Just about a 12 months in the past, a Silicon Valley startup known as SmartCar signed up for Comcast Web provider. SmartCar founder and CEO Sahas Katta used to be shifting the corporate into new place of job house in Mountain View, California, and there used to be apparently no reason why to assume Comcast may now not be capable to be offering him Web get entry to.
However Comcast by no means fulfilled its promise to hook up the trade, blaming the lengthen on building and allowing issues. Katta came upon that neighboring companies had been making do with painfully sluggish and unreliable DSL Web from AT&T, and in the long run SmartCar reluctantly signed up for AT&T as neatly.
After listening to Comcast excuses for months, Katta in any case were given bored stiff and made up our minds that he would discover a new place of job construction as soon as his 12-month hire expires on April 20 of this 12 months. Katta instructed Comcast he sought after to “cancel” his nonexistent provider and get a reimbursement for a $2,100 deposit he had paid. As a substitute, Comcast instructed him he’d need to pay greater than $60,000 to get out of his contract with the corporate.
Comcast ultimately waived the price—however most effective after being contacted via Ars in regards to the case. As for Katta, he can’t consider it’s “this hard for startups in Silicon Valley to get Web.”
False promise of availability
Katta’s Web odyssey started on April 10, 2015 when he checked Comcast’s site to decide whether or not trade Web can be to be had at his corporate’s place of job within the Clyde Street Trade Park. The site knowledgeable him, “Comcast Trade is to be had at your cope with.” In reality, the site nonetheless supplies that very same message to this very day, albeit with some advantageous print that claims consumers need to “Name a Comcast gross sales consultant to give an explanation for availability for your space.”
Over the following 10 days, Katta instructed Ars, he signed a hire for the brand new place of job house and spoke at the telephone with two Comcast representatives. Every showed that SmartCar would be capable to get Web provider.
The Comcast reps, in line with Katta, introduced him a selected deal—$189.90 a month for TV and Web, with speeds of 100Mbps downstream and 20Mbps upstream. On April 20, Katta signed a two-year “Trade Provider Order Settlement” to get this actual package deal at that value. (Katta supplied Ars a replica of the order, different paperwork, and e-mails between himself and Comcast.)
In the meantime, SmartCar moved into the brand new place of job house. On April 22, Katta says he known as Comcast and used to be instructed that the corporate had to do a web site survey to decide whether or not it would in fact supply cable Web. Consistent with Katta, this used to be the primary time he used to be instructed that provider may now not in fact be to be had on the cope with.
The Comcast site’s undeniable observation that provider is to be had at a selected cope with doesn’t in fact imply provider is to be had—that may most effective be decided after a survey, a Comcast spokesperson instructed Ars. Additional, the “Trade Provider Order Settlement” isn’t a freelance. Fairly, it’s simply an order that Comcast might or would possibly not be capable to satisfy after doing a web site survey. If any Comcast representatives instructed Katta that provider used to be undoubtedly to be had at his cope with (as Katta maintains), they made a mistake, Comcast instructed Ars.
The solution got here again by means of email on April 24: “The pre-wire survey presentations that your location is simply out of doors of our Comcast provider zone,” a Comcast shop clerk instructed Katta. “It simply isn’t a monetary feasibility to run the coax cable shut sufficient to carry you provider. We have now a type and this is able to now not meet the Comcast ‘payback’ type. Comcast doesn’t have any long term plans to do a construct available in the market. I keep in mind that this isn’t excellent information and I sincerely wish to thanks on your pastime.”
A 2nd likelihood results in extra frustration
This stunned Katta given his earlier conversations with Comcast reps and the observation at the Comcast site that “Comcast Trade is to be had at your cope with.” However this wasn’t the tip of Katta’s dealings with Comcast. After additional discussions, Comcast instructed Katta the corporate would be capable to ship fiber Web provider—at a miles upper value than cable. Development used to be required to carry fiber to the construction, and Comcast sought after Katta to signal a four-year contract and pay $1,050 a month for 100Mbps symmetrical Web provider.
“As we had been already caught on this hire, I had no possibility however to transport ahead,” Katta stated.
Katta signed a freelance for fiber in early Would possibly, and he says Comcast rep “promised me inside 30 days of that date we’d have Web, and he stated if there are any delays the longest time period supply is 90 to 120 days.”
That didn’t occur both. “Necessarily since that time onwards, each and every two to 3 weeks they’ve been pronouncing, ‘we are getting allowing or we now have some lengthen,’” Katta stated.
A few of Comcast’s e-mails to Katta merely stated, “No replace this week.” In July, he used to be instructed, “we’re nonetheless expecting fiber placement and splicing in overdue September.” However in September, e-mails from Comcast mentioned allow issues. “We’re nonetheless pending the allow,” Comcast stated on the time. “We have now escalated to our allow supervisor for standing.”
Later, Comcast instructed SmartCar, “town of Mountain View is not going to let any cables be positioned after building till each and every piece of asphalt and urban recovery is finished.” At this level, Comcast estimated building can be completed in early November.
By means of January, Comcast instructed SmartCar that it used to be nonetheless “within the technique of acquiring the general allow for the fiber pull.”
“We are doing the entirety offline and going house to add it”
In the meantime, Katta and his 5 workers struggled with their AT&T DSL, which gives about 5Mbps obtain and 500kbps uploads. But even so being sluggish, it has deficient uptime.
“It is going out and in nearly each and every hour of the day, the Web simply is going down,” Katta stated. “We’re construction a attached automobile cloud platform, the entirety we do is within the cloud. These days, we are doing the entirety offline and going house to add it.”
With the hire expiring and Comcast provider nowhere in sight, SmartCar despatched a letter to Comcast on January 21 pronouncing the corporate needed to terminate its contract. As famous previous, Comcast then knowledgeable SmartCar that so as to cancel, it must pay $60,900.45 to hide building prices.
Smartcar pleaded its case with Comcast right through all of February and a part of March with none good fortune. That in any case modified after Ars were given involved with Comcast’s public family members crew. On March nine, a Comcast rep despatched Katta an email apologizing whilst waiving the $60,900.45 in charges. The letter promised a reimbursement of the $2,100 deposit.
“Sadly, distinctive instances related to town allowing on this case ended in excessive delays,” Comcast’s email to Katta stated. “We do personal the dedication to you from end-to-end and in the long run those [are] our demanding situations to get to the bottom of to your behalf… I thanks for SmartCar’s pastime in a Comcast Trade partnership, and I’m hoping we be capable of regain your consider one day at some point.”
A Comcast spokesperson instructed Ars that there have been “a chain of delays” within the allowing and building procedure “because of a top quantity of alternative initiatives happening in that space.” Although the undertaking used to be by no means finished, Comcast incurred vital building prices in keeping with the idea that SmartCar can be a buyer for 4 years, Comcast stated.
The Comcast spokesperson stated that the corporate must now not have demanded compensation of building charges from Katta, since Comcast wasn’t ready to satisfy its legal responsibility inside the unique 90-day time-frame. The spokesperson additionally stated Comcast’s site must be up to date to make it transparent that statements about availability at particular addresses aren’t essentially correct.
Katta is relieved in regards to the ultimate result and having a look ahead to discovering new place of job house. However he’s nonetheless surprised at simply how tricky it’s been for a tech corporate to get trendy Web get entry to.
“I will most effective believe if it’s this hard for startups in Silicon Valley to get Web, it will have to be just about not possible to begin a trade just about any place else within the nation,” he stated.