CenturyLink Is Horrible

Our address is in Cave Creek, Arizona although we live in a Maricopa County island.

Our road is dirt and the neighborhood is full of horse ranches. A pack of coyotes lives behind our house and we hear them yipping nearly every night. There’s no traffic noise, and there’s really no crime. It’s quiet and it’s unusual to see an unfamiliar vehicle go past on the road. It’s very peaceful and we expect to deal with some inconveniences for the privilege of living a rural lifestyle in a metropolitan area.

Since we run several businesses and a non-profit organization from our home, we need twentieth century technology. Yes I am aware it is already the twenty first century, but we’d accept service from late last century.

Back In The Day

Untitled-2When I moved here from New York twenty years ago, it was more rustic. It was impossible to get a pizza delivered, restaurants and stores were a twenty minute drive away, there was no NHL hockey team, and there was no Loop 101.

Then, our neighborhood would lose power nearly every time there was a decent thunderstorm, often a daily occurrence during summer monsoon. That doesn’t happen anymore, Arizona Public Service has upgraded their service to our area and we haven’t lost power in years.

Our water is from the City of Scottsdale. Back in 1994, the water pressure here was flimsy at best. Now, the water pressure is so high we had to install a pressure reducing valve to keep our plumbing intact. Scottsdale has upgraded their service to the area to meet demand.

The dial tone on my phone used to die after it rained and I had dialup internet service. Now, twenty years later, we finally have DSL but it’s wildly inconsistent. We have two phone lines and the phone bill runs just north of $200 a month. Yet, despite having the phone company change hands several times, everything related to telephone has the same problems from two decades ago related to static/noise in the lines.

Houses 150 yards away have cable, fiber lines and fast DSL. We don’t, and aren’t scheduled for any upgrades. It’s been the same answer for over 20 years now.

No Alternatives

Our only real option for internet connectivity is DSL from CenturyLink. No cable company provides service. Satellite bandwidth restrictions don’t suit our business needs, same thing for cell connections.

In response to the threat of Google Fiber, CenturyLink is beginning to tout it’s 1 Gig service (that’s 1,000 megabits per second) as “coming soon”.

The best speed I can buy from CenturyLink is 5 Mbps, just a little short of the 1,000 Mbps service. It costs $54.93 per month. Supposedly, even with the terrible wires and the length of cable to reach our house, we are eligible for 7 Mbps. We tried that, and the wire was so poor that CenturyLink turned it down to 5 Mbps for “stability”.

Even on a good day, we have only managed 4.5 Mbps and actually average closer to 3.5 Mbps. Lately it’s been less than 2.

CenturyLink offers 40 Mbps service right now in the Phoenix metro area. There are no plans, according to every CenturyLink person asked, to offer that service here.

Cut Back The Speed, Not The Price

CenturyLinkDuring this last round of service calls, we’re working on maybe eight so far, to resolve problems with our voice and data service, we heard that they have a utility that will automatically throttle back the speed of a DSL connection if there is a factor that would cause the connection to drop. We learned this when our speed was about 1.5 Mbps.

So, even when/if the factor was resolved, we understood a technician would have to throttle the speed back UP to match the maximum speed being paid for, we assume when a customer noticed how slow their connection was and called for a repair.

The next logical question was, does that same utility also reduce the BILL? The answer is no, because the speed wasn’t throttled below the threshold of the “range” the customer was paying for. So, we pay for “between 1.5 Mbps and 5 Mbps”, not for the maximum speed. If you look at the graphic at the top of the page, our speed is hovering around 1.25 Mbps today.

Identify The Problem (Again)

A technician just left after testing a bunch of things, again. His diagnosis?

There’s a bad cable between here and Dynamite (Blvd, 3/4 mile south of the house). I will call it in and a cable technician will be out, maybe even today.

That’s one of the problems, we’ve heard the diagnosis and the promise of repair before. We had a person actually resolve one problem by switching our phone/DSL line to another cable a year ago. It was better with reduced line noise, but the increased length of cable between us and “the box” means that it would be impossible to get to even the 7 Mbps speed.

Regulated Service

The rub, for CenturyLink, is that they are providing a service regulated by the Arizona Corporation Commission (AZCC). One of the reasons the AZCC exists is to be a watchdog over utility type businesses. They are supposed to be sure companies don’t cherry pick their business to maximize their profits.

Is it less expensive to wire a subdivision with five houses per acre that one with one house per two acres? Of course it is. But, that doesn’t mean the less dense neighborhoods can be ignored with impunity and they are.

CenturyLink is not the only AZCC regulated company doing this, Cox Communications is also doing the same thing.

People in our neighborhood have been patient for 20 years, we understand business and priorities. Now it’s time to spend some money on our infrastructure. It will likely require at least a formal complaint to the AZCC to even get noticed and, with the new commissioners coming online less likely to force any regulated company to spend any money, it will likely be in vain.

But there’s some good stuff on Netflix now, and a good connection is worth fighting for a little.