Off the Spectrum

Michael Flack

LET’S START WITH TWO definitions:

Specʹtrum, n. a trade name of Charter Communications used to market avaricious cable television, internet, telephone and wireless services.  

Vig’or•ish, n.[via Yid., from R. výigryš, lit., gain, winnings.] interest owed a loan shark in consideration for credit. Abbrev: vig.

I bought a home a few months back and, besides trying to meet the neighbors, I had the pleasure of trying to arrange internet service. “Just go with Google Fiber,” you say. Well, sorry, I’m not going to bow down before the overlord of the digital age and assimilate. Well, that, plus Spectrum internet is $40 cheaper.

I signed up for $29.99 a month and promptly went to the nearby Spectrum store to pick up my free gear. I was given a modem and a wi-fi router. It was all quite seamless—as it turns out, too seamless. I hooked up everything at home and, of course, despite what I was informed over the phone repeatedly, I needed to schedule a tech to come out to the house. A few days later, after the tech did his magic, my house was filled with wi-fi.

Everything was copacetic until I noticed Spectrum was suddenly charging me $5 a month for “wi-fi service.” After a 30-minute “chat” with customer service, I learned that the “free” wi-fi router I’d received was deemed a mistake and I now had two options: pay the monthly $5 “wi-fi service” fee and keep the Spectrum wi-fi router or break the insidious cycle and buy my own router.

It all reminded me of an old episode of The Rockford Files titled “Dirty Money, Black Light” where the eponymous private investigator is warned by Electric Larry, his loan shark, that, “As long as I get the vig, you keep the nut.”

After a little research, I realized that the wi-fi router that Spectrum had loaned me cost around $50, which made the vig on this nut 10% per month. Which seemed, well, a little usurious, as the usury law in my state is 10% a year. I thought about just not paying it, but was worried that someone named Lawrence might break my legs—or worse, for my wife at least, cancel our internet service.

I decided instead to buy my own wi-fi router on eBay for $44.99, return the offending one and have the accumulated vig refunded to me by writing the CEO of Spectrum a very vigorous letter.

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