion.”
“So my phone bill is now $31.84, right?”
She disagreed. “No, I lowered your Internet bill, not your phone bill. But don’t worry, the speed will remain unchanged.”
“Then cancel the phone.”
“Let me try something else,” she said. She worked at the keyboard and finally said, “Now your bill is $76.37. $50 for the Internet, $20 for the phone, and $6.37 tax.”
I asked again: “How did you do that?”
“I put you on a different promotion.”
“So, after one year, the bill will go up to $110, right?”
She shook her head. “No, it will only go up by $5 to $10.”
“Then how did it get so high after my initial promotion ended?”
The customer service rep shrugged apologetically. “It goes up by $5 to $10 every year after a promotion ends.”
Anyway, that’s my experience at the customer service desk. I am kind of embarrassed to tell you this story. I have written many blog posts about the lack of competition in the ISP market, but I have been too busy and too lazy to be an active consumer. Shame on me.
But, shame on TWC, too. The courteous rep wanted to get me out of the store without telling me I was overpaying. I am sure she was following TWC policy. Is it ethical to not tell a customer that he or she could be paying less for the same service even if not asked?
I do not recall what my initial bill was, but it had evidently jumped when my promotion ran out, and then the bill continued rising $5-10 each year thereafter. Did the cost go up by 5-10 percent per year? If not, is my ISP exploiting its monopoly hold on me? (My “alternative” service is Verizon DSL at 1.5 mbps.)
Well, shame on both me and TWC. I promise to be more watchful in the future, but this will not change TWC’s policy. What would happen if every one of TWC’s 11.1 million residential high-speed data subscribers did the same thing as I did?
That would be too cool.
For aNewDomain.net, I’m Larry Press.
Based in Los Angeles, Larry Press is a founding senior editor covering tech here at aNewDomain.net. He’s also a professor of information systems at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Check his Google+ profile — he’s at +Larry Press — or email him at Larry@aNewDomain.net.