updated….April 26, 1999

Visit Judy Sammel’s Homepage: www.pobox.com/~sammel

I’ve just been through a
truly bizarre experience with Comcast@home, and I thought the assembled
readership might be interested in hearing about it.


Chapter 1: In Which I Learn About the Various Divisions of the District
Court of the State of Maryland

Thursday, November 19, 1998:
It’s an ordinary day. I get home from work, picking up the mail as I walk toward
my house.  I notice that the return address on one of the letters is the
District Court of the State of Maryland. As I walk up the front steps, I think,
“I just did jury duty last year; they can’t be asking me to serve again so soon,
can they?”  After I settle in at home, I open the letter and read, “You
have been summoned to appear as a defendant in a trial…”   My first
thought is that someone is suing me for something, but then I see at the top of
the page ‘State of Maryland vs. Sammel, Judith Lynne’, and realize that this
isn’t a person suing me.  My second thought is that I’ve
gotten a parking ticket that blew off of my windshield and has gone unpaid, or
maybe a speeding ticket from the traffic cameras I’ve heard about.  It’s
too late to call the Court to see what the case is about, so I have to wait
until the next day.

The next morning,  I call the telephone number that’s printed on the
letter, and a recording says something like “press 1 for Civil Division, 2 for
Traffic Division, 3 for Criminal Division, 4 for information about specific
cases,” etc.  I choose the option for information about specific cases, and
the person who answers the phone asks me to read her the case number. 
After I read it, I hear her say, “Just a minute.  Let me transfer you to
the Criminal Division.”

“Whaaaaaaaaat?” I ask, but it’s too late.  I’m on hold.

Someone else picks up the phone, and again I read the case number and ask
what the case is about.

“Cable fraud, ” she replies.


Chapter 2: In Which Comcast Cablevision’s Administrative Offices in
Baltimore are Informed that “At Home” is More Than Just “A Place They’d Rather
Be Than At The Office”

Unfortunately, I think I know what the problem
is.  I had signed up for Comcast@home cable modem service last March, but
had not signed up for cable TV service.  (Last time I checked, this was
legal.  In fact, it is mentioned specifically as a service in the FAQ list
on @home’s web site.)  But, when they came to install my @home service,
they had neglected to install the filter (they call it a video trap) to filter
out the video signal  from reaching my home.  (I live in a townhouse
community, and there is a “pedestal” containing cable connections for several
houses–this is a few houses away from mine.)  The installers had told me
that they would return to install the video trap, and that I could enjoy cable
TV service until they came back to do so–they said I should consider it an
incentive to sign up for the service.  Well, they never came back to
install the video trap.

Then, in early June, my @home service stopped working.  I made several
calls to Comcast Cablevision and Comcast@home customer service.  Each
claimed that it was the responsibility of the other to determine what the
problem was, and fix it.  During my conversations with Comcast Cablevision
and Comcast@home, I told them both that nobody had come back to install the
video trap.  Finally, Comcast@home agreed to come out and see what the
problem was.  I told them that they should bring a video trap with them
when they came to repair the service.  Because of their schedule and my
vacation schedule, they didn’t come out to repair the service until late
June.  The repair technician, when he arrived, said that the reason that my
@home service stopped working was that someone had disconnected the cable in the
cable “pedestal” on my street.  He said that it was likely that Comcast
Cablevision personnel had done this, not realizing that I had Comcast@home
service. When he’d reconnected my service,  I asked him about the
installation of the video trap.  He said he hadn’t brought one with him,
but would take care of it later.  Again, nobody came back to install the
device.

So, after I receive this letter from the District Court, I figure that
Comcast Cablevision has been out to my neighborhood and has seen that I was
connected up again (and again not realized that I had Comcast@home cable modem
service.)  I call the administrative offices of Comcast Cablevision here in
Baltimore, and explain the situation.  They say that they will have
Comcast’s attorneys call me to discuss it.  I also make the suggestion that
they come out and install a video trap on my line so that this won’t happen
again.  They assure me they will send someone out that day to do it. 
I get home fairly late that evening and find that the video trap hasn’t been
installed.  Since the Comcast administrative offices are closed by this
time, I call @home customer service. I call at 10:30 PM and remain on hold until
11:15 PM, at which time a customer service representative takes the call. When I
ask about getting a video trap placed on the line, his first response is that
Comcast, not @home, should take care of that, and I should call Comcast customer
service.  I explain to him that, based on my prior experience with Comcast
customer service, if I call them, the following situation will likely occur:

  • the Comcast customer service representative will ask for my Comcast
    account number
  • I will reply that I have none, since I am only a Comcast@home customer,
    not a Comcast cable TV customer
  • the service representative will tell me they can’t do anything for me, and
    I will have to call @home customer service

He then agrees to talk to
his supervisor.  He returns to the line to tell me that he will place a
work order for a video trap to be placed on the line.


Chapter 3: In Which I Wait Not-So-Patiently for Comcast’s Attorney to
Call,  and for the Video Trap to be Installed

Saturday, November
21, 1998:
After I place two calls to their offices, Comcast’s attorney
who is assigned to my case returns my call to assure me that the criminal
charges will be dropped. I mention that the video trap wasn’t installed the
previous day.

Sunday, November 22, 1998: As of  Sunday morning, neither
Comcast nor @home has arrived to place a video trap on the line.  I call
Comcast customer service to ask about the status of this, and am initially told
that since I am not a Comcast cable TV customer, I have to call @home to resolve
any problems.  I explain that the situation is related to criminal charges
that Comcast has filed against me, and ask the account executive to try to find
a way to assist me from her location.   She asks for my name and
address.  I give it to her, and she comes back on the line after a few
moments and says that the only name she has listed at that address is that of
former occupants of my home (from1989-1992).  I explain again that I am not
a Comcast cable TV customer, but only a Comcast@home customer, so there would
likely not be a record of my name, unless she has records of Comcast@home
customers as well as Comcast cable TV customers.  She again asks me to hold
the line.  When she returns, she says that she has checked into the
situation with @home, and has found out that the video trap was not placed on
the line because the part is out of stock.  She says that when parts are
shipped, they will send an installer out to put it in.  She says that in
the meantime, I cannot be held responsible for the signal coming into my home.

Tuesday, November 24, 1998: Comcast’s attorney leaves a message
on my answering machine saying: “I withdrew…did a request to withdraw those
charging documents” .    I will soon find out the hard way that
the “withdrew…did a request to withdraw” wording actually means
something–Comcast doesn’t have the ability to get criminal charges dropped on
their own, even though they’re the ones who got the court to file them in the
first place.  Once the charges are “in the system”, Comcast can only
request that this be done.


Chapter 4: In Which A Police Officer Serves Me With  A Criminal Summons
in Front of an Out-of-Town Houseguest on the Eve of
Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 1998: A uniformed police
officer drives up to my house in his police cruiser and delivers the summons to
me; it shows 4 counts of cable fraud, with the possibility of 6 months in jail
on each count.  I had always wondered why, when someone commits what
appears to be a single crime, you hear things about being charged with “10
counts” of something-or-other. In my case, Comcast’s visit in June (when they
cut off my service) was 2 counts–one for cable having been fraudulently hooked
up, one for fraudulent receipt of service; and a subsequent visit they made in
July, during which they saw that service had been reconnected, was again 2
counts.  I try to tell the police officer what Comcast’s attorney has told
me to tell him–that the charges are being dropped, and that he should call her
to verify this–but he could care less about this–he just wants a signature on
the papers and wants to leave.  A friend of mine, who has driven up from
Virginia to spend the holiday weekend with me, is sitting nearby in my kitchen
watching this sorry event; it’s a really humiliating experience. Anyway, by the
end of the day, I find that the video trap has finally been installed on the
line.


Chapter 5:  In Which I Come to the Conclusion that Lady Justice is Not
Just Blindfolded, But Actually Blind

Monday, November 30,
1998:
  I telephone the State’s Attorney’s office to see if they
have received and processed Comcast’s request to withdraw the charges. 
They tell me that it has been received, and that the State’s Attorney’s office
has disapproved Comcast’s request.  They tell me that no reason for the
disapproval was supplied. I begin to feel like a character in a Kafka
novel.  I call Comcast’s administrative offices in Baltimore and tell them
that the State’s Attorney has denied the request to withdraw charges. 
“They can’t do that!” the employee that I speak to exclaims.  “Well,
obviously they can, because…they have,” I reply.


Chapter 6: In Which I Determine That an Excellent Way to Pique Someone’s
Curiosity is to Ask, “Do You Have any Recommendations for a Good Criminal
Defense Attorney?”

No chapter here, but it’s too good of a title to pass
up.  Actually, I am told by some colleagues who are attorneys that even in
a cut-and-dried case like this, I should expect to pay $750 or $1000 for an
attorney if I need to mount a defense in court.


Chapter 7: In Which I Find Out that the Attorney for Comcast Actually Does
Have a Sense of Humor

I speak with the Comcast attorney about my call to
State’s Attorney’s office. She says she was unaware that State’s Attorney has
denied the request to drop the charges, and that she will write another letter
to ensure that the situation is taken care of.  She also asks about whether
the video trap has been installed and is working correctly. I tell her that
everything is blocked except for 2 religious channels, 1 Spanish language
channel, and the video portion of E! TV.  She says something along the
lines of, “I guess the signal of the Lord manages to find its way through
somehow.”


Chapter 8:  In Which I Learn That the Cable TV Franchising Authority is
Willing to Handle Complaints About Cable TV Issues–But Only Up To a Point

A
friend of mine had suggested that I find out who the Franchising Authority for
cable television in Baltimore County is, and that I ask them to assist in the
getting the problem resolved. I find out that the Baltimore County Council is
the local Franchising Authority. On November 30, I call the County Council’s
offices and speak to an employee who is assigned to handle cable television
issues. I explain the situation; she says she will check into it. On December
1,  I speak to her again, and she says she had gotten in touch with the
Assistant to the VP at Comcast Cablevision of Baltimore, and he will call her
back with information.  On December 3, when I speak to her again, she says
that the assistant to the VP had assured her that Comcast is working on the
problem. She is satisfied with this answer, and encourages me to “call her back
to let her know when the problem’s been resolved”.  It’s nice to know that
the employees of our local elected officials are really concerned about taking
such a proactive role in ensuring that the problems of constituents are handled
effectively.


 Chapter 9:  Boy, Do I Feel Like A Criminal

Thursday,
December 3, 1998:
  One of the other Comcast  attorneys calls
me to say that the only person at the State’s Attorney’s office who can take
care of the situation is an Assistant State’s Attorney who is the Chief of the
District Court Division, and that he has been out of the office all week. 
The attorney gives me the phone number, and tells me I can try to reach him
myself.  I call the number a few times during the day, and am alternately
told that he is out of the office, or that “you’re not allowed to call the
State’s Attorney, you’re a defendant!”.  I leave a message for him, but it
is not returned.

Also,  around this time, I have a bizarre discussion with the
Comcast  attorney to try to find out why the State’s Attorney disapproved
the request to withdraw the charges.  She explains that procedurally, they
cannot withdraw the charges once the trial date has been set, and the summons
has been served.  She tells me that I should have “avoided being
served”.  I never thought I’d ever get myself into a situation where I had
to make a point of avoiding process servers. Anyway, it’s true that the trial
date had already been set (it was set on the same day Comcast applied for the
Statement of Charges, November 17, 1998).  But, the summons was not served
to me until Wednesday, November 25.  The State’s Attorney disapproved the
request for withdrawal of the charges on Tuesday, November 24, the day before I
was served.  So, either the State’s Attorney’s office doesn’t know its own
procedures, doesn’t bother to follow them, or perhaps there’s something more
nefarious going on; I’m still not sure.


Chapter 10: In Which I Get To Speak With Sandra O’Connor’s
Second-In-Command

Friday, December 4, 1998: No, not
that Sandra O’Connor.  Baltimore County has its own, local,
Sandra O’Connor.  She’s the State’s Attorney (an elected official) and I’ve
actually voted for her.  I speak with her Deputy for Operations. Since he’s
responsible for the overseeing the District Court Division, he’s the one that
the Chief of the District Court Division reports to. I explain that Comcast said
that the Chief of the District Court Division was the only one who could take
care of the situation, but that he’s been unavailable for several days.  I
ask the Deputy for Operations if he can take care of the situation in his
employee’s absence. He tells me no–that I should wait until his employee
returns on the following Monday. He tells me that there is nothing in my file to
show that Comcast has done anything related to the case since November 24, and
that, if Comcast has promised to get the charges dismissed,  I should be
“on them” to take care of it.


Chapter 11: In Which I Get to Sit and Stew About This for Another Weekend
Because the Only Person on Earth Who Can Apparently Take Care of this Situation
is Either in Training, on Vacation, or Simply Out of the Office, Depending Upon
Whom You Talk To

December 5-6, 1998: My demeanor begins to
degrade into “don’t get mad, get even” mode. I do some research on what the
elements of a case of malicious prosecution are. (And, of course, I can do all
of my research over the Internet–at cable modem speeds.)  Paraphrasing one
article that I read, the elements are:

1.  The people that you sue for
malicious prosecution have to be the one that got charges filed against you in
the first place.

2.  The case has to have been decided in your favor,
in one way or another.

3.  There has to have been a lack of probable
cause.

4.  There has to have been malice.

5.  There have to be
damages.

Although “malice” in this situation might be hard to prove, one article
published on the subject asserts that malice can be implied from a lack of
probable cause, and from inadequate investigation and research.  “Lack of
probable cause” might also be difficult to prove here, but I believe that a good
lawyer could argue that the fact that “cables have been connected and Comcast
Cablevision was not the one who connected them” is no longer acceptable as
probable cause, now that Comcast Cablevision has given @home (or its local
affiliate, Comcast Online Communications) the authority to connect them.


Chapter 12: Things Finally Start Falling Into Place

December 7,
1998:
  I leave a voice mail message for the General Counsel at
Comcast’s Corporate Headquarters in Philadelphia telling him I’m unhappy with
the way the situation is being handled, and that I’m considering filing a case
in civil court for malicious prosecution. I receive a conciliatory call back
from him, and also from one of the local Comcast attorneys telling me that the
situation is being taken care of promptly.  I finally get a call from the
Chief of the District Court Division of the State’s Attorney’s office saying
they will “nol pros” the case.  It’s great; I’m getting to learn some Latin
while I’m at it.  “Nol pros” is short for “nolle prosequi”, which is Latin
for “I will not prosecute.”   I can’t believe it’s taken over two
weeks just to get a verbal agreement from the State’s Attorney not to prosecute
a case that everyone involved clearly agrees was based on a Comcast error.

December 12, 1998: I receive a courtesy copy of a letter from
the State’s Attorney to the Judge, requesting that the trial date be moved up,
and saying that they intend to nol pros.

December 22, 1998:  I call the District Court, and find
out that the Judge has moved the trial date up to January 12, 1999, instead of
the original date, which was in March 1999.


Chapter 13:  In Which I Get an Unsolicited Letter From a Local Criminal
Defense Attorney

December 30, 1998:  I come home from
work to find another interesting letter in my mailbox; this time it’s from a
local criminal defense attorney.   It reads, “Dear Ms. Sammel, 
When you are charged with a criminal offense, not only can your freedom and
liberty be taken away, a criminal record can affect you the rest of your
life.”  The attorney then proceeds to offer his services, and even provides
me with a handy little reminder card with my trial date stamped on it. 
Great.  I guess that since the court’s records are considered public
documents, anyone can come in and get copies of them.  I’m afraid to think
about what kinds of mailing lists I could end up on as a result of this. 
Will I start receiving notices asking me if I want to subscribe to Prison
Life
magazine?


Chapter 14:  In Which I Go to the Trial “Just In Case”

Although
I’ve been told by Comcast that I don’t need to show up in court on the trial
date, I’ve never received notice from the District Court about this.  And,
considering that the last paperwork I received from the court said “a warrant
for your arrest may be issued” if you don’t show up at your trial, I decide it
would be best to show up anyway.

January 12, 1999: Just when I’m starting to think that
Comcast’s motto has been morphed  into “Comcast–Everything You Convict
With”, the court appearance is pretty uneventful.  I show up at 8:30 along
with about a dozen other people who are involved in other cases in the same
courtroom that morning. According to the list outside the courtroom, it looks
like there are a couple of theft cases and a couple of drug cases on the
schedule.  I’m actually starting to look forward to an interesting morning
in court, hearing about all of this stuff, but the State’s Attorney calls my
case first.  I start walking up to the Defendant’s table, and hear the
State’s Attorney say that he’s entering a nol pros.   I’ve just
reached the table when the judge says,  “your case is dismissed, you’re
free to go,” and so I turn back around and leave the courtroom.


Chapter 15: In Which The Assembled Readership Gets To Find Out That I Never
Got Sent To Jail, But Just Got Threatened With The Possibility Of 
It

Sorry to disappoint those of you who were looking forward to hearing
about that part.

I gave the “malicious prosecution” scenario a thought, but I’m not really a
lawsuit kind of person.  Unless I find out that Comcast has been involved
in a pattern of cases like these without regard to the consequences, I don’t
intend to follow up on filing a malicious prosecution lawsuit.  Besides, if
I want to get my criminal record expunged, it looks like I will need to sign a
waiver absolving them of liability for this incident.  I am hoping,
however, that Comcast will reimburse me for the $30 fee involved in getting my
record expunged.


Epilogue:

Although everyone I dealt with seemed apologetic, and willing
to help get this fairly outrageous situation taken care of, I believe that there
are still some problems that Comcast and @Home management need to address. 
For that reason, I decided to write to the Presidents of both companies, and ask
them to respond to several issues.  A copy of the letter is below:


                                                                                               
[address deleted]


                                                                                               
January 13, 1999

Brian L. Roberts

President, Comcast Corporation

1500 Market Street


Philadelphia PA 19102

Thomas A. Jermoluk

President,  @Home Network

425 Broadway Street


Redwood City, CA 94063

Dear Messrs. Roberts and Jermoluk:

 I am a Comcast@home cable modem subscriber (sammel@home.com) who is not
concurrently a subscriber of Comcast cable television.  Because of what I
believe to be insufficient action by each of your companies, and insufficient
coordination between them, I was recently criminally charged with cable fraud in
the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore County (“State of Maryland vs.
Sammel, Judith Lynne”, case number 5C00097816).  I was charged because:

  • @Home installation and repair technicians failed to install protective
    measures to block out the cable television signal when both installing and
    repairing my cable modem service, and failed to mark the connection inside the
    cable “pedestal” that serves my home to indicate that it was a valid @Home
    connection; and,
  • Comcast Cablevision did not bother to check the records of  the @Home
    Network to see if I was a subscriber of cable modem service before filing an
    application for a criminal summons, after they saw that the cable wires
    serving my home were connected.

 Although, after a review of the
facts of the situation, Comcast Cablevision convinced the State’s Attorney to
enter a “nolle prosequi” (a decision not to prosecute) in this case, I am
requesting that both of your companies review their procedures for handling
Comcast@home subscribers who are not concurrently Comcast cable television
subscribers, to ensure that this situation does not happen to anyone else. 
I would appreciate if you would both respond to me concerning the following
issues:

  • What are the procedures used to mark the cable connections of
    non-cable-TV-subscriber customers of Comcast@home to ensure that Comcast
    technicians are aware that the connection is a valid Comcast@home connection?
    How do you assure that these procedures are being followed?
  • Who is responsible for installing protective measures to block out the
    cable television signal on the lines of non-cable-TV-subscriber customers of
    Comcast@home, and how do you assure that these protective measures are being
    properly installed?
  • I would like request that procedures be put in place, so that prior to
    submitting a request to any court of law to file criminal charges for cable
    fraud,  Comcast Cablevision will check the records of the @Home Network
    to see if the individual to be charged is a valid customer of
    Comcast@home.  I am also asking the Administrative Commissioner of the
    District Court of Maryland for Baltimore County (who will be receiving a
    courtesy copy of this letter) to ensure that these procedures are followed
    prior to the issuing of any summons for cable fraud in our county. 
    Perhaps the Court could require some type of affirmation that this check of
    @Home’s customer records has been performed prior to determining that there is
    “probable cause” for a summons to be issued in any cable fraud case.  I
    firmly believe that if Comcast Cablevision has given @Home technicians the
    authority to connect/modify cable connections, they also need to accept some
    responsibility for having done so, and not automatically assume that any lines
    that Comcast Cablevision has not connected themselves have been fraudulently
    connected by the homeowner.
  • I would like to request that procedures be put in place by Comcast
    Cablevision customer support so that the records of non-cable-TV-subscriber
    customers of Comcast@home are available to them, and that they may be able to
    respond to customer service calls related  to the physical cable
    connections of Comcast@home customers (instead of insisting that only @Home
    customer support can handle these requests.)
  • I would like to request that procedures be put in place by both Comcast
    Cablevision and Comcast@home customer support, so that they are each fully
    aware of what their respective company’s responsibilities are with regard to
    non-cable-TV-subscriber customers of Comcast@home.
  • I would
    like to note that every Comcast Cablevision and Comcast@home customer service
    representative I have spoken with has been extremely courteous, has seemed
    knowledgeable, and has conscientiously attempted to assist me within the bounds
    of what their positions allowed them to do.  This leads me to believe that
    the problem is more of a “systemic” one, that can only be addressed from a
    management level; this is why I am asking both of you to ensure that this never
    happens to anyone again.  In addition, I am requesting an apology for the
    unfortunate situation which has occurred.

    Please contact me at your earliest convenience to inform me about how each of
    the issues listed above is being addressed.  My mailing address and e-mail
    address are listed above, and my telephone numbers are [deleted].

                                                           
    Sincerely,

     

                                                           
    Judith L. Sammel

     

    cc:

       

    • Joel Snyder, Administrative Commissioner, District Court of Maryland for
      Baltimore County
    • The Honorable S.G. Samuel Moxley, Councilmember, Baltimore County Council
      (Franchising Authority for cable television in Baltimore County)
    • Consumer Protection Division, Office of the Attorney General, State of
      Maryland
    • Federal Communications Commission, Cable Services Bureau
    • C. Lynne Silverman, Esquire, Ned S. Kodeck, Chartered (attorney for
      Comcast Cablevision of Maryland, LP)
    • USENET newsgroups: athome.discussion-athomesvc, athome.discussion-general,
      athome.users-general, balt.general, rec.video.cable-tv, misc.legal

    Acknowledgments:

    Thanks very much to attorneys S.A., S.B. (and her
    colleague H.), C.E., R.G. and B.H., who provided me with assorted legal advice.
    (Although, I imagine that “pro bono cable fraud work” won’t really add much
    substance to your résumés.)  I’d also like to offer thanks to various
    friends and colleagues who assisted me with such useful comments as, “we promise
    we’ll visit you in jail,” and to my ‘unindicted coconspirator’ S.R. for
    convincing me to get cable modem service in the first place.



    Update:

    25 January 1999:  I received a nice letter from Comcast’s
    Baltimore Metro area Vice President, and the local General Manager of Comcast
    Online

    apologizing for these events, and outlining the steps they’ve taken
    to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  They now have a procedure to note
    @Home subscribers without cable TV service in their cable service billing
    system, and have added some checks and balances to ensure that their cable fraud
    investigators will be able to identify this type of situation in the
    future.  This is a welcome change from the initial conversations I had with
    Comcast’s attorney about this issue, where she insisted that no change in
    procedures was necessary, other than to ensure that the Comcast Online
    installers installed video traps in all installations where it’s warranted. They
    graciously offered to pay the Court processing fees to get my record expunged,
    but I haven’t gotten around to filling out the paperwork yet.  Since the
    court told me that it can take up to 120 days for the paperwork to go through
    one it’s filed, I’m not in such a great hurry anyway.

    31 January 1999: The Multichannel News felt that
    this story was worth publishing in the February 1, 1999 edition of their
    magazine (on the front page, even!)  They snarfed my title, too.  They
    gave me permission to repost the articles on my web site: ‘Get a Cable Modem…Go to
    Jail’
      and Sammel’s Tale of @Jail
    .

    2 February 1999:  I got home from work and found two notes
    attached to my door.  One was another letter of apology from the Baltimore
    Metro Area VP and the local Comcast Online General Manager, saying that they
    plan to extend my @home service for a year at no charge, along with a $50.00
    gift certificate from Bibelot (my favorite bookstore!) The second was a
    handwritten note–they had apparently come by to deliver this in person, but I
    wasn’t home.  This is a very nice gesture; I appreciate it very much.

    Does it make me feel bad for having contacted Multichannel
    News
    ?  No; not at all–for two reasons:

    • Although Comcast made every effort to get this taken care of after I
      contacted them about the summons back in November–the bottom line is that
      this never should have happened.  There were people at Comcast who
      knew last June (at least) that the lack of communication between the cable TV
      folks and the cable modem folks was causing problems.  It just never made
      it high enough on anyone’s radar screen to do anything about it.
    • I went to Multichannel News rather than a general-audience publication
      because I wanted to try to reach the folks at Shaw, Cox, TCI, Rogers, and Road
      Runner (and its associated cable partners) to get them thinking about whether
      the same problems could exist at their operations.

    4 February
    1999:
    I got a humorous surprise when I got home from work.  I had
    asked Multichannel News if they could send me a copy of the print edition of
    their publication, and it arrived in today’s mail.  I found out that not
    only was my saga featured on the front page and the op-ed section, but there was
    a wonderful cartoon to go
    with it.

    7 February 1999:  Since Multichannel News
    updated their on-line edition,  I changed  the references for the
    articles they published about this case (see 31 January 1999 entry) to point to
    my reposts of their articles, instead.  Also, since the print version of
    Mike Farrell’s article in last week’s edition had some text missing, they’ve
    reprinted the article in the February 8, 1999 print edition. All of the articles
    are searchable in Multichannel’s archives available from their home page.

    16 February 1999:  It appears that “Broadband Bob” picked
    up my story and published a brief version to their mailing list, and on their web page.  Also, a Brazilian has
    written an article
    in Portugese based on Mike Farrell’s article in Multichannel News.

    I had a problem last Friday (February 12) with my cable modem service. 
    Everything was proceeding at a snail’s pace–mail, news, web-browsing.  It
    continued for several hours, so I called to see if there was a problem in our
    area, or if they knew what might be wrong.  They tried some troubleshooting
    (Tier 1 and Tier 2), and they said there was an RF problem with my connection,
    and they’d need to send someone out to look at it. The first time they had
    available was Monday (yesterday).  They said “9:00 AM with a 4 hour window”
    for their arrival time.  At 1:40 PM, a technician showed up.  He did
    some testing at the cable modem (found a very weak signal), then at the
    connection where the cable enters my house (again, a weak signal), and then at
    the “pedestal” out on the street (again a weak signal–he said it was likely
    weak because there were two video traps on my line.  I don’t
    know this for sure, but I strongly suspect that the Comcast@home folks still had
    the “order on the books” for the video trap to be placed (see Chapter 3 above),
    and did not get the word that one had already been installed by Comcast
    Cablevision; so they came by to install another one.  (So, not only don’t
    the two organizations talk to each other, but they don’t even recognize each
    other’s handiwork?)  So, he removed one of the video traps, and the signal
    started coming through strongly, and my service resumed immediately.  I
    told him I wanted to make sure he didn’t remove both video traps.  He
    seemed curious why I was concerned about that, so I showed him the court
    documents, and told him I wanted to prevent a recurrence of the bizarre
    situation I found myself in last November.  He said he couldn’t believe
    that something like that had actually happened.  (Join the crowd!)

    Keep the cards and letters (well…the e-mails) coming.  One person has
    suggested that I post the titles of the books I purchased with the gift
    certificate Comcast gave me, in the hopes that I bought some books that were
    apropos to the issue at hand.  Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that when I
    was book shopping, so I didn’t specifically look for books that might be
    pertinent (Is there a “Malicious Prosecution for Dummies” book out?)  The
    books I got were:  The Pillars of Hercules, by Paul Theroux (a
    travelogue of his trip through the Mediterranean); Getting A Life, by
    Blix/Heitmiller (financial and personal strategies for voluntary simplicity);
    The Pocket Idiot’s Guide to Home Repair, by David Tenenbaum; and, The
    Argument Culture: Stopping America’s War of Words
    , by Deborah Tannen (of
    You Just Don’t Understand fame).  Fairly boring–sorry to disappoint
    you.

    I mailed all the paperwork to the District Court to get my criminal record
    expunged.  It included the “General Waiver and Release” which says that I
    release and discharge Comcast and the Baltimore County Police “and any and all
    other persons” for any claims I may have for wrongful conduct related to this
    incident.  So, Comcast can rest easy about the legal aspect of all of this.

    9 April 1999:  I got an e-mail from Brian McWilliams at
    InternetNews, asking me
    to give an interview for InternetNews Radio.  I called and spoke to him,
    and voila–a couple of hours later, there’s a segment on my story in Real Audio
    format on InternetNews
    Radio
    . (© 1999 Internet.com  Linked to with permission of Internet.com)

    10 April 1999:  There’s a blurb about my saga  in the
    current issue of  Netsurfer Digest
    (Volume 05, Issue 11).

    13 April 1999:  My story is a “Tasty Bit of the Day” from
    Tasty Bits from the Technology
    Front
    .  Lisa Ronthal at WorldNetDaily has a
    paragraph and a link to my site in her Interscope
    column.

    16 April 1999:  The Macintosh world has discovered the
    story, and links to it appear on Macaddict, Macresource, and MacInTouch.

    25 April 1999:  I received a copy of the expungement
    order, dated 14 April 1999.  This means that the court has 30 days to serve
    the order on the Baltimore County Detention Center, The Baltimore County Police,
    the Msp-Cjis Repository (?) and the State’s Attorney.  They each then have
    30 days to expunge their records, and provide a Certificate of Compliance back
    to the court, and to me.  Now, if we can only expunge all records of my
    “criminal activities” from the Internet.  :-)  Someone has submitted
    my URL for the current issue (Vol. 20, Issue 33) of the Risks Digest which
    is available on the web, or on USENET as comp.risks .  Yahoo
    has also listed my site in their section on Bandwidth
    News
    .

    26 April 1999:  I’ve been “slashdotted“.


     

    ©1999 Judy Sammel

     

     


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