Cable One Internet customer service number

CableOne Brags It Provides Worse Service to Bad Credit Customers

CableOne Brags It Provides Worse Service to Bad Credit Customers

Turning away bad credit customers is certainly nothing new, but this week cable operator Cable ONE admitted that the company actually gives worse customer service to customers with low FICO scores. Speaking at the JPMorgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom Conference Cable One CEO Thomas Might crowed that the company has implemented a "very rigorous FICI credit scoring process" on its video customers since 2013 that involves somehow flagging the accounts so that company support representatives don't spend as much time on support with those users as they otherwise would.

Click for full size "We don't turn people away, " Might said, but the cable company's support staff isn't going to "spend 15 minutes setting up an iPhone app" for a customer who has a low FICO score.

The CEO failed to illustrate just how far Cable ONE's practice of trying less hard for credit-troubled customers goes.

I spoke to several telecom policy experts and lawyers who offered slightly varying opinions on whether what CableONE is doing is technically illegal. The consensus seems to be that any lawyer trying to make a case that CableONE was violating the law would have some work cut out for them, notably because White is talking about video services, which are not subject to embedded Title II prohibition on discrimination.

Still, consumer advocates weren't impressed by what CableONE was up to by any measure.

"The use of credit score to screen potential customers is already a barrier to home internet adoption that disproportionately impacts communities of color, " says Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner.

"But what Cable ONE is apparently doing takes this to a much more dangerous territory. Because there are systemic biases that impact the credit scores of communities of color, Cable ONE is in essence adopting a policy that will result in inferior service for customers based solely on the biased credit score metric, and as a consequence, people of color will disproportionately receive this inferior service, " he added.

Public Knowledge Senior Vice President Harold Feld said that without CableONE disclosing more internal details on precisely what it's doing, it's difficult to ascertain if the company is violating cable privacy rules. Feld notes that users might be able to sue, but not if CableONE terms of service includes binding arbitration mouseprint limiting consumer legal options (now incredibly common thanks to AT&T's 2011 Supreme Court win).

"Importantly, the cable privacy statute, 47 U.S.C. 551, gives subscribers a private right of action. They can sue in federal district court - unless Cable One has a mandatory arbitration clause, " said Feld. "Such a clause would potentially prevent customers from filing individual complaints against Cable One at the FCC as well, but it would not prevent the FCC from initiating its own enforcement action."

None of the telecom sector lawyers had seen previous examples where a cable company offered lower-quality support to low-income customers. Then again, most cable executives probably realize it's not something they want to brag too much about, so the practice may not be limited to Cable ONE.

Legal or not, Cable ONE makes it clear that companies are getting better and better at using a range of collected data to identify lower-income and credit-troubled customers (often born into such circumstances by no fault of their own), then doing their best to spend less time aiding them, if they serve them at all.

"What we found is that through lifestyle and billing analysis, we could start to pinpoint where churn and bad debt was coming from, and credit scoring started to be a really good test, " Might said of the company's system.

On a more positive note, given the cable industry's abysmal customer service reputation overall, providing marginally worse service to some customers might not even be noticeable in the first place.
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