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Oceanic Time Warner Cable hit for poor customer support

January 27th, 2013 · 44 Comments

Longtime Maui activist Sally Raisbeck took to Facebook to describe her recent brush with Oceanic Cable’s customer service. You have to wonder whether this level of customer service meets the company’s obligation to consumers under their franchise agreement with the State of Hawaii.

Yesterday I found the TCM channel could not be accessed on my TV. I tried to call Time Warner customer service. They told me I could wait or I would be called back in one hour seven minutes if I left my number. I left my number and yes, they called me well over an hour later. I encountered a decision tree and eventually got a human being. I explained my problem and she transferred me to “technical service”, this time no call-back option.

I waited again over an hour on hold. So I decided to try their website and sent a message.

While I was waiting on the phone, I looked to see if they had a Facebook page. While I waited I amused myself by commenting on each of their posts that “Your customer service is unbelievably bad. If you weren’t a monopoly I would never subscribe to you. WHAT HAPPENED TO TCM?” I posted this comment on each of about 20 of their posts, then I got a message from Facebook that I was being accused of spamming, and was therefore locked out from commenting.

Boy, does Time Warner ever suck! I guess I have to investigate the Dish people. Damn, and I have to go to Hawaiian Tel for phone and internet too. Damn.

I would suggest several related actions. First, Sally should complain in writing directly to Oceanic. Then send a copy, with a cover letter, to Senator Roz Baker, who represents much of Maui and also chairs the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee. Suggest that Baker follow up with Oceanic regarding their obviously under-resourced customer service. Then send the same complaint to the Cable Television Division of the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs, along with copies to DCCA Director Kealii Lopez.

Then sit back for a bit and see what happens.

Any other suggestions for Sally?

In the meantime, if anyone from Oceanic happens to be reading this, you might want to contact Sally Raisbeck directly.

Tags: Consumer issues · Politics

44 responses so far ↓

  • 1 bob jones // Jan 27, 2013 at 9:03 am

    Shift to DirectTV. $30 a month for 140 channels. Then bundle your phone and internet at Hawaiian Tel … also $30 a month for life.

  • 2 tim // Jan 27, 2013 at 9:26 am

    “In the meantime, if anyone from Oceanic happens to be reading this, you might want to contact Sally Raisbeck directly.”

    Unfortunately, Sally is NOT alone in dealing with Oceanic’s rotten customer service, which is no surprise from a company with this much market control.

    My suggestion is that people in Hawaii do the following to deal with this and many other ridiculous problems in the islands that only come to the forefront when a disaster finally strikes: Get Together as a Group and Stand up for Yourselves —– don’t accept $hit like it is and tell people who don’t like things in Hawaii to just move elsewhere!

    Hawaii’s long-time approach of don’t-complain-about-problems-just-whine-when-they-cause-an-expensive-public-disaster needs to be tied to concrete and dumped into Kaneohe Bay. We need to stand up for ourselves. Unless, of course, we really want to keep things this way.

    (BTW, thank you very much, Ian, for bringing this person’s problems with Time Warner to everyone’s attention online. You do excellent work and you deserve more thanks for helping people. We don’t give you enough kudos.)

  • 3 Jim Loomis // Jan 27, 2013 at 9:40 am

    I, too, recommend switching to DirecTV. I did several years back and have had no complaints. On two or three occasions I’ve had reason to contact their customer service people and each time they handled the issue quickly and courteously.

  • 4 sy // Jan 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I wonder if Oceanic employees are under a lot of time-productivity pressure? From the installers to counter clerks to phone/email customer service… all seem to be racing to keep up or keep their jobs or maybe they get paid by the “piece” or customer served.

  • 5 cwd // Jan 27, 2013 at 10:43 am

    We purchased a new tv set last fall and signed up for Oceanic Time-Warner’s digital service.

    We are now on our fourth DVR box – they are refurbished somewhere on the continent and shipped over here. Being able to use a brand new box is not an option here in Hawai`i.

    I record all my shows – including sporting events – because I am rarely back at home before 11 pm. I also do NOT like having to sit through a ton of advertisements. That’s why a functioning DVR is so important.

  • 6 Hugh Clark // Jan 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

    This outfit also is unwilling or unable to respond to written comments or inquiries. Service is irregular and outages go unexplained or flat lied about, be it on Super Tuesday voting or Super Bowl.

    If you are lucky enough to get a live response, it is on Oahu here they have little sense of N-Isle geography. They once confused my Palani Street home in Hilo with Palani Road in Kailua-Kona — about 100 miles distant.

    I would switch to D TV in flicker of an eye if I could find number for it that someone would answer.

    Obviously, state consumer protector has its phone off the hook, too. We were far better served when little Comtec provided BI service under Richard Henderson’s ownership. Bigger sure ain’t better.

  • 7 palolololo // Jan 27, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I worked at Oceanic in the repair department for 5 years. Worst job I ever had,far and away.Everybody there is miserable with micro-management everywhere.
    I love Directv, and also bundle phone and internet with Hawtel. Much cheaper and much more reliable. And they answer their phones. Novel concept,that.

  • 8 rlb_hawaii // Jan 27, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Try the chat function on Oceanic Time Warner’s website: http://www.oceanic.com/help

    I get an immediate response whenever I use the chat function.

  • 9 jbkinhawi // Jan 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I, too, am NOT a fan of Oceanic. Their whole methodology is to get as much cash out of their customers with the least amount of effort on their part.

    Here on the Big Island they have been making channels disappear from their analogue service then telling you it can only be found on one of their higher-priced lineups that require a “free” converter box which costs you in due time. The latest example of this is the CNBC channel — one that is pretty important to anyone with a 401-k.

    It’s all part of an effort to get customers to upgrade to more expensive packages. And what is infuriating is that they just switch channels around with no warning or explanation. Yes, I’d go to Direct TV if I didn’t have a bunch of very nice trees between my house and the line of sight to the satellite. I ain’t cutting down perfectly good trees because of these idiots! But I do take my internet and phone services from HTC — a lot more reliable on both counts.

  • 10 tim // Jan 27, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Unfortunately, DirecTV does NOT have an Internet/TV package in Hawaii. You can only get TV from them in Hawaii, and you have to go elsewhere for Internet, which is basically Time Warner. Hence, the near-monopoly continues until DirecTV does Internet AND TV.

    Again, Hawaii citizens need to Group Up and Stand Up. Otherwise, you can forget about change being on the front burner.

  • 11 tim // Jan 27, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    yes, HawTel does have a phone/Internet package, but land-line home phones are on the same path as news on paper: slow death.

  • 12 tim // Jan 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    final post:
    Haw Tel’s Yelp ratings?

    two out of five stars.
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/hawaiian-telcom-honolulu

    enough already, Hawaii.

  • 13 Craig // Jan 27, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Hugh: The customer service reps might not actually be on Oahu. I recently called Oceanic late at night and while speaking to the rep I found out that he was in the Philippines. I wondered how Oceanic was able to take live calls 24/7.

  • 14 Wailau // Jan 27, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    The moral character required to handle a monopoly without disadvantaging customers is sadly lacking at Oceanic (and Young Brothers). My main complaint with Oceanic regards bundling. Why do I have to accept an enormous package just to get the few stations that I want? And for internet service, Hawaiian Tel offers no choice. There’s a reason why they offer $30.00 a month for life; they won’t live long.

  • 15 palolololo // Jan 27, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    They used to be live and local 24-7. Wonder when they changed that?

  • 16 hipoli // Jan 27, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    You want to know what really drives me bonkers? They don’t keep records! So, one repair guy comes – does something – but there’s absolutely no customer maintenance records-so the next guy has no idea what the previous guy did! They depend on the customer to explain why the previous guy took out a cable or a change where he did. Do I look like I know anything about this?? They are the experts. That’s why I pay them the ridiculous amount I do every month. When I once asked why they don’t have a records process – they cable guy said ‘that would be too hard because the customer changes’. Someone explain how they get away with not maintaining customer records??

  • 17 wlsc // Jan 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    No TV but we had Oceanic internet for years. Fired them after they snuck in a “rental” fee for the modem we’d already had for over 3 years & bundled internet with our HawaiianTel landline. So far so good. It’s possible that the quality of Hawaiian Tel’s internet may be affected by one’s distance from the substation – the farther away, the worse the service.

  • 18 aikea808 // Jan 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    No idea on the TV thing – I don’t watch it. But I do have HTel landline & DSL. Love ‘em both. I’m online when RR etc. is off due to power loss, etc. Just power my DSL modem w/a battery UPS & continue on my laptop.

    However – posting the same post over & over again is ‘spamming’ more or less. I’m sure whoever was moderating ‘got it’ after the first two posts. Got what she deserved in that respect, sorry.

  • 19 compare and decide // Jan 27, 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Is television doomed?

    http://www.businessinsider.com/for-whom-the-bell-tolls-it-tolls-for-tv-2012-10

    It would be interesting to correlate local television viewing habits with local daily newspaper subscriptions. The latter seem to be 1) senior citizens, 2) working-class sports fans and 3) wealthy people locked into old habits of subscribing without actually reading the paper. This seems at first glance the same demographics of television viewing.

  • 20 johnp // Jan 28, 2013 at 6:49 am

    TNT HD has not worked for more than a year now on Oceanic. Last year they said they know of the problem and engineers are working on it. I have not called this year. The only reason I know is because I wanted to watch the NBA playoffs in HD. Other than live sports I don’t watch much TV at all.

  • 21 Reader // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:52 am

    I also have trees but gave back my Oceanic box and now get only the local channels for approx $16.00 per month.

  • 22 Oceanic Ed // Jan 28, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Aloha All. I apologize for the issues some of you have been facing. I would love to be of personal assistance to anyone reading this post on Mr. Lind’s blog. Please DM me on Facebook either via our Oceanic Time Warner Cable Facebook page or to my personal profile: https://www.facebook.com/OceanicCable or https://www.facebook.com/OceanicEd and I will try my best to help get all of your issues resolved. Please do not reply to me here on the blog as I would hate to miss it.

    Mahalo Mr. Lind for creating this forum to give me a head’s up of what’s going with your readership.

  • 23 Cici // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    I have also spoken to Oceanic tech support (for internet) that was clearly in the Phillipines.

  • 24 Cici // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I was infuriated by that modem lease fee that showed up on my bill in November I think it was. They had tried to raise my cable bill on 3 separate occasions over the previous several months. Each time I called and told them I would be downgrading my service or changing providers and they removed the extra charge, but they wouldn’t budge on the modem lease. In fact the supervisor I spoke to was very rude about it, and implied I was trying to get something for nothing when I mentioned that I could watch just about any show they carried online for free.

    That something for nothing I was getting was a 7 year old cable modem that was so outdated they couldn’t have even put it back out in service if I had returned it. It still worked so I had been keeping it, but the bottom line is that I had already paid for that modem many times over in my monthly charges. They should have gifted the thing to me rather than trying to charge me to lease it 7 years later.

    I ended up buying my own modem and returning the leased one to get the charge removed from the bill, which is allowed. I would love to make a change, but there is no way in hell I would switch to Hawaiian Telcom for internet because their customer service is worse by far than Oceanics. I really wish we had more choices.

  • 25 Cici // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    I think so. I’m sure one of the reasons Oceanic added the monthly modem lease fee was because they were losing many cable TV customers to online streaming, and they’re trying to make up for the loss of income on the backs of internet users.

  • 26 Cici // Jan 28, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Not everyone wants to have a Facebook account, Ed, and shouldn’t have to in order to receive decent service. I have a hunch you will be checking back here, because you know Ian’s blog is influential in Hawaii, but if not, you should.

  • 27 Ian Lind // Jan 28, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Say more, please.

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who would like to know where you bought the modem and whether there were any problems making the switch to your own equipment.

  • 28 zzzzzz // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    If that were the case, then they wouldn’t have hit their TV customers with the charge.

    They just wanted to increase their income.

  • 29 zzzzzz // Jan 28, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I think they have an url on the bill for a website that has a list of ‘acceptable’ modems you are allowed to connect to their system.

    The prices range from about $50 to $150. Since the modem charge is ~$4/month, it seems like a better deal to buy the modem. But I read the reviews on a few of the lower priced modems, and they all had quite a few comments about the modems not lasting very long. Interestingly, the modem Oceanic provided me, and which has lasted me many years already, is not on the list, nor do they provide the option to buy that modem, unlike what ATT did when they stopped requiring us to rent their phones.

  • 30 tim // Jan 28, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I agree with Cici. At the very least, please provide a *useful* email address here. Mahalo!

  • 31 Rob // Jan 28, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    http://www.timewarnercable.com/en/residential-home/support/topics/internet/buy-your-modem.html

    Ian, here’s the link. I just bought one tonight. I’d say for those that can deal with reading a manual and setting these things up on their own it makes a lot of sense. Probably the main drawback IMO is if you run into trouble can easily say heh that’s not ours! Which they will. But these things are very stable (we are going on year 5 or 6 with never an issue on the old model) so seems pretty low risk to me.

  • 32 CiCi // Jan 29, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Rob’s link has the info on which modems are allowed. I bought mine used on eBay for $20 and it is as good as new. Then you just call Oceanic and they will activate it for you. There was no hassle at all with part of it.

  • 33 Oceanic Ed // Jan 29, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Aloha Cici & tim. I manage our social media so unfortunately, these would be the only ways to contact me directly. To contact Care directly, you can call 643-2100, visit one of our Customer Care Centers (http://www.oceanic.com/help/about_your_bill/ccc ) or do as @rlb_hawaii mentioned above and try a chat session (http://bit.ly/otwcchat ).

    Mr. Lind, if you are in contact with Sally Raisbeck, please let her know that I replied to her thread yesterday (Re: TCM), but have not heard back from her yet. Mahalo!

  • 34 mel // Jan 29, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    My simple advice – “Cut the Cord”. Been happy without Oceanic cable and their $63 monthly bill for basic cable with channels that I did not watch. It’s been 2 years now, and I am internet only.

  • 35 Resiliant // Jan 31, 2013 at 10:48 am

    No company should have a “franchise”/lock on such a service. Let’s get a class action lawsuit together.

  • 36 compare and decide // Jan 31, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    If the Internet makes television obsolete, it would be yet another classic example of ‘disruptive innovation’.

    Disruptive innovation helps to explain how so many successful, sophisticated technologies and projects are doomed.

    Disruptive innovation is also deeply challenging to cherished notions of ‘progress’.

    But perhaps most importantly … disruptive innovation suggests what kind of cell phone we should buy!

    From the wiki on ‘disruptive innovation’:

    A disruptive innovation is an innovation that helps create a new market and value network, and eventually goes on to disrupt an existing market and value network (over a few years or decades), displacing an earlier technology. The term is used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improve a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically first by designing for a different set of consumers in the new market and later by lowering prices in the existing market.

    Disruptive innovation stands in contrast to ‘sustaining innovation’, which is the improvement of the current technology, whether this improvement is evolutionary or revolutionary. Confusing these two forms of innovation is a common mistake; in fact, if you google ‘disruptive innovation’, most of the examples given are of sustaining innovation (same old technology, only bigger and faster).

    In contrast to disruptive innovation, a sustaining innovation does not create new markets or value networks but rather only evolves existing ones with better value, allowing the firms within to compete against each other’s sustaining improvements. Sustaining innovations may be either “discontinuous” (i.e. “transformational” or “revolutionary”) or “continuous” (i.e. “evolutionary”).

    Another common mistake in terms of disruption is confusing innovation with technology. It’s not a particular technology that matters, it is how it is used.

    The term “disruptive technology” has been widely used as a synonym of “disruptive innovation”, but the latter is now preferred, because market disruption has been found to be a function usually not of technology itself but rather of its changing application. Sustaining innovations are typically innovations in technology, whereas disruptive innovations change entire markets. For example, the automobile was a revolutionary technological innovation, but it was not a disruptive innovation, because early automobiles were expensive luxury items that did not disrupt the market for horse-drawn vehicles. The market for transportation essentially remained intact until the debut of the lower priced Ford Model T in 1908. The mass-produced automobile was a disruptive innovation, because it changed the transportation market. The automobile, by itself, was not.

    The term disruptive technologies was coined by Clayton M. Christensen and introduced in his 1995 article Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave, which he co-wrote with Joseph Bower. The article is aimed at managing executives who make the funding/purchasing decisions in companies rather than the research community. He describes the term further in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma. Innovator’s Dilemma explored the cases of the disk drive industry (which, with its rapid generational change, is to the study of business what fruit flies are to the study of genetics, as Christensen was advised in the 1990s) and the excavating equipment industry (where hydraulic actuation slowly displaced cable-actuated movement). In his sequel with Michael E Raynor, The Innovator’s Solution Christensen replaced the term disruptive technology with disruptive innovation because he recognized that few technologies are intrinsically disruptive or sustaining in character; rather, it is the business model that the technology enables that creates the disruptive impact. However, Christensen’s evolution from a technological focus to a business modelling focus is central to understanding the evolution of business at the market or industry level. Christensen and Mark W. Johnson described the dynamics of “business model innovation” in the 2008 Harvard Business Review article “Reinventing Your Business Model”. The concept of disruptive technology continues a long tradition of the identification of radical technical change in the study of innovation by economists, and the development of tools for its management at a firm or policy level.

    In keeping with the insight that what matters economically is the business model, not the technological sophistication itself, Christensen’s theory explains why many disruptive innovations are not “advanced technologies”, which the technology mudslide hypothesis would lead one to expect. Rather, they are often novel combinations of existing off-the-shelf components, applied cleverly to a small, fledgling value network.

    “Generally, disruptive innovations were technologically straightforward, consisting of off-the-shelf components put together in a product architecture that was often simpler than prior approaches. They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream.”

    The single biggest error in terms of innovation is the myth that businesses decline because they fail to keep up in terms of technological sophistication. Rather, the technology that eventually kills their market is often something marginal, cheap and crude that does not at first seem to pose an apparent threat. Businesses stubbornly and mistakenly tend to see the sophisticated sustaining innovation that their major competitors produce as the real threat.

    The current theoretical understanding of disruptive innovation is different from what might be expected by default, an idea that Clayton M. Christensen called the “technology mudslide hypothesis”. This is the simplistic idea that an established firm fails because it doesn’t “keep up technologically” with other firms. In this hypothesis, firms are like climbers scrambling upward on crumbling footing, where it takes constant upward-climbing effort just to stay still, and any break from the effort (such as complacency born of profitability) causes a rapid downhill slide. Christensen and colleagues have shown that this simplistic hypothesis is wrong; it doesn’t model reality. What they have shown is that good firms are usually aware of the innovations, but their business environment does not allow them to pursue them when they first arise, because they are not profitable enough at first and because their development can take scarce resources away from that of sustaining innovations (which are needed to compete against current competition). In Christensen’s terms, a firm’s existing value networks place insufficient value on the disruptive innovation to allow its pursuit by that firm. Meanwhile, start-up firms inhabit different value networks, at least until the day that their disruptive innovation is able to invade the older value network. At that time, the established firm in that network can at best only fend off the market share attack with a me-too entry, for which survival (not thriving) is the only reward.

    The work of Christensen and others during the 2000s has addressed the question of what firms can do to avoid oblivion brought on by technological disruption.

    There are a plethora of examples. Christensen began his research studying the floppy disk.

    The floppy disk drive market has had unusually large changes in market share over the past fifty years. According to Clayton M. Christensen’s research, the cause of this instability was a repeating pattern of disruptive innovations. For example, in 1981, the old 8 inch drives (used in mini computers) were “vastly superior” to the new 5.25 inch drives (used in desktop computers). However, 8 inch drives were not affordable for the new desktop machines. The simple 5.25 inch drive, assembled from technologically inferior “off-the-shelf” components, was an “innovation” only in the sense that it was new. However, as this market grew and the drives improved, the companies that manufactured them eventually triumphed while many of the existing manufacturers of eight inch drives fell behind.

    Another example was hydraulic excavators, which were initially inferior to but more convenient than the cable-operated excavators that they later replaced. Likewise, inferior mini-steel mills came to replace vertically integrated steel mills. Also, inferior mini-computers replaced mainframes, and were in turn replaced by inferior personal computers, which were replaced by laptops, which were displaced by tablets, etc., etc. Inferior cell phone cameras replaced digital cameras, which had themselves replaced superior film cameras. Cheap transistor radios replaced the superior vacuum-tube radios. LEDs, once very expensive and poor quality, are replacing fluorescent bulbs, which have replaced less expensive yet superior light bulbs. The once-inferior LCD has replaced the cathode-ray tube computer monitor. Wikipedia (where I am getting all this) killed Microsoft’s Encarta in 2005 and killed the revered Encyclopedia Britannica in 2012.

    Once an inferior but convenient technology gains a foothold in a niche of the broader market, its share grows as its quality improves over time. For example, often the new technology is geographically constrained and poses no real competition to the status quo at first, but as its quality improves so does its range. This is how the locally-used telephone later overcame the long-distance telegraph, and the locally-used automobile later overcame the long-distance rail system.

    To be fair, it’s extremely difficult for decision makers to see that The Next Big Thing is actually today’s little, inferior thing.

    Disruptive technologies are not always disruptive to customers, and often take a long time before they are significantly disruptive to established companies. They are often difficult to recognize. Indeed, as Christensen points out and studies have shown, it is often entirely rational for incumbent companies to ignore disruptive innovations, since they compare so badly with existing technologies or products, and the deceptively small market available for a disruptive innovation is often very small compared to the market for the established technology.

    Even if a disruptive innovation is recognized, existing businesses are often reluctant to take advantage of it, since it would involve competing with their existing (and more profitable) technological approach. Christensen recommends that existing firms watch for these innovations, invest in small firms that might adopt these innovations, and continue to push technological demands in their core market so that performance stays above what disruptive technologies can achieve.

    So how would one identify an emerging disruptive innovation?

    Let’s look at smartphones.

    The smart phone is the exception that proves the rule. The smart phone may seem like a souped-up cell phone, and therefore an example of sustaining evolution. And, to some degree, this is what it is. But it is also a relatively inexpensive and rather crude computer, making it a classic example of disruptive innovation. So a technology (smart phones) can simultaneously be a sustaining innovation in its own field (cell phones) but a fatally disruptive innovation to other industries (desktop and even laptop computers).

    The smart phone eats the market for laptops, which ate PCs, which ate mini-computers, which ate mainframes….

    So what device might replace smart phones like the iPhone or the Samsung Galaxy?

    That might be an MP3 player, like the iPod Touch or the Samsung Galaxy Player, wired for speech and operating over municipal-wide Wi-Fi, or over a cheap municipal wireless network (or better, an even cheaper wireless community network).

    Here is a kind of hybrid, Republic Wireless’s phone plan that combines G3 and WiFi.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/27/business/republic-wirelesss-plan-melds-wi-fi-and-network-calling.html

    AN Android smartphone with unlimited calls, unlimited texting, unlimited data and no contract, all for $19 a month? Really?

    When I first saw this offer fromRepublic Wireless, I rubbed my eyes and looked for an asterisk leading to fine print that detailed a huge catch. But Republic, a division of a telecom company called Bandwidth.com, delivers exactly what it advertises. It can do so because the handset technology is a curious hybrid: it uses Wi-Fi when the customer is in a Wi-Fi area and Sprint Nextel’s 3G network when it is not.

    The concept brings together the best of two worlds: the low cost of voice calls carried over the Internet and the convenience of making calls to any phone number using a major carrier’s cellular network when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

    In my own case, on a typical day, I use my mobile phone mostly when I’m not actually mobile: I’m either at home or at work, perfectly positioned to use Wi-Fi at both locations. And I don’t even use the phone as a phone all that much. I use it mainly for e-mail and texts, neither of which requires enough bandwidth to benefit from the power of the fastest data networks.

    If you walk into a Verizon Wireless store and buy an iPhone 5, you’ll pay $60 or more a month for an unlimited talk and texting plan, depending on the data allocation for Internet use that you select to go with it. Some of that monthly charge goes toward repaying the carrier for the discounted price that makes a $649 iPhone seem as if it costs only $200. But most of the charge is for gaining access to the carrier’s wireless network.

    “We were looking at a mobile industry that had begun to charge extraordinary amounts of money, and we saw an industry opportunity that everybody else was missing: Wi-Fi is the new mobile,” says David Morken, co-founder and chief executive of Bandwidth, based in Raleigh, N.C.

    Smartphone apps that offer voice calls using data plans, not minutes allocated for calls, are plentiful. Just last month, Facebook quietly added an option that lets users of the iPhone version of Facebook Messenger place free voice calls to other Messenger users. But using those apps to make a call means the recipient has to run the same app, an irksome requirement that never comes up when using phones alone.

    Republic buys access to Sprint’s network on a wholesale basis for calls made outside of Wi-Fi areas. Its business model assumes, however, that Wi-Fi carries the load a majority of the time its phones are used. The company says that its service, even at $19 a month, is a profitable operation on a per-customer basis.

    “We don’t have to force people, or even ask people, how to behave,” Mr. Morken says. “Over 60 percent of the time that the phone is being used, on average, our users are using Wi-Fi and that number is only going up.”

    This phone is still a very imperfect technology. (For example, when one exits a WiFi area, the phone temporarily shuts off until you press a button to turn on the G3, although a fix has been found.) But that imperfection – along with cheapness – is a hallmark of disruptive innovation.

    Here’s the critical reaction to the phone by a major cellular provider, Sprint:

    Matt Carter, president of the Global Wholesale and Emerging Solutions division at Sprint, asserted that the company was happy to serve as Republic’s supplier. When I asked whether Republic’s Wi-Fi-centric model, with its drastically lower price to the consumer, would pose a serious threat to the incumbent carriers, including Sprint, he said, “If the world operated based on just economic decisions, people wouldn’t go buy the most expensive cars on the planet, right?”

    Mr. Carter listed reasons that most consumers would prefer the wireless service obtained directly from a major carrier: a wider range of devices and the convenience of placing a call without having to tinker with Wi-Fi setup.

    Republic “will resonate with a sliver of the marketplace,” Mr. Carter said. He compared wireless carriers to the major airline carriers, which still control a majority of the market despite low-priced upstarts like JetBlue or Southwest, which he described as appealing only to “a certain segment of the population.”

    Famous last words. That’s what they always say.

    What would the exact opposite of innovative disruption be?

    That could be Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. It is classic sustaining innovation gone wrong: The same old thing, only super-big, super-sophisticated and super-expensive (and super-dubious).

    (Not just business executives, but technology journalists seem to be stuck in the mode of sustaining innovation. In the latest Wired Magazine there is an article, “7 Massive Ideas That Can Change the World”. The first idea is “Make airplanes rechargeable”. Some folks just don’t get it.)

    If there is an analogy to be found in the natural world to disruptive innovation in the economy, it might be the demise of the dinosaurs. Small mammals were in comparison to dinosaurs much less efficient because, in order to maintain a constant body temperature, mammals had to constantly be on the search for food, expending calories in the process as well as making themselves vulnerable to predators. However, as the earth cooled millions of years ago, and cold-blooded dinosaurs began to evolve to become bigger and bigger in order to retain body heat, dinosaurs lost their competitive advantage of a more efficient metabolism.

    In fact, the idea of disruptive evolution extends into the economic realm a kind of disillusionment with the idea of progress that really exploded into the modern world with Darwin’s theory of evolution. That theory destroyed the notion that there was a ‘great chain of being’ that extended from the ‘lowest’ animals up to the ‘highest’ (humans). Indeed, Darwin has been misinterpreted in a way, in terms of the idea of the ‘survival of the fittest’: ‘natural selection’ does not mean that fitness determines survival; rather, it means that whatever random traits that happen to promote survival in a particular situation will determine what ‘fitness’ consists of. There is no necessary progress from primitive to sophisticated organisms. Evolution is fundamentally blind.

    This Darwinian theory also undermined an even deeper religious view that there was some ultimate goal of salvation toward which we progress, whether it was individual salvation (Christianity) or national salvation (Judaism). In the political realm, it was the two world wars and the Holocaust that undermined Europeans’ belief in progress as ‘civilization’, that societies progress from a primitive and then later barbaric state toward rational enlightenment. (This also undermined the rationale for colonialism, which was to bring civilization to the world. In fact, colonialism began to look barbaric.) In the US, intellectuals likewise grew disillusioned with the idea of progress at this time, but in popular American culture this was masked over because the world wars corresponded with a period of growth of American economic and political power. Disillusionment with the idea of progress did not really happen in the US at the popular level until the Vietnam war and later with the hollowing out of the economy. Indeed, in the economic realm, although Americans are just as materialistic as they have ever been, the notion of personal wealth as a sign of personal progress in the world (a very Protestant idea) is now a thing of the past. Americans are still avid consumers, but the idea that owning a giant house and giant car means that you are advancing in life is now widely seen as a sorry myth. (Sometimes a big truck is just a big truck.)

    The last bastion of the idea of progress in the popular imagination is really technology. Ordinary people often seem to invest so much emotion into technology as a sign of ‘progress’ and virtue that it is almost a kind of secular religion (hence the near canonization of Steve Jobs after his death). But the idea of disruptive innovation undermines this sense of natural progress. So-called ‘progress’ only happens within a certain framework or paradigm, but those frameworks are eventually overthrown by something alien and unexpected. There might be technological ‘progression’ in terms of constant change, but there is no real progress in terms of a straight line toward a fixed goal. Evolution is blind. Life is random. Think different.

  • 37 tom8 // Jan 31, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    hate them–feel sad for the employees.

  • 38 Oceanicrip-off // Apr 12, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    We haven’t gotten all the channels we should be getting for 9 months. They blame it on the communication to the boxes or should I say lack of. They won’t give you any refund unless you are extremely persistent and it takes months to get it.
    As long as customers put up with this, it isn’t going to change. We definitely need a class action lawsuit. Anyone know a good lawyer???

  • 39 Ray // May 25, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I totally agree.
    I have suffered through a year of lost channels, no signal, recordings being lost…the list is endless. And the idiots at Oceanic just blame the equipment!!!!!
    If anyone wishes to start a law suit i would add my name in a second.

  • 40 Ray // May 25, 2013 at 11:05 am

    I have just tried to post a complaint on the Oceanic Facebook page but it gets deleted every time!!!!!

  • 41 Ray // May 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Ed…are you aware that no one can post on your facebook page any more? What’s up…can’t stand the heat?

  • 42 Richard // Jun 21, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I have oceanic for phone and internet. It sucks. I swear I lose my internet connection every 10 minutes. Sometimes its out for 5 minutes. Sometimes its out the whole night. Same for landline phone.

  • 43 David // Aug 29, 2013 at 3:02 am

    I’ve had enough. It all started with the diminishing channels. Then they got rid of showtime, Gave stars to people in lieu of credit, which doesn’t work for me, I already pay for stars, and apparently I’m not eligible to get it free skin e I pay for it. But most aggravating was the modem lease fee starting. When I started service I had my own modem of bought shortly prior to my pcs. They told me I couldn’t use it here. But they were providing me with free equipment, ok I suppose. I tossed the $300 multinand docsos 3 modem in the trash. They bring a dinosaur that doesn’t even have wifi, Go buy $200 wifi router. Now I have a router and a docsys2.0 dinosaur that I’m paying monthly for ,seriously!
    As for the cable tv. I am cjnoetitikn to direct this week!

  • 44 Suki Halevi // Sep 10, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Oceanic Time Warner Cable has applied for a renewal of its Maui County franchises. There will be public hearings soon. This would be an excellent time to voice any continuing complaints and concerns. If you would like to know more about the hearings, please contact Suki at Akaku: Maui Community Television, 871-5554.

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