When Ruth Evans wants to watch something on TV in her Cedar Rapids home, it’s not as simple as hitting a few buttons on the remote. Her husband creates a wireless hot spot on his phone, connects to Amazon Prime and hopes the signal is strong enough to support streaming.

“Sometimes we can, and sometimes we can’t,” Evans said.

That’s been Evans’ reality for the last 51 days as the Mediacom line that’s supposed to connect internet to her home lies on the ground in her backyard.

Mediacom is not reporting any outages in the area, even though Evans and other Cedar Rapidians remain without service,

Mediacom spokeswoman Phyllis Peters acknowledged a “higher than normal” number of people are without service despite the company not listing any outages.

“We don’t have the outage map because we don’t have any outages that we need to restore,” Peters said. “We don’t report that unless it’s a group of customers or clusters in an area.”

Peters declined to say how many Mediacom customers remain without service.

On the Friday after the derecho, Mediacom reported 43,000 customers in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City were without service; the company brought in technicians from as far away as South Carolina to help reconnect customers.

Caleb Slouha, 23, of Cedar Rapids, who remains without internet service, said a technician told him this week that Mediacom has 600 work orders to complete, which could take till the end of October.

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“It’s frustrating, especially when you’re told it could be another month before it’s completed,” Slouha said.

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Mediacom Appointments, work orders

Peters said anyone without service should have a Mediacom appointment scheduled, though some customers report not being given an appointment despite several calls to the company

In some cases, customers receive a message saying a technician will be there in the next 10 days.

Slouha had an appointment, but that didn’t fix the problem. Now, he’s waiting for a work order.

In Evans’ case, she was told technician would be there Tuesday. If Mediacom couldn’t make it there until a later date, someone was to contact her. When no one showed up Tuesday, she called Wednesday.

“He said yes he could tell I didn’t have internet,” Evans said. “But he didn’t know what I was talking about when I said I talked to somebody yesterday and the ticket said (Tuesday). He just really acted like it was an effort even to talk to me.”

Needed for work and school

The 51-day wait for internet has been challenging for families in a digital age.

Evans has been trying to submit information to her insurance but that has proved challenging without home internet.

“I can’t do that real well on my phone,” said Evans, who is 63.

The lack of internet has been particularly challenging for people relying on internet for work or school.

Marea Sanchez of Cedar Rapids needed to buy a hot spot from Verizon because she works from home and her children attend high school virtually.

“The $100 credit is not even close to what I’ve had to add to my cellphone service to be able to function the last few weeks,” Sanchez said.

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Evans, too, upgraded her mobile phone plan to include unlimited data.

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Slouha, who does not have unlimited data, downloads anything he’ll need at home before leaving work.

Meanwhile, the bills keep coming.

“I have paid $260 or whatever of service that I haven’t even received so far,” Slouha said.

Peters said in September that Mediacom would issue credits for the outages in the October billing cycle. The company said $5.7 million in refunds will go to about 340,000 customers in Iowa, Illinois and Indiana who lost service in the Aug. 10 derecho.

Life Alert problem

Some ImOn customers are getting frustrated, too.

Craig Webster, 46, of Marion, said he has been calling ImOn every week about his 83-year-old mother-in-law’s phone service. She relies on it for her Life Alert, which notifies authorities if she’s having a health emergency.

“It makes me very nervous,” Webster said. “She has her cellphone where she can get a hold of us, but for an actual emergency, she can’t get hold of anybody without using her cellphone. … If she had her Life Alert, she could just push a button.”

Every time Webster calls, he mentions the need for her phone service because of Life Alert. ImOn creates a ticket for his request each time but can’t tell him the status of any of the ongoing tickets.

“All she needs is a phone,” Webster said. “We’re not concerned about the cable.”

At one point, ImOn told him the box was fixed. His wife was at the house and noticed wires still on the ground.

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IMON Down to ‘last few’

ImOn is down to the “last few” customers without service, spokeswoman Lisa Rhatigan said.

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ImOn has faced some challenges contacting some of the final people without service. Rhatigan was fielding customer calls Wednesday to help the customer service team.

“We may need access to your home, so it’s important that we’re able to reach you so we can schedule that,” Rhatigan said.

Rhatigan encouraged any customers still without service to contact ImOn through its customer care line, social media pages or via email at support@imon.net.

Complaints

Customers can file a complaint if they believe they are being treated unfairly.

The Federal Communications Commission regulates telecommunication companies like Mediacom or ImOn. Customers can file an informal complaint with the FCC about their provider at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us or by calling 1-(888) CALL-FCC. A company has 30 days to respond to a complaint.

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com



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