DennisBeaverJuly 19, 2014   •  By Dennis Beaver

Are you happy with your internet service provider? Or, like a shocking percentage of subscribers, do you feel taken advantage of, not receiving what you’re paying for, good Wi-Fi?

The American Customer Satisfaction Index has, again for 2014, put America’s 7,000 ISP’s in the same category as subscription TV services — at the bottom of their list.

In an email, “Ben,” a senior technician with a Northern California ISP admits “serious deficiencies in service and equipment, especially Wi-Fi range issues, all across the country.”

“There is a reason customer service reps get yelled at, vehicles have graffiti written on them, and occasionally, tires slashed. This industry charges high rates and frequently provides customers outdated, inferior modems, routers, and lousy WiFi hardware resulting in limited range. Simply stated, a lot of customers are not getting what they are paying for and we know it.”

“Ads show a happy family at home on hand-held devices, watching movies, surfing the net, and so on, but in reality a large percentage of customers are frustrated with poor Wi-Fi reception.

“Often, you are lucky if the signal goes from one room to the next. Then when you complain, we will happily rent you range extenders — but with proper hardware in the first place, this would not be necessary.

“I can put you in touch with many ISP people who can confirm what I am saying. Please call, Ben.”

We phoned and, in turn, spoke with his colleagues who agree and believe that monopoly plays a large role. A New York technical supervisor observed:

“Because cities across America often give an exclusive to one ISP, there may be no other place to obtain internet service, allowing for a take it or leave it attitude where replacing outdated equipment is concerned.”

“In that case, do not rent from your ISP, instead, either purchase your own new modem/wireless router with the latest standards, or a WiFi range extender, and if necessary a WiFi adapter.

“It’s kind of funny,” she added, “By refusing to give subscribers up-to-date equipment, ISP’s have created a huge market for companies which manufacture range extenders and Wi-Fi adaptors, making the WiFi experience what it should have been in the first place!”

One is Chino Hills, California-based Amped Wireless, a manufacturer whose focus is high power, long range Wi-Fi hardware. We asked them what our readers with poor WiFi range should know:

“If you have an ISP provided modem with a Wi-Fi router older than 5 years,” Operations Manager Albert Ng points out, “It will generally not be up to date, lacking current high speed Wi-Fi standards which greatly improve signal strength and range. On average, transmitting power will be around 100 milliwatts–which is very low –and depending on the structure, will give you a decent signal for only about 20-25 feet from the router.

“You need around 600 milliwatts to get a good signal through the average size home,” he notes.

Marketing Manager, Lacey Neddo observes that, “You are paying for good internet service and are entitled to up-to-date equipment with current Wi-Fi standards which reach much greater distances than in prior years. So, we recommend that you speak with your ISP and ask them to please exchange your existing equipment for something current. You’ve got nothing to lose, and if refused, speak with a manager — be polite, but persistent,” she maintains.

“You can always buy your own equipment, and your ISP might just say yes.”

Legally, of course, she is correct, Americans are paying some of the highest rates in the world, often for inferior equipment, mediocre internet speed and poor Wi-Fi range. ISP’s owe us hardware which meets current, widely accepted WiFi standards. You and the Law challenges any ISP to differ.

But even without a problem, will they replace older, still working, modems and WiFi routers just because a customer wants newer equipment with current standards?

And, what about the power output of the ISP-provided Wi-Fi router? Do they have anything better? It should be easy to at least discover the output power, right? As we would learn, about as easy as pulling teeth.

Enlisting a group of You and the Law readers, calls were placed to local ISP’s all over the country, asking those questions. Just as the technicians we spoke to had told us, we often received very much of a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, except in markets which had more than one ISP.

Then, if a suggestion was made of going to a different provider, ISP reps suddenly became very helpful.

And that may just be the moral to our story. Vote with your feet, if possible, and if not, look into buying — not renting — your own hardware. It isn’t that expensive.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.