When Zachary Cohn and his wife bought a home in the Northgate neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, they didn’t expect any problems getting home Internet service. It was only after closing on the house in July 2019 that they learned the bad news. “All six neighbors I share a property line with are connected to Comcast, but our house never was,” Cohn told Ars.
Comcast’s predecessor company wired the neighborhood decades ago, and the ISP provides high-speed broadband to adjacent properties. But the cable TV and Internet provider never put a line on the house purchased by John and his wife, Lauryl Zenobi.
For months, Cohn tried to get answers from Comcast about how they could get Internet service with Zenobi. Eventually, he contacted the city council’s office, where he was able to get a real answer from Comcast.
Comcast said it would eventually require running 181 feet of underground cable to connect the home, and the couple would have to pay Comcast more than $27,000 to make that happen. John and Zenobi didn’t pay the $27,000 and have been relying on the 4G hotspot ever since.
“I’m just amazed”
“I was just amazed that in an area like this, a house like this could never get Internet,” Cohn said in a phone interview. The home “didn’t even occur to me because it was in the middle of downtown Seattle,” he said, adding that the lack of Internet service “would have been more understandable if I was two miles from my nearest neighbor.” “
The Seattle Kraken hockey team’s $80 million practice facility is in the same Northgate neighborhood, about half a mile from home. The area has a major bus station, a light rail station that opened nearby and an elementary school about a 90-second walk away, Cohn said, noting that the property is “within the Seattle city limits.”
Built in 1964, the home is also about 10 miles from T-Mobile Park, home of the Seattle Mariners, and Lumen Field, the Seattle Seahawks stadium named after CenturyLink’s Lumen brand. T-Mobile does not offer new home Internet service at home. CenturyLink offers Internet service at Cohn’s, but only ancient DSL with download speeds of up to 3Mbps and download speeds of up to 500kbps. Cable and fiber are simply not available at home.
Not our first Comcast horror story
We’ve written about other people who bought homes without knowing they didn’t have Internet service, but those stories generally happened in small towns or rural areas. In some cases, Comcast’s website and customer service staff falsely told home buyers that service was available because of errors in the company’s availability database.
Because Cohn said he didn’t think to check if he had a Comcast connection before closing on his Seattle home, knowledge of Comcast availability wasn’t an issue in this case. “Honestly, I wouldn’t even think to look. What house in the middle of Seattle wouldn’t be wired for reasonable internet?” Kon said.
Cohn contacted Ars after reading one of our previous Comcast horror stories in hopes of warning others that even in densely populated cities, there’s no guarantee of internet connectivity, even when all your neighbors have service.
Government broadband programs are generally “focused on connecting neighborhoods, especially underserved communities, which I think is great,” Cohn said. But he wants people to know that “both in large geographic areas and in small individual cases, there are many people who have never connected to high-speed Internet, and how difficult it is to get through life without such a connection. .”
While Cohn’s situation is unusual because all the homes around him have broadband, he’s far from the only city dweller without modern service. This is especially a problem in low-income areas where providers choose not to upgrade old phone lines.
Comcast junction box across the street
Adjacent to Cohn’s properties are overhead power lines that Comcast uses to run cable to homes. But “our power is underground and so … there are no stakes to throw,” Cohn said.
The block is shaped like a triangle, Cohn said, adding, “We’re the only house on our side of the triangle, the other two sides have three houses each.” There is an arterial road on the side of the house that does not face the neighbors. The nearest Comcast junction box is across that road, so they will have to dig under an artery to connect our house to that junction box.
Cohn told the sellers, disclosed in pre-sale documents, that there was no Internet at the home, but he didn’t realize it wouldn’t be possible to get service at all. After unsuccessful attempts to get service, “we had our agent contact the sellers to try to figure out what was really going on,” Cohn said.
They learned that the previous homeowners had contracted with a neighbor who ran cable “from the Comcast connection, to his property, to our property, and then to this house,” Cohn said. The previous owners were renting out the house, and “they made this last-minute deal with the neighbor to appease the tenants,” he said.
But “when we talk [the neighbor]he’s made it pretty clear in the past that he’s pretty unhappy with that arrangement,” Cohn said. “I basically convinced our neighbor to continue with this arrangement until we find an alternative.”