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FCC Upholds Ban on Cable Monopolies?

When I first moved to my building I remember calling Comcast to get service only to find out they cannot help me and they told me to call Broadstripe (formerly Millennium), as that was my cable provider.  I remember thinking that was crazy and maybe illegal?  Well, I went ahead and gave up all choice and competition and reluctantly ordered cable and internet from Broadstripe.

Ever since then I have been having issues (for about 2 years).  Lately, it has been even worse.  All my cable channels will randomly turn to CBS and the box will read “EAS”.  My internet goes out daily lasting anywhere from one minute to all day.  Sometimes my connection is so slow that my VOIP phone does not even connect, or drops calls in the middle of a conversation.  In the last month, I feel I have called Broadstripe customer service more times than I have called my own mother.

After talking with friends and searching twitter for “Broadstripe“, I am finding that a lot of Belltowners have the same issues with Broadstripe and are frusterated by not being able to choose another company because of the exclusive contracts between apartments and cable companies.

Well, maybe we now have a choice? 

In late May, an appeals court held up the FCC’s ban on exclusive cable deals:

“An appeals court decided to back consumers on Tuesday, unanimously upholding a Federal Communications Commission order banning exclusive cable video contracts in apartment buildings and other multiple dwelling units (MDUs).

The agency acted well within the bounds of the law, ruled the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court even smiled on applying the new regulations to current cable/realtor deals, noting that the FCC “balanced benefits against harms and expressly determined that applying the rule to existing contracts was worth its costs.” The call is also a victory for telcos like AT&T and Verizon, both of which pushed hard for the FCC to make its decision.”

I wanted to test this ruling out, so I called Comcast to see if I could get a quote for cable in my apartment.  I gave my address to the customer service agent and she immediately said she was sorry, but Broadstripe owns the wiring in my building so only Broadstripe can provide services.  I then asked about the FCC ruling and asked for her manager.  The manager came on the phone and said that since Broadstripe owns the wiring, they get exclusive service and it is not technically a monopoly because we could have satellite service (which is not allowed in my building.)

So, even with the FCC ruling, it appears my Belltown apartment building is still in an exclusive contract with Broadstripe and I should just get used to a shoddy internet and cable connection.

18 Comments on "FCC Upholds Ban on Cable Monopolies?"

  1. That is CRAZY! Two reasons: In the case of your building, you have no other choice. Is your building operating in opposition to the FCC ruling because it does not allow satellite service? This seems absurd. Second reason, Broadstripe is THE worst ISP. Completely unreliable service and horrible customer service. I had broadstripe and would freak out on a daily basis because of the shoddy service that they provided. It should be against the law to operate as a service as crappy as Broadstripe. Maybe it was just crappy service in my building and in yours, and other people have had a good experience with Broadstripe and the internet that they provide. But my experience was so LAME that i get heated just thinking about how long i endured before i gave in and got Qwest, which works sooo beautifully. Sucky for you girl, let me know anytime you would like to come over and use my internet. 🙂

  2. This is also an interesting article, courtesy of @jdinseattle
    ISP Donates to United Way

  3. I switched to DSL and it’s been working great.

  4. broadstripe employee | July 10, 2009 at 4:21 pm |

    NETWORK ENHANCEMENTS

    We’re currently in the process of several upgrade initiatives within our broadband network in Michigan, all designed to improve the quality and reliability of our services to our customers.

    CMTS Replacement: We’ve recently replaced several CMTS (Cable modem termination system) units in our headend. These units are critical links for our high speed data customers to route traffic from our various systems to the internet. The previous units had reached their peak utilization and these new units have already had an immediate favorable impact for many customers.
    Node Segmentation: Our existing fiber network is in need of additional segmentation. Currently our fiber network originates from our headend and extends to OTN’s (optical transition nodes) in various systems and from the OTN individual fiber cables extend beyond into neighborhood nodes. At these neighborhood nodes our network is converted from laser light through the fiber to RF signals (radio frequency) and signals are routed over coaxial trunk cables which extend further to feeder cables and on to individual residences. This is essentially the standard hybrid fiber-coax design used by most cable systems. With node segmentation we will be increasing our fiber optic node count from 124 to 175, or by more than 40%. This will significantly reduce the number of homes we serve from each node, resulting in several key benefits:
    Reduced noise: Noise is defined as unwanted signals coming into our cable system. This has a negative effect on all of our services but especially high speed internet and phone services. By segmenting or splitting the nodes we will reduced the overall amount of noise that is funneled down through the network on our return path into our headend. A key measurement of this is our signal to noise ratio. We will experience a significant improvement in our signal to noise ratio as a result of node segmentation.
    Our new nodes are significantly better than the nodes we currently use. They are full digital nodes compared to the analog nodes currently in our system and they have several features that will result in overall improved performance as well as enhanced monitoring.
    System Sweep: Node segmentation will occur in many areas over the coming weeks. Once an area is complete, we will then conduct a full system sweep. A system sweep is a critical function designed to analyze and detect faults in the coaxial hardline portion of our network. A sweep is performed to uncover any faults in this portion of the network like cable that does not meet performance specification or active devices like amplifiers that are not setup correctly. After a sweep is performed and we correct any deficiencies, we then re-sweep to verify the end result is within our defined specification.
    Power Supply: Concurrent with the above mentioned activities we are also performing power supply maintenance. These units are connected to commercial power on our network and provide the necessary powering for our active electronic devices on the network. Most of our power supplies have battery backup. This backup will provide network power for a while in the event of a commercial power outage. Various components of power supplies will be tested and batteries replaced – all in an effort to improve network reliability.
    These network enhancements will result in some service interruptions, however most of the work associated with service interruptions will be performed in the maintenance window in the overnight (early morning) hours. Engineering and tech ops will inform dispatch and the call center of the work schedule to inform customer contact personnel.

    NEW INTERNET BACKBONE

    We’re working to deploy a new backbone to the internet that will actually evolve into a company-wide backbone where we will be directly linked to top internet exchange points on the east and west coast. Michigan will be the central point of this backbone. We’ve already completed our end of the fiber connection in downtown Lansing. Once activated, we connect to this site through our existing route from Lansing up through Bath and back down the east side of Lansing to our Dimondale headend. We’re currently working with Comcast to create a diverse route on the west side of Lansing in order to provide redundancy in the event of a failure or cut on the other side of the route. This connection will enable us to consolidate support for several services including our internet connection for our high speed data services, our phone services ( our internal system and our customer phone services), our billing/MIS system and, in the future, our customer VOD services. This new connection will have the capacity to support a tremendous amount of bandwidth and the design will provide a stable and reliable connection for our customers.

    NEW BILLING SYSTEM

    Angie Sanborn and her team are very involved in a billing system migration from CSG to GLDS (Great Lakes Data Systems). The GLDS system offers a variety of features and services not currently available from CSG. It’s easy to use, provides more access to information and data, improves our routing and work scheduling, provides enhanced web access to billing functions for customers and it standardizes our transactions types for our entire company. Michigan is scheduled to transition to GLDS by the end of July. There will be much more information and training on the new system in the coming days.

    TECHNICAL OPERATIONS RESTRUCTURING

    Our overall goal with these initiatives is to improve the reliability, quality and capacity or our services to our customers. To further this goal we’re working on several fronts, those mentioned above plus the methods we use to routinely service customers and maintain our network.

    Node Addressing: Several regional personnel have been involved in the process of identifying the fiber optic node serving individual homes in our system. This project has been time intensive as it involves assigning the correct node to each of the 85,000 dwellings and businesses passed by our network. This initiative will provide several benefits. It will allow us to incorporate an automated outage detection function within our billing system, where an outage will automatically be determined based on calls coming from customers located within a specific node. Additionally, it will allow us to track our overall performance down to a very specific geographic area – the percentage of trouble calls, the nature of trouble calls, the quality of installations, etc. We’re nearly complete with this project and have been able to pull preliminary data as a result.
    Training and Development: We’re currently in the processes of assessing training and development needs for our installers, service techs and maintenance techs. Additional training programs will be acquired and administered based on this assessment.
    Metrics and Methodology: We’re breaking out our region into smaller individual groups of systems. With these smaller geographic zones we will measure a variety of metrics and we will assign teams of technical personnel to have primary responsibility and accountability within these zones. Specific measurements will be conducted on a regularly scheduled basis with the intent on determining system performance and to help detect and prevent issues before they become customer impacting.
    MARSHALL INDUSTRIAL PARK

    We recently deployed a new technology at the Brooks Industrial Park in Marshall called GEPON. Essentially, this is a true fiber-to-the-premises deployment that provides symmetrical Ethernet service typically only available from large phone companies like AT&T. To the business residents at the park, it offers a true competitor to T1, DS3 and other types of commercial Ethernet connections. The service was launched just a couple weeks ago and we’ve already signed on 3 customers! Sandy Young is in discussion with others and we’re in the process of conducting site surverys for several businesses. We’re the talk of the industrial park and the City of Marshall is excited to have this new service to help attract new business and jobs to the area. This unique deployment captured the interest of a variety of news and trade publications as well as some local press. Here are some of the articles that covered this project.

    CBS MarketWatch: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/broadstripe-integrates-auro

    Newsradio WWJ: http://www.wwj.com/Marshall-Industrial-Park-Gets-Gigabit-Eth

    Lightreading: http://www.lightreading.com/blog.asp?blog_sectionid=419&doc_

    Cable 360: http://www.cable360.net/ct/news/thewire/36143.html

    Telephony Magazine: http://blog.telephonyonline.com/briefingroom/2009/06/15/broa

    CED Magazine: http://www.cedmagazine.com/News-Broadstripe-Aurora-GEPON-inc

    AOL Money Magazine: http://money.aol.com/article/broadstripe-integrates-aurora-n

    CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/31366686/

    Battle Creek Enquirer: http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com/article/20090623/NEIGHBOR+offers+high-speed+internet+solution+to+Brooks+Industrial+Park

    It’s our objective to launch increased speeds on our residential high speed internet services in the coming weeks. More specifics will be presented as they are firmed up, however we believe we can significantly increase speeds in all of our service areas served from the Dimondale headend, with many areas going to 15mbps.

  5. We had bad experiences with broadstripe cable at my apt as well. Enough people complained to the property management company that they eventually switched to comcast, which is the better of the two evils I suppose.

  6. Did a Broadstripe employee really comment on this? Also, Broadstripe’s MI headquarters is in the same office park as my company headquarters in MI. Weird.

  7. I do not think a copy/paste is the best way to comment. A “real” comment, from a real person, that is not so wordy may have been better as this is a forum for people, not robots.

  8. Broadstripe freaks me out. Do they really expect people to read that massive wikipedia article? Look, it’s soooo simple, just make the internet work and no one will leave.

    I had broadstripe and was troubleshooting my connection at least 50% of the time. I am one of the worst procrastinators out there, but seriously nothign stands in the way of me and my internet. Bye Bye.

    Good luck in the future I guess. Judging by the dissertation it looks like they must be making some kind of improvements.

  9. Rohan Singh | July 12, 2009 at 9:49 am |

    I find the whole “since you can get satellite it’s not really a monopoly” to be a tenuous argument at best. Since you can install solar panels, does that mean that Seattle City Light doesn’t have a monopoly on electricity? Since you can get a cell phone, does that make it okay to have landline phone monopolies? It just doesn’t fly.

  10. Dean Ruffner | July 14, 2009 at 3:59 pm |

    “Brown”-stripe is the worst. I would drop them like a bad habit but they have me by the balls.

  11. Belltowner | July 17, 2009 at 1:16 pm |

    I would have another conversation with the building owners/managers to determine who installed the cabling in the first place. It’s possible that Broadstripe put the cabling infrastructure from the initial telco entrance room to the floor by floor closets, and ultimately into the apartments themselves in order to get the business, but the building managers/owners would be able to find that out.

    I would fully expect the cabling from the street entering the building to be 100% Broadstripe’s – that has to.

    As to managing the entire lot; I would believe and expect the building managers to allow Broadstripe to “manage” it on their behalf, if Broadstripe didn’t install the cabling. There’s no way to know for sure until you ask someone who actually knows.

    The problem here is that most, if not all, buildings will have common cabling all over the building. This means that Comcast and Broadstripe could not use the same physical cabling infrastructure, and one of the three parties (your building, comcast, broadstripe) would need to install an entirely different cabling infrastructure, which is not cheap. The good news though is that they will only have to put in cabling up to each of the floor’s wiring cabinets, and not the individual apartments. That makes is 90% easier.

    What I would be doing at this point is garnering opinions from other apartment dwellers and gauging their feelings on the subject. If you get enough pressure (through the tenants of the building) to the managers/owners, they might just switch to Comcast, or fork out for that second cabling infrastructure, or something in between.

    Now something I don’t know – is Verizon & their FiOS in the area? You might just get them to pony up for their own infrastructure in the building (and is physically different), should there be sufficient demand!!

  12. Broadstripe is very small. No doubt Comcast is more interested in preserving their exclusive apartment deals than taking more broadstripe customers. Everyone knows Broadstripe has the worst service in the city.

    Have you contacted your apartment management about ditching Broadstripe? That might get you somewhere. Often there is only one provider possible: the building does not have the infrastructure to allow multiple carriers. Our condo association looked into the issue and realized there’d be a huge cost involved with allowing multiple. Not worth it imo.

  13. I agree with Belltowner: Definitely get Verizon FiOS if available!!

  14. Just sayin' | November 5, 2009 at 8:29 pm |

    I’ve been left with no other choice but Broadstripe for the last 4 years now. They are just as terrible as they were when they were Millennium Digital Media. To this day I have not had issues that I’ve dealt with for years resolved, but I’m soooooo effin’ tired calling these people (which I must’ve done over two dozen times by now – I WISH that were an exaggeration).

    So, to reiterate, I hate Broadstripe, they are as shitty a service as could possibly exist, and a huge thanks to FCC for dickholing us with this wretched plague of service provider.

  15. I live in the Met Towers and we have the same lousy situation: Broadstripe, i.e. ‘Brokensignal’ is the exclusive provider. Unbelievably bad!

  16. I live in Belltown, Seattle and also locked into Broadstripe because of my apartment building. Spent all my time dealing with dropouts until I discovered http://www.clear.com/ went with them and havent looked back. I have a mate that also made the jump, he is closer to Queen Ann and he has poor performance with Clear, so I think its a technology that only works if your luckily in a good reception spot.

  17. twinrevolvers | January 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    This has been helpful to me. Thank you for the input.

  18. Hi
    My name is Kim Richardson, and I have news for your landlord that may have him reconsider his ban on satellite. There is a program that would have only one dish on top of his roof, not those unsightly individual dishes on every one’s balcony. There are other issues that landlords usually have with satellite that are avoided also, not always just the cosmetic. Internet is included also. And you know what, the pricing is comparable, probably even a bit lower, than what you currently pay.
    So….
    If you’re interested in knowing more, contact me at kdr7998@gmail.com.

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