Time Warner Wants $9,060 To Let You Have Cable

Reader “phillipe23″ wants cable service, but because of his rural location it will cost him $9,060. He already has satellite, but his reception is very spotty. It seems that when the bad weather rolls in his service goes out. Clinging to the the hope that cable could be the answer to his problems, he contacted Time Warner for some relief. So what did the ever-sympathetic cable giant have to say? phillipe23′s letter, and our advice, inside…

“philippe23″ writes:

I want to get off Directv. Time Warner is the local cable company, so I called them and asked if we could get service.

They said that our address wasn’t in their system (the house is only about 3 or 4 years old and has always been serviced by Directv) and they’d have to do a survey and get back to us in a few days. After a few days, they called to say that our house was not serviceable.

That was about a year and a half ago. About every six months I’d call up after getting sick of my Directv signal going out when it would snow or rain and ask again if I could get service from Time Warner — the answer always being “no.

Until last week. Last week they called back and left me a message saying I could get service as long as I paid for the build-out. The build-out would cost $10,860 of which Time Warner would cover $1,800, leaving my portion of the costs at $9,060.

Now, if I lived back on a private road and was asking them to lay cable back for a few miles, I could understand this, but I live on a State Route and my house is all of 70 feet from the road. Furthermore, I’ve seen TW trucks parked just down the street, less than a 1/4 mile.

Unfortunately, if you live in an unincorporated area, such as “phillipe23,” your leverage with the cable companies can be limited. Cable companies typically only have agreements with densely populated locales, thus excluding many would be customers. However, there are a few things worth trying. Start by gathering information from your local government. Not all small towns are the same, but most have a town clerk. He or she can put you in contact with those who have information about Time Warner’s agreement which allows them to use your town’s rights-of-way for cable. With any luck, there is something within this agreement to help your cause. You can also attend town meetings which would grant you easy access to the town council and other local movers and shakers. Additionally, you could band together with your neighbors in order to divide any build-out cost, and to communicate to Time Warner that they have a bevy of potential customers. Perhaps the sound of your collective opening wallets is the sweet music Time Warner needs to get in the mood.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. SadSam says:

    What would happen if this guy paid the $9000 bucks? Would he get and rights of control over this line? Like if his neighbor wanted to connect up could he charge his neighbor a $1000 for connection?

  2. chrisroberts says:

    I’m confused: you say the consumer lives in an unincorporated area and that he doesn’t have the advantages of a town-dweller in dealing with the cable co., but then you suggest he go to the town clerk and seek the town council’s help.

    His best bet would be working with the county — if he lives in an unincorporated area, like you say, they’re the ones who act as the municipal government. Help might be found there.

  3. No_Pants says:

    He should get DirecTV out there to adjust his dish to get a better signal strength. It shouldn’t go out every time it rains or snows.

  4. heavylee-again says:

    Buy a 1/4-mile coax cable and a splitter and help yourself to their content.

  5. Pylon83 says:

    The County won’t/probably can’t force Time Warner to provide this guy with service. If they don’t have plant there, why would they spend almost $10k to put it in so they can collect $100/mo from this guy? They would NEVER recoup their expenses. Unfortunately, the choice to live in a rural area has some downsides, like lack of “city” services. Deal with it or move.

  6. heavylee-again says:

    On a more serious note, it seems that article titles on Consumerist seem to be still sensationalizing stories.

    This articles headline: “Time Warner Wants $10,860 To Let You Have Cable”

    From TFA: “The build-out would cost $10,860 of which Time Warner would cover $1,800, leaving my portion of the costs at $9,060.”

    If I’m getting my car serviced, and the dealer says that the repairs would cost $500 of which the warranty covers $200, leaving my portion of the costs at $300; that means to me that they want $300 from me.

  7. Norcross says:

    I’ve dealt with the same situation, being in a somewhat rural area. While it can be crappy, the cable company isn’t under any obligation to provide me service when they don’t have physical lines there.

    That being said, my local company gave me an amount, and said to talk to the neighbors about sharing the expense, and they’d do all the houses at once.

  8. Ghede says:

    Rural location… weather spotty… hmm, any trees near the dish? Not just above, but also near. When the branches and leaves get wet they wreak havoc with the signals.

    That is not the only possibility, but if thats the case you could save yourself a bunch of money by trimming some branches, or carefully cutting down some trees.

  9. Jabberkaty says:

    There’s no cable in my entire town, no DSL or fiber on my street. Indeed, when I’m not at work (in the city) I have dial-up. There’s cons to living in the country, but I knew that. If I want the good stuff, I have to move closer to the big cities.

    I’m waiting for them to lay the lines, but I know that unless they can recoup the costs it’s going to be a looooong time in coming, but that’s the trade off for living the quiet life.

  10. alice_bunnie says:

    @No_Pants:

    Or he’s got an old dish and just needs to get an upgrade.

  11. Welcome to my world…

    I have a Comcast line that stops at my mailbox. Yup, comes right to my driveway. And you guessed it, Comcast won’t turn it on.

    And out county just extended their franchise by 15 years. So the 40% of my county that doesn’t have cable won’t ever get it.

  12. Oryx says:

    Getting in touch with your city is the best option, every agreement is different. (Unless you’re unlucky enough to live in a place where the State makes the franchise agreements for everyone) Your county most likely can’t do anything.

    Build outs are expensive materially, and even if you were only 1/4 mile away many things may have to be redesigned to add service to your residence. (Just the amount of hardline cable for that distance could cost $4-$6K, connectors can be $15-$35 a piece, plus taps, reconfiguring earlier taps if needed, LEs, maybe even and amp, then there’s burying it, or paying a contract company to run it aerially) I imagine that the line you see the TWC trucks working on has no taps in it to service anyone. Unfortunately, it’s usually not as easy as just throwing up some more plant.

    It may sound like a rip-off, but if you take into consideration the overall cost of the project, it’s really not so bad. It’s not just TWC who does this, any cable company doing a build out in a rural area for only a few customers will make them cover most of the cost.

    Get together with your neighbors, if you all go in together it can help lower the per person cost. (TWC might also agree to cover more of the build out if there’s more money to be made long term.)

  13. Munsoned says:

    This is a tough situation, but unless there’s someting in the franchise agreement (probably with the county if he’s in the sticks) that requires some sort of continual build out, there’s probably not much he can do to move TW along. For $9000+, you better bet that I’d be doing everything in my power to get the dish service working correctly. Much better to spend a little for a service call, tree trimming service, or even getting a new dish, than to fork over that kind of money for a cable line.

  14. coan_net says:

    He says he is 70 feet from the main road – but I’m guessing the cable isn’t ran down that main road, so I’m not sure why he is even letting us know that since that is not important. I mean my house is about 30-40 feet from the road (which has cable), and they simply ran it underground from the pole to my house.

    It cost money to run the cable for long distance, and if it is just for 1 customer, of course the company isn’t going to do that unless they picked up the big bill… otherwise it would not be worth it.

  15. Get your dish reaimed or lopping off a hunk of tree that’s causing your trouble won’t cost anywhere close to nine grand.

    There are tradeoffs to living out in the sticks and this is one of them.

  16. unklegwar says:

    This isn’t just one cable company, this is standard practice for just about any utility. Cable is a business, and it’s not good business to spend $10,000 to get a $50/month account. That’s $600/year, or about 17 years before they break even. Not what I’d call a great investment.

    Got news for you, if you live out in the middle of nowhere, they charge you infrastructure to bring POWER and WATER and PHONE to you too. I realize this guy isn’t in the middle of the yukon territory, but does he think all the trenching and trucks and labor and material and equipment is free? The cable company should be bending over backward for his little account?

    If they went ahead and DID it on their dime, then we’d be seeing an article about how wasteful the company is and how they are being irresponsible to their shareholders.

  17. unklegwar says:

    @SadSam: Actually, yes, in a way. When other properties avail themselves of the service, the guy can probably get refunds.

    At least, when my brother was in a situation like that, that’s how it worked.

  18. cef21 says:

    Ok, so this may be mean-spirited of me, BUT….

    One of the reasons people live in the cities is for amenities like cable TV, internet, municipal water, nearby stores and so on. Living out in the country is a deliberate decision to forgo those things.

    Why on earth should Time Warner be out $10,000 so you can have cable television? The only reason they’re giving you the $1,800 is because they figure they can make that much up from you in monthly fees.

    I don’t think they’re trying to gouge you on the buildout fees — running cable even just 1/4 mile isn’t cheap, permits often have to be drawn and, possibly, permission obtained from neighboring land owners. Then, they have to maintain that 1/4 mile on into the future, just for you.

  19. Blinkman says:

    PS – Rough beat OP. Companies can deny you service. Thems the breaks. Best of luck with DirecTV.

  20. @unklegwar:

    Got news for you, if you live out in the middle of nowhere, they charge you infrastructure to bring POWER and WATER and PHONE to you too.

    For what it’s worth, that “Universal Service Fee” line item on your phone bill pays into a fund to make sure that people out in rural areas don’t pay excessively for phone service.

  21. Tallanvor says:

    This brings up a good point, though… Is it right that an individual should have to pay for cables to be installed in a right of way when they have no say over who does the work, and they don’t retain ownership once it’s done?

    On the one hand, why should the general cable viewing public subsidize his connection? On the other hand, if he pays, he’s subsidizing Time Warner – making it easier for them to provide service to others as well.

    If he’s 70 feet from the road, well, that’s farther than the average home, so making him pay for that is definitely fair, but as for the build on the right of way, there are definitely two sides to the coin.

  22. tortcat says:

    Yeah, this one really has an inappropriate title and wording imho. Any utility company etc that doesnt already have an infrstructure built out in your area would typically charge if you wanted service and they had to build a line to you.

  23. chemmy says:

    My sister has the same exact problem. Didn’t want satellite because DirecTV required a hefty deposit because of her average (not great) credit… Time Warner Cable would only give her an account if she paid in excess of $8000 because since she’s rural, they would “be running the lines to her home only and she has to pay for it”

    Yeah… She got NetFlix.

  24. JollyJumjuck says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but didn’t Time Warner, like other cable companies, get a huge subsidy/tax break from the government in order to upgrade their equipment, and didn’t the cable companies pocket the money instead? If this is the case, then Time Warner has been stealing money from the people of the United States and now has the gall to demand MORE money to put in the infrastructure which they were paid to do so in the first place? Ah, corporatism at its finest!

  25. @bigdtbone: LOL!
    I want to know how far he lives from another house that has cable, not how many feet he lives from the road. I’m guessing probably quite a few miles.

  26. chrisjames says:

    Sounds like TW is willing to do business with the guy. That’s a gold star in my book.

    Well, half a gold star, because they gave him the run-around for quite a while before getting close enough to almost service his house. TW, if he’s interested in service, even impossible service, don’t just blow him off. So yeah, I’m taking back half of your gold star and giving it to … I don’t know … puppies.

  27. JustAGuy2 says:

    @JollyJumjuck:

    You are wrong, actually, the cable companies never received a gov’t subsidy. They pay about 5% of revenue to the town/city for the right to run their cables down the public right of way/use telephone poles.

    Also, building out cable costs $30-50k/mile, so I’m not surprised TWC wants $10k to service you.

  28. gqcarrick says:

    I live in a rural area, and there are some places in our county that do not get cable service. Some people live 100 feet + from the road and they actually have to pay to have a poll put in half way down to their house. For some people its worth it, others its not. If you really want it than suck it up and pay for it, you aren’t the only one. Or get your neighbors together and if there are enough of you maybe the cable company will see that and do it automatically with cost to yourself.

  29. gqcarrick says:

    I live in a rural area and I do have cable, however there are some places in our county who don’t have cable access. You have one of 2 choices. Either suck it up and pay for the build out, it isn’t cheap but if you hate DirecTV that badly get rid of it. Or two talk to all your neighbors, if a lot of you want cable than the cable company will see its a good investment and start putting more cable down your road.

  30. IchabodCrane says:

    -
    Similar thing happened to me. I too live in a rural area. I asked the local cable co., Adelphia, how much it would cost to run cable to my house. The cost, $10,000. Since the antenna was able to pull in broadcast tv and netflix delivers, I decided to wait. (not to mention Adelphia’s legal trouble) About a year later, I see Comcast work crews laying cable along the right of way along the street in front of my house. Great I thought, now I can finaly get cable. I call Comcast and ask how much for cable to my house. The cost, $10,000. I had to go to the local Comcast office and convince them that cable was now right there in front of my house and they were no longer running it from the junction. Comcast said they would send someone out to re-acess. A few weeks later I got a letter with a quote. Yup, you guessed it, $10,000! $10,000 is starting to sound a lot like boilerplate BS to me. Got Direct TV and never looked back.

    Try a different satillite provider. The first one I tried (Sky Blue) could only point to one satillite with a tree partly in the way. Terrible reception in even the faintest drizzle. Tried a second provider (Hugesnet) who was able to point to more then one satillite. They found one over open space (i.e. no trees). Great reception ever since.

  31. elf6c says:

    I agree, the title is seriously misleading.

    Funny about the snow and rain killing the reception part- so much for the DirectTV propaganda on this issue.

  32. Munsoned says:

    @ilikepie: Yes, USF is used to provide utilities to rural and underserved areas. There is no USF for cable television; however, I think there are debates going on about applying it to broadband, so maybe there’s hope one day for this guy that the cable company could get a break on the plant installation rollout. It’s going to be YEARS before anything like that actually happens though. In the mean time, he should focus his attention on fixing the dish service.

  33. Ben Popken says:

    The headline initially had the number wrong. Other than that, the facts are being presented with no sensational fluff around them.

  34. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    @No_Pants:

    I agree. I have DirectTV & I live in Florida, the land of liquid sunshine. It has to be literally pouring sheets of water before our signal gets bad.

    Yes, rain will impair your sat. signal, but when it’s that bad at my place we usually don’t have the TV on to start with. Or computers. Or anything else that lightining can fry.

  35. SomeoneGNU says:

    If you had someone else who wanted cable and could utilize your new build out it would be worth looking into.

    But the reality of it is running cable is expensive. It’s a horrible investment to spend 10k for one customer when it’s doubtful they’ll ever even generate half of that in profit.

    Once again, companies are in the busines of making money. Though some seem to feel it is a cardinal sin, it’s not. It’s how they pay their employees. If they built out to every rural customer at 10k a pop they’d either be broke or the rates of consumers as a whole would skyrocket.

    I feel for your crappy situation, but have no sympathy for your “problem”.

  36. @heavylee-again: Better buy a few dozen amplifers and some shielding (from elements) because that signal will be dead by the time it gets to his house.

  37. rich.h says:

    Both parties are being a bit unreasonable here. TW can refuse to build out to this guy, but they have no right to expect him to pay for infrastructure he won’t subsequently own. And phillipe23 is giving up on the dish way too easily. If he lives below 50 deg. N., there’s no reason he should see more than a momentary outage even in the worst weather. He needs to have a chat with a competent sat-TV tech (amazing as it may seem to Consumerist readers, they do exist). Unblock the line of sight; align the dish; check for excessive line loss; go to a 24″ or 36″ dish as a last resort. Even if you end up rebuilding the entire installation, you’re WAY ahead of TW’s ripoff offer.

  38. MumblesFumbles says:

    You should consider just getting a bigger dish. With more surface area to reflect the signal you stand a better chance of keeping your signal during bad weather.

    However from my own personal experience, I think your dish is probably just misaligned. It doesn’t take much for a dramatic loss in signal.

  39. LJKelley says:

    You have to have a bad dish, bad direction, or trees in the way. My DirecTV has been on all Winter and we get a ton of snow in Rochester.

  40. ChuckECheese says:

    @unklegwar: This is why utilities were given franchises in the first place: In exchange for exclusivity, the utility was required to provide service to an entire region, urban or rural. There are portions of many cities that still don’t have cable or DSL, because the companies are content making money off the customers they have, thank you.

  41. SkokieGuy says:

    @heavylee-again: @bigdtbone: @Blinkman:

    $10,860.00 to let you have cable = sensational headline and bad journalism!

    $9,860.00 to let you have cable = fair and accurate reporting.

    You’re right, this is an outrage! I think we should all cancel our subscriptions and ask for a full refund of all we have pa……. oh, never mind.

  42. BigElectricCat says:

    I wonder . . . if TW lost their local franchise in phillippe’s location, would they give him his nine large back?

  43. barfoo says:

    @Ben Popken: “no sensational fluff”? Perhaps, but in my book calling TWC “the ever-sympathetic cable giant” is snarky. Why not just present the case, give some advice (which seemed sound) and ask commenters whether they think.

    As others have pointed out, there’s no obvious “consumer-friendly” answer here: I, for one, don’t want my cable bills to rise just to pay for service to isolated rural houses. I think it’s legit to do that for phone lines, since they provide an essential emergency service, but not for what is basically entertainment.

  44. kc2idf says:

    Much cheaper would be to invest in a larger satellite dish. Where DirecTV and Dish Network are usually using 45cm dishes, (or 45×90 for multi-sat installations), a 1m dish should improve signal strength fourfold.

  45. Jmatthew says:

    I think you guys are too used to consumerist being sensationalist.

    The story here isn’t that the cable company is ripping this guy off. The story is that if you live out in the sticks it can be really expensive to get cable (with a few tips about how to get the price down and an invite for discussion.)

    Not every article needs to be about someone being ripped off.

  46. picardia says:

    @heavylee-again: Wow, somebody on the Web wrote a headline designed to get people to click through? I AM SHOCKED AND APPALLED. My FIRST DAY EVER ON PLANET EARTH has been ruined by this revelation.

  47. StevieD says:

    So he lives on a State Route.

    Great.

    And is his nearest neighbor is a 60,000 acre farm.

    Duh, just becuase you live on a State Route doesn’t mean that you will ever have access to cable.

  48. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    You can also get a larger higher gain dish. You should be able to get DirecTV to work very reliably. Mine goes out in the heaviest of rain storms, but I have a standard dish and lots of trees.

  49. elislider says:

    yeah my uncle has the same problem at his house. its fairly remote, not too bad though because the closest cable drops are about 1/2 mile down the road, by the next set of a few houses. around his house though, there are a few other homes but none of those people wanted cable enough apparently. to run the cable less than a mile to their location, it was gonna cost like $15k .. ridiculous

  50. scoosdad says:

    @No_Pants: I agree. Worst case scenario is that the signal drops out for ten-fifteen minutes during a REALLY heavy rainstorm as the precipitation moves between him and the satellite. If I had to deal with that or with a cable co., and/or had to pay nearly $10K for what could end up being crappy analog cable on most channels, I’d deal with the rain.

    The OP doesn’t mention if high speed internet is another motivation to go with cable. That’s another side of the story that could change my opinion.

  51. The Porkchop Express says:

    @upokyin: what lie? misinformation, they had the wrong number (just by a bit) and It has been changed.

    outrage indeed.

    This guy is screwed, no advice for him. I understand where the company is coming from and I don’t think they’re trying to rip him off, right now. as long as they would pay him back as they get more customers on that line, no problem.

  52. The Porkchop Express says:

    @Lo-Pan: not saying I would pay it though.

    @scoosdad: I had some friends with sat. internet and it was pretty good so, forget the $10K

  53. Ben Popken says:

    @barfoo: Blogs, snarky? Never!

  54. FLConsumer says:

    I’d suggest fixing your DirecTV setup. Considering I live in tropical Florida with severe thunderstorms daily in the summertime and suffer NO dropouts, the technology does work. Go get yourself one of the larger “Alaska” dishes. It’ll make all of that go away. Also make sure the post is level & secure (as in you can’t make it move even if you tackle it like a linebacker) and that the dish is securely attached so that it also is impossible to move.

    Problem solved, no need to deal with the evil cable cos and their crappy signals.

  55. gte910h says:

    Sounds like you should download shows from the internet and buy a media center PC….10K is way too much for cable.

    –Michael

  56. ironchef says:

    A tech can also install a signal amplifier that should take care of weak signals.

    My guess the dish needs to be recalibrated and re aligned.

  57. cerbie says:

    Gotta side with the cable company, here. Until broadband internet access is considered as necessary a utility as telephone service, there’s nothing to do, here. It does cost to do a roll-out, and they don’t have the necessary infrastructure for those old promised goodies like fiber to everyone’s home. No one is around to cover major parts of the cost and support.

    If he’s a victim of anything, here, it would be his local government(s). If Time Warner has a monopoly in the area (I haven’t checked), the local gov should make them work to keep it, by doing things like providing everyone service. That’s still a big if.

  58. richcreamerybutter says:

    I’d swear he lives in Brooklyn!

  59. scoosdad says:

    @Lo-Pan: “I had some friends with sat. internet and it was pretty good so, forget the $10K”

    Satellite internet is ok for non-time sensitive things like browsing the web or reading and commenting on Consumerist, but lousy for voice over IP phones or internet gaming because of the huge lag or latency inherent in the transmission up and down to the satellite. Plus most of the satellite internet providers have monthly data caps that once you hit it, you crawl along at less than dialup speeds for the rest of the billing cycle. So it’s not good for downloading huge files regularly. I’d term it a ‘last resort’ kind of thing. Plus it’s pretty expensive from the figures I’ve seen.

  60. Tank says:

    I had a similar issue when I lived in the country. I could pay $4 a foot for them to run the cable out to my house. It was only 2 miles from the nearest point. That’s 10,560 feet, times $4.

    I chose “air” instead.

  61. CharlieInSeattle says:

    @Pylon83: Funny in my county, I live in a rural area, but have cable, it’s the Telecommunications commissioner that handles this. And yes the cable company has to have a franchise with the county.

  62. My boss decided to call TW to see if we could get cable internet service here at work, instead of shitty DSL. Time Warner said “Sure! for $28,000″.

    So, the folks across the street have TW, yet it’ll cost us twenty eight grand?

  63. TechnoDestructo says:

    @unklegwar:

    People who live in the middle of nowhere either have wells or truck in their water.

  64. Vandon says:

    2 words…Dish Cover
    I have DirecTv and when it rained moderately-hard, I would lose signal. I bought a dish cover and put it on. It covers from the dish to the LNB. Now, it has to be raining cats and dogs for me to lose signal.

  65. Not Alvis says:

    If phillipe23 is living in the CONUS, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to get a strong satellite signal.

    Most people just stick with the tiny dishes the providers offer. There’s no reason why they can’t be switched with larger dishes.

    A sat dish a little under a meter in diameter has over four times the surface area of a standard 18″ dish. That’s four times the signal strength.

  66. Difdi says:

    I read an article a few years back about a guy who was in the same boat as the OP, but with internet service. He found someone who was in the service area with an unobstructed line of sight from their house to his, leased a small spot on their roof from them, and built a laser communicator. Makes me wonder if you could rig up something similar for cable TV.

  67. FrankReality says:

    One thing he may be able to do if he has neighbors that also want cable – suppose he’s able to get another 10-20 people to go in on the project. If you spread the cost over that many people, the cost per subscriber would be drastically reduced.

  68. wesrubix says:

    @No_Pants: correct. A satellite signal is only spotty for two reasons:
    -obstruction
    -poor aim

  69. karlmarx says:

    I just want to add, whenever you sign a contract with TWC make sure you get a confirmation number, or have it sent to you in writing, because my renewal that I did is no longer in their system anywhere after I did all the third party verification etc.. Now they are trying to get me to increase my monthly another $20 instead of $2. So I am going to go into the cable store because they are so incompotent. I thought I had taken care of the next 15 months until I get a call today asking me to renew my contract again so my rates dont go back up.

  70. Loker says:

    The best solution I can think of is try and get your neighbors to sign some sort of petition….if you get enough and present it to Time Warner they may cover the costs since you have proved their would be enough interest in service from them.

  71. RStewie says:

    My parents are rural, and my sister. They have cable now (after 6 years in the home w/o it), she doesn’t. It would cost her (gasp) $10K to get it run to her home.

    I am now rural. No cable for me, either. I didn’t bother asking. But it’s not the cable killing us…it’s the lack of adequate internet. Anyone have suggestions for my internet gamer husband??