I live in a fortified compound in the mountains. It is my life choice, well, my wife’s and mine. I choose only to live in an urban or rural existence. I want to be either lost in a sea of humanity or invisible in nature. Splendid, if I may, dear Warren, isolation. Suburbia is not for me… or us. As a consequence, we do not have broadband up here yet. Therefore, if we want access to the Internet—let that read, phones, web service, television, ANYTHING—we need to use Cablevision. If you are unfamiliar with this company, it’s because they choose to go by the “hideout” title of Optimum. Why? Mainly, because they suck, and their owner is a bleating troll of a man and his family is the vermin that have single-handedly destroyed the New York Knicks. But that is for another column. For now, we concentrate on this monopoly and how it is wholly unconstitutional.
So, how come it exists?
“Well,” you say, “there is plenty of unconstitutional shit that exists: income tax, health insurance monopolies, bullshit drug laws, the Patriot fucking Act”—but that is not bothering me now. This is. So, stick your “what abouts” somewhere and follow along.
Recently, I was mere days late with a payment to Cablevision. It was the first time since the 1980s and certainly for the first time since I have been at my current address here in the mountains that this has occurred. But I noticed a ten-dollar charge on my current bill as a consequence of this heinous faux pas. Now, I’m a big boy and I take what I have coming… mostly. I am willing to pay my due for tardiness, or driving into a temporary police barrier, or for the bizarre things I did in Freeport, Bahamas so many years ago. However, I did have a point here.
You see, in the weeks after the Hurricane Sandy recovery, I entered a debate with the upper regions of management at Cablevision on how ten days of non-service should be deducted from my bill. They disagreed, claiming, perhaps quite rightly, that circumstances being as they are, a natural disaster dictated that they could not provide service. To refute this sidetracking, I actually used the example that would come to befall me this week: “Well, I bet, that if I were late ten days with my monthly payment, I would suffer the consequences.” They hemmed and hawed with that, never mentioning that for a late payment (one day or one month) there is a charge.
And so, I went hard at Cablevision this week, who, predictably hid behind some poor woman in India, who answered my complaints with great aplomb. I tried to explain that for three-plus decades I have been duly paying my bills promptly without fail, and shouldn’t there be a special dispensation for loyal, on-time late bill payers? “Sorry, sir…” was how each of her tack answers, clearly read from some sheet, began.
I asked, as is my wont, for several supervisors, but—not surprisingly—none came. What may have been surprising to the woman halfway across the globe was I patiently waited for nearly 45 minutes for one of these cowards to emerge and handle my growing recalcitrance. The hearty customer service woman even stayed on the phone with me and after a time too became a little miffed.
You know who gets away with this shit? Companies that have a monopoly.
You know how I know Cablevision does not care if I am screwed around or to even give me an audience to my complaint?
Allow me to demonstrate….
I thanked the woman and offered my condolences for the unforgiving gig she had to perform and proceeded to check and see what other providers of the Internet I may procure.
Spoiler alert: There are none.
Actually, that is not entirely true. Verizon (after several and varied calls to them and enduring its rather cumbersome web site experience) finally offered my home a direct DSL line, only if I would commit to two years with them and accepted their TV package, which I do not need. I just want Internet, and quality Internet. I have two girls at home, helping me clog up four devices and three televisions, who would skin me alive if they had to suffer sub-par Internet speed. DSL would not cut it. So, really, it is partially true that I cannot find competition for high-speed Internet in the Jersey mountains, a mere 34 miles from the biggest city and largest media center on planet Earth. Not to mention residing in a country that busted monopolies in the early 20th century.
My quandary, of which I stated to the overly bubbly representative from Verizon named Ethan, was “I would as soon as pay a homeless man to stand on my lawn with a rusty antennae than to hand over another dime to the veracious monstrosity that is Cablevision, however I cannot live for five minutes on DSL with my daughter’s Herculean tick-tock output and the constant stream of anti-Trump rhetoric blasting from every monitor in the house.”
This was vexing to say the very least. The amount of hate and rage that filled my otherwise dormant heart over ten bucks may seem like abject craziness to you, but at that moment it was to be my Alamo.
I finally swallowed hard and manned up. Calling into Cablevision with the express purpose of ending my relationship with this demon corporation and begin extricating myself from the soul-crushing grid had become a moral imperative. This had transformed from a meager customer/company spat into Armageddon.
Strangely, but maybe not so much, the phone prompt wait is next to nothing when one chooses “Ceasing Service.” The voice on the other end sounds as if it were down the block and not in Asia. It is warming and congenial and did not ever respond to my whining with anything less than empathy. The name, blessedly, of this avenging angel was Jessica, who even echoed my sentiments with a positive, “Oh, yeah,” when I mentioned that in this day and age Internet service is as important as heat and electricity (well, maybe not electricity, since you need electricity to get the WiFi going, but still). And this sweetly accommodating soul not only waved the wicked ten-dollar late fee, but duly discounted my bill the same tenner in perpetuity.
Suddenly, miraculously, my anger was assuaged, and I was $130 richer.
“Who cares? You are still connected to an insidious anti-American plot to dominate your Internet service,” you might say. And you would be correct. But, come on, DSL? What year is this? And how can my girls handle an entire Sunday without adorable cat videos on YouTube or how can I get through a day without tweeting something horrible?
So, I guess, let’s look into this appalling stain on our liberties at a later date and excuse me while I order something I definitely do not need on Amazon.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight For Cinderella” and “Y,” “Shout It Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon” and “Accidentally Like a Martyr – The Tortured Art of Warren Zevon”