I have had my share of run-ins with my cable and internet providers over the years. Our cable company in Washington, DC (I think it was Cablevision) probably takes the prize for Worst. CableCompany. Ever. With numerous missed appointments and other screw ups, the franchise obviously took its cues from the Marion Barry administration, which had led the District to incredible depths of dysfunction by the mid-1990s. That’s not to say, however, that I have held DirecTV, Comcast or Qwest in much higher regard.
Here in Chile, cable TV, internet and telephone services–like many other markets–are quite concentrated. VTR, for instance, controls over 50 percent of the market for cable television in Chile. Two companies–VTR and Movistar–account for more than 80 percent of the market for non-mobile internet service. So when we recently moved in to our house here in Santiago, I was preparing myself for the kind of service a consumer tends to receive in an oligopolistic market.
Saturday morning, I placed an order online for a package from VTR that included cable TV, internet and telephone service. That afternoon, as my wife and I were taking our children on a “death march” in Parque Metropolitano, I received a call from a VTR representative who said that because I was a foreigner, I would need to provide them with additional documentation before my order could be processed. Following that call, I expected that after we left our hotel, we would be without reliable internet service for some period of time. (I really did not want to share those thoughts with my boys, who are addicted to various online games on their iOS devices, or to my daughters, one of whom recently declared that television was her “thing.”)
Needless to say, I was surprised when–just minutes after I sent the information that had been requested by the VTR representative–I received another call and was told that an installation crew would be at our house that afternoon. And lo and behold, someone actually showed up during that time. So we are now connected at our house here in Chile, the kids have their internet and TV, and (at least as far as they are concerned) everything else is gravy.