Absurdist cinema is a joy to watch. Movies like “Brazil” and “Dr. Strangelove” take the insanity of bureaucracies and make them entertaining. At the moment I’m living out an absurdist dramedy between me, Time Warner Cable and Verizon.
My office is on Pico Boulevard, our phone service for 16 years now has been with Verizon and we have a DSL line for our internet service. When it was installed 16 years ago we had the top of the line internet speeds that were offered to my office.
16 years later we still have the top of the line internet services offered to my office, only problem is that they haven’t upgraded a single thing in a decade. The squirrels that run my DSL are old, tired and need to retire to a land of easily found acorns.
Verizon spends millions of dollars advertising the speed of their new service called FIOS, it’s fiber optic cable that makes the internet just fly. It is available in parts of Santa Monica and I know this because the technician who came to my office told me so. He installed it in the apartment building that is across the alley, not 20 feet from my complex.
But for some unknown or undisclosable reason, Verizon doesn’t offer it to my building. When I called them I was told that they don’t have any licenses available to do further installations at this time. I have no idea what that means. It sounds to me like the City, the PUC or some other governmental body only lets Verizon install FIOS in a limited quantity of homes and offices. Which sounds vaguely improper and potentially illegal. But as Ernestine would say, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the phone company.”
So what am I to do? I talked to a neighbor about his Time Warner Cable. He says it’s good enough for his special effects house, so I’m certain it would suit my needs. Since Time Warner has been mailing my office at least weekly about the benefits of switching, I finally called them. I picked out my plan, set a date for the installation, lost half a day waiting for them, and they said, “We can’t install at your location, it’s illegal.”
Hmmmm, my neighbor in the same physical building has Time Warner, and when I point the cables out to the technician, he said, “Yeah, we shouldn’t have done that. It’s a code violation.” Okay, so what are they going to do about it? Are they going to remove the installation they have done? That would be a negative.
Time Warner sent out a “construction crew” to develop an installation plan. The quote comes back as $53,000 to install properly on the building I occupy. $53,000. My complex abuts an alley in which they already have cable installed. Plus, they have it installed in my building already. I cannot fathom how they can spend $53,000 to install what is at most 200 feet of cabling. High priced flat HDMI retail pricing of cable runs $1.00 a foot. Since Time Warner buys in bulk, and at wholesale prices, they have to be paying about $0.50 a foot max. Assuming it takes a full day of two men working eight hours, to install 200 feet of cable, that’s 16 hours of labor at, let’s assume $100 an hour, that’s $1600 for labor.
What could they possibly be spending the remaining $51,300 on to install cable?
Beats the tar out of me, but hey, we’re back to Ernestine, “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the cable company.”
Talking to these two companies is an exercise in frustration and futility. The double speak, regulatory mumbo-jumbo, hocus-pocus and BS is all designed to confuse and obfuscate the truth.
Luckily for me, I have the resources to file complaints with the PUC, and if necessary file a lawsuit to at least get to the bottom of this Kafkaesque dramedy.
But I shouldn’t have to, no one should. They’re called Public Utilities for a reason, to be for the PUBLIC and to be UTILE. If they are going to have exclusive licenses they should then make their services available to all, and not pick and choose when they will perform.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at email@example.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra