Neighbors see major tech disruption amid pandemic

Neighbors see major tech disruption amid pandemic

Residents of Hannah Drive in Cumberland gathered Tuesday to share details on how the technology they depend on has been badly disrupted, saying they’re hoping for a resolution. From left are Christine Duggan, Roger and Svetlana Checkrallah, Jodi Mesolella and Josh Ellis. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – Just imagine, as this pandemic has dragged from weeks into months, being stuck at home without access to quality internet, phone or TV.

That’s what residents of Hannah Drive in the Arnold Mills section of Cumberland have experienced, telling The Breeze that less-than-ideal conditions of the past few years have deteriorated terribly over the past month.

The impacts, they say, have at times felt overwhelming, as they’ve been forced to bring their children to work just so they can properly attend virtual school, been repeatedly kicked off company phone calls and meetings, and missed large portions of TV shows, among many other significant inconveniences.

“Think Poltergeist,” said resident Julie Kaberry, of 6 Hanna Drive, describing the experience of watching TV some days. “It’s very pixelated.”

The dread of their daily experience is especially palpable, they say, when they’ve been on hold with Cox Communications for nearly an hour and they know they could get booted off the call at any moment.

All six residents spoken to this week reported similar answers that they’ve gotten back from Cox. They said Cox representatives have made several visits to homes and determined that the issue isn't in anyone’s home, but is a problem with the connection from the street. Several said they were told that the company’s underground wires are rotting.

“Each one of us who was told about the rotted wires was assured that Cox would fix the issue because it was Cox’s fault for not initially running the cable/internet wires through a conduit,” said Christine Duggan, of 4 Hannah Drive. “Several weeks have passed and we have all made several phone calls to Cox, with no information on when the issue would be fixed.”

Compounding the inconvenience of throwing back to the dial-up days in this digital age, said the neighbors, is that this area off Diamond Hill Road near St. John Vianney Church also has terrible cell phone service, forcing some of them to crouch in one corner of the house just to be able to make a call.

“We are beyond frustrated at this point,” Duggan said. “We pay a lot of money in taxes to live in this town and we pay a lot to Cox for crummy service. We feel we are not being heard as members of this town and are looking for help.”

Roger and Svetlana Chekrallah, of 5 Hannah Drive, said if Verizon Fios was simply allowed to enter the area, their problems would be resolved. Svetlana wakes up her child, a 5th-grader at Community School, at 5 a.m. to bring her to work with her so she can connect to her virtual classes. She and others say teachers have been incredulous when they’ve explained why their children are having so much trouble connecting to classes, thinking that it's some kind of excuse.

The Chekrallahs say they wish they knew about the technology issues before they decided to buy a house in this neighborhood two years ago.

Jodi Mesolella, of 12 Hannah Drive, said cable is constantly “glitchy” and the landline phone “drops calls all the time.” She said she was recently almost entirely without internet for eight days. Neighbors will get texts from Cox stating that their service is out, then that it’s back, but they say it’s not really back.

Every call to Cox is a fight, said Kaberry and Duggan, where the person who answers treats each resident as an individual case and troubleshoots irrelevant issues as if those callers are the only ones experiencing problems. Josh Ellis, also of 12 Hannah Drive, said it’s incredibly frustrating to call Cox and have staff go through all the typical steps such as “pinging your box,” apparently still not realizing that there’s a larger problem in this neighborhood. He and Kaberry questioned why billing credits for poor service seem to be given out arbitrarily.

Kaberry said hold times with Cox are often in the 40-minute range in this current high-demand environment, and her husband was recently dropped from his call with the company twice while waiting on hold. He didn’t call back, she said.

The Breeze met with neighbors Tuesday afternoon and checked in with Cox Communications and Mayor Jeff Mutter on the situation around the same time. Thomas Duggan said he then heard back from Cox at 4:30 p.m., the caller telling him he should hear back from the company within 48 hours. The Cox representative also told him they’d just received a call from the mayor.

Later in the evening, Cox’s Jeff Lavery, replying to an inquiry from The Breeze, said he confirmed that there is construction activity scheduled for the area within the next two weeks, but didn’t indicate the extent of that work.

“In addition, a Cox technician will be on site tomorrow (Wednesday) to investigate customer concerns regarding service quality issues and provide a temporary resolution while permitting and other standard approvals are secured before beginning construction,” he said.

Mutter said he was again on the phone with Cox for about 45 minutes Tuesday afternoon and the person who called wouldn’t answer his questions on service issues other than to confirm that there have been a "couple of calls" from the area in question. Policy, as it turns out, is to only give out information to someone on a particular Cox account.

“It’s terrible,” Mutter said, saying it’s especially brutal that the residents have to face all of these issues during a pandemic when everyone has become so dependent on technology.

Thomas Duggan said that when a Cox engineer came to do some digging along the road in early September, the worker said the company only planned to fix the situation to his box near the Diamond Hill Road entrance to the street at 4 Hannah Drive. When he asked why they wouldn’t also help his neighbors, said Duggan, the employee responded that no one else was complaining.

Duggan said Cox mentioned a couple of options, one calling for digging up lawns on the street and the other not. He said Cox indicated that the town would not want to dig up the newly repaved Diamond Hill Road as part of the solution.

Duggan said he wonders why the town isn’t taking this opportunity to allow Verizon to come into the area.

Comments

Why would you bother the Mayor with this? It's not a town issue.......it's a Cox issue. And why can't you just get FIOS? I live right near there, and I have FIOS.....

Has anyone considered getting satellite internet? People in extremely isolated areas in the midwest, mountains, etc, have this as their only connection to the outside world. Prices aren't bad and the speeds are similar to the bottom tier cox speeds.

I don't believe the Mayor is bothered to help, He is always there for anyone who needs help,he always listen and try his best, ''if he can he will'' even before he became a Mayor, and sadly we don't have FIOS, it's available near us but not on our street

Satellite Internet is made for people who are in extremely isolated areas as mentioned, we are just here in our beautiful Cumberland, we only have cox option, no FIOS and we paid at some point $345.10/month with no premium channels

What a shame in this day and age this isn’t a problem that can be easily fixed within a day or two. So sorry to hear.