CenturyLink: An Experience That Makes Cents… Kinda

Back in February, my neighborhood was visited by a CenturyLink sales person. A nice enough gentleman who seemed proud of his company and their product, and wanted to “win me back.” I’ve been a happy customer of Comcast (phone, Internet and digital television) for a number of years following a necessary divorce of Qwest. That long story short — they had lost their “Spirit of Service.” But this was a reborn company, so I listened.

We’ve all been through it. The sit down, the interview, the comparison of services and the statements of savings. Let’s save some time regarding cost — the savings was a total of $5 per month moving from Comcast to CenturyLink. So why would I switch for $5? Read on.

What the average consumer of Internet services does not understand is that there are two Internet speeds you purchase with you home Internet service.  CenturyLink advertises their 40Mbps service, but the average household doesn’t need that much bandwidth.  For reference, if you watch Netflix at HD, you need to be able to receive about 3Mbps.  If there are four of you in the house watching at the same time, that is 12Mbps.  For typical web surfing, you will use much less than that.  But all of this is “download” speed.  Nearly all Internet providers provide their customers with high download speeds, because the vast majority of their users rely on getting the data.

I am a systems administrator, a geek.  I am one of those guys who works with a staff of geeks that manage hundreds of servers (large computers) that provide that high-bandwidth data to customers.  I get the calls late at night when something goes wrong in the US and overseas.  I have meetings with staff, peer directors and senior management using video technologies like Google+ hangouts.  I use a VPN and copy data up to servers.  I backup my own home systems.  I push data to the cloud.  So I am one of those customers at my home that need the other Internet speed — the “upload” speed.  From your Internet provider, this speed is typically significantly less than the download speed.

For reference, my fairly inexpensive Internet speeds with Comcast were 20Mbps download, and 6Mbps upload.

The sales person was enthusiastic, and practiced.  He knew what he was offering to the typical consumer.  So when I asked the question of what my upload speed would be, he really looked bewildered.  I found it surprising that I would have been the first to ask the question, but evidently I was.  But I let him off the hook when he stated he was sure it was at least what I currently had with Comcast and there was a 30-day money-back guarantee, and they would switch me back if I was not satisfied.

Around the first of March, my CenturyLink equipment arrived.  CenturyLink had already come by during the week to set up the line to the house.  I let the equipment sit on the table until the weekend rolled around.  For $5 a month in savings, I wasn’t in a hurry.

On the weekend, I disconnected the Comcast cable router, plugged in the CenturyLink router and went through the setup.  Fifteen minutes later I was on the phone with CenturyLink’s technical support.  According to the representative, she had no idea why the sales person would have told me my upload speed would be the same.  There was nothing they could do.  0.72Mbps was the best they could do for me.  OK, send me to customer service and I’ll cancel the account.

Here are a few points to understand regarding CenturyLink’s 30-day money back guarantee:

  • The money-back guarantee does not apply to the Internet package
  • They cannot switch you back for either phone or Internet
  • You have to place the order with your phone and Internet providers
  • You have to cancel the phone service after your new provider ports your number

I came to understand these points on the following Monday, when CenturyLink’s customer service department was open.  Then started the long journey to leaving CenturyLink.  Before I got off the phone, I canceled my Internet connectivity.

Near the end of March, I received a prorated bill that included Internet usage for the month since installation.  Around the same time I completed the changing of my phone back to Comcast.  I called CenturyLink and told them to cancel my phone service.  I then asked what I should do about the bill since it obviously was not correct for the Internet usage.  The representative told me to wait for the next bill, it would have the corrections.

Around the end of April, I received my corrected bill and 10 days later a call from a collection agency.  Really?  Obviously nobody was recording notes in my account from my previous phone calls.  I chose to ignore the collection agency and send in my final payment to CenturyLink.  The good news is that the collection agency stopped calling.  The bad news, the bill was not paid off.

Today my wife presented me with a bill from CenturyLink for my Internet service.  What is interesting is that the bill is less than the cost to CenturyLink to mail out the bill.  See for yourself, the bill was for twelve cents.

CenturyLink's Final Bill

So, since I work in downtown Denver, I am going to save myself the cost of the stamp and walk over to the CenturyLink tower during my lunch hour to pay off my bill.  I think I have twelve pennies laying around.  That’s about as much cents sense as I can make from the whole experience.