Frustrations with outages at LTD Broadband might send red flag to federal funders

I often hear from people who are unhappy about their lack of broadband and/or unhappy with the company providing less than adequate broadband. I generally tread lightly. But a recent article in Tech Dirt and the unprecedented public dollars being invested in broadband reminds me that customer service is important.

A couple of weeks ago I heard from Scott Evers, an LTD Broadband customer, asking me if I had heard anything about outages LTD have been experiencing since Aug 27. I hadn’t. But it was easy to learn more – not in media – but in online forums, such as Downhunter. (Screenshot provided.) You can read the frustration –  people had been down for “more than a week” or “over a month” and hadn’t heard anything satisfying from the company.

There are already concerns about LTD and the fact that they are on the very short (singular name) list to get RDOF money to provide FTTH (Fiber to the Home) in parts of Minnesota, despite the fact that they have a history of deploying wireless solutions. (And the FCC is taking time to look more closely at grants.) So it seems like a good time to lift the voices of customers. I am going to share some of the notes I have received from Scott about the service:

  • Oct 8: I am wondering if you are aware of their issues that started on Aug 27th and continue for a wide base of users through the midwest. Customers are very frustrated since LTD is refusing to provide details and timelines for when services will be restored to normal levels that customers pay for. At this time we are still experiencing 1-4 hour rolling outages and service speeds that rarely exceed 1-2 Mb/sec since Aug 27th.(normal was about 10-15Mb before Aug 27th). LTD has been refunding customers but refuses to provide details as to when issues will be resolved. They are also refusing and limiting comments on their facebook site so customers can not get information. Attached is one email that was provided by LTD. There are several comments from customers on Downhunter.com. This lack of communication and problems is certainly even odd for LTD.
  • Oct 13: I called the LTD sales office (3rd time) to try and get a status update since the main support Helpdesk can’t answer any questions. I was able to convince the sales person to escalate  the issue since multiple calls from multiple customers in our area have made no progress in the last 46 days since LTD started having broad issues. Again the issue of rolling outages and speeds no greater than 2mb over the last 46 days. This was the third time I requested a service manager return my call to try and explain the situation since the front Helpdesk was unable to make progress. I have yet to get a call back. To my amazement 30 minutes after the call with the sales team performance was restored to 25Mbit for all 7 customers in our area. so it’s great to finally have success after 46 days of frustration but wow LTD has some major internal issues going on. LTD never did make any announcements that services are back to normal to all their customers.
  • Oct 21: I did receive a call from LTD in regards to my complaint with the MN Attorney General. He apologized for their “bad Sept” and happily offered to refund 1 months service. I reminded him that LTD went down Aug 27th and my service was not restored until 46 days later on Oct 13th and only after pleading with their Sales team to escalate since their helpdesk repeatedly could offer no timelines or solutions. It seems the call was mostly about trying to appease the MN AG complaint? Regardless I did ask several questions and he did agree to refund 1.5 months of service (yet to be seen and the refund is not the point anyways… it’s about the service levels). To my questions about what was really happening at LTD… his response was to blame their one network engineer that left the company and did not document how the network was built. so they had to hire “experts” to come in and help rebuild from ground up and that some rebuilding is still in progress. They always claim their network will be built better than ever but can provide no details as to what they are improving. Like more upstream bandwidth or new equipment or more redundancy. I asked about their customer ticketing system since each time you call in it’s like starting over and sometimes they even act like you never called.. he acknowledged they do not have an adequate ticketing system since they have grown too fast. He also said LTD hired a new Operations Officer to help improve internal processes but again no details about what if anything will be improved. when I brought up the issue of their FCC funding problems he quickly stated that “they only lost 2 states” and were still getting funding. I did ask if he could extend the 1.5 month refund to my other 6 neighbors that were impacted and he said no they would all have to call in and ask for legal reasons.

One man’s story is one man’s story but the online forums indicate that he’s not alone. The details might signal a need for the FCC to look more closely at what’s happening. It sounds like changes are in process but is it enough? Before doling out RDOF grants, should the FCC find a way to help LTD prepare for rapid growth or find a way for them to partner with providers who have a proven record. I think the Office of Broadband Development does a nice job or encouraging partnerships with providers in the field when there is a mix of expertise – or more often, an overlap of areas served. Everyone wants the money to be spent as effectively as possible to get more people reliable, robust broadband to improve their lives and livelihoods.

I did contact LTD for more information. I didn’t hear back. To be fair, the only contact I found was for tech support, not communications. (But having worked in communications for a broadband provider years ago, it seems like that message could have realistically found the right person over a few days.)

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, MN, Vendors by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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