Carlsbad resident Eddie Sanchez, his wife and two children spent nearly a year working from home, relying on their internet provider TDS to continue to do its part as Americans were increasingly forced to convert family homes into offices and classrooms.
But Sanchez said he was alarmed when he received a letter nearly three weeks ago from the Madison, Wisconsin-based telecommunications firm citing the family’s internet usage was high and urging him to upgrade from residential internet to business internet.
Sanchez is one of four TDS customers who were notified of excessive consumption said TDS Associate Public Relations Manager Cheryl McCollum.
“When three or four customers use 10 to 20 times more bandwidth than most customers it slows down the network for all,” she said
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“One of these customers has not reduced their bandwidth and has actually increased their usage over the last three months, so they have received three letters from TDS, including a final notice that we will be disconnecting their service,” McCollum added.
In the letter, signed by TDS Senior Manager Casey Thompson, Sanchez was told bandwidth usage was above and beyond normal usage.
“In fact, it is so great that it could be impairing our ability to provide service to other TDS customers in your service area. This could cause those customers to experience slower network performance,” the letter read.
Sanchez was told if he didn’t switch to a TDS business account he would get disconnected.
“I can’t afford a business account. I don’t have a business. They said everyone getting this letter has to switch or get disconnected,” he said.
McCollum said residential prices vary based on bundle services, promotional offers and what speeds people purchase. She said speeds vary from 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to 1 Gigabit internet (Gig) for residential customers.
McCollum said the price for residential high speed internet of 100Mbps/10Mbps upload is $65. She said the same $65 price applies to business high speed internet for 100Mbps/20Mbps upload, with certain considerations.
“Promo prices and new customer discounts can apply (and)bundled prices can also bring the price down,” McCollum said.
She added the charge don’t include taxes, fees, modem lease and installation fees. Transfer and handling could be included if applied.
She said TDS doesn’t monitor business customer usage.
Matt Baca, spokesperson for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, said past complaints against TDS were filed by customers.
“But not on this issue. While New Mexico does not specifically outlaw throttling, our office will always protect consumers from unfair business practices where appropriate,” he said.
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Artesia-based Penasco Valley Telecommunications (PVT) provides internet services for Carlsbad and Artesia and doesn’t give customers a data cap. All internet usage is unlimited, read an email from the marketing department.
According to PVT’s website, internet prices vary from $33.95 a month for cable internet, $39.99 a month for 365 internet and a digital subscriber line (DSL) is $41.99 a month.
“As for businesses we work with each client to create a custom data package to match their business needs,” per the email.
Another Carlsbad internet service provider, doesn’t cap residential internet service.
Kerri Case, spokesperson for Arkansas-based Kinetic by Windstream, said service is unlimited.
“Residential plans in Carlsbad are priced at $37 for three months, then $67 for the rest of the first year, pre-taxes and fees for gig speed fiber. Lower speeds have lower rates after the first three months. We can find the right plan for each customer’s needs,” she said.
Case said business solutions are customized to the needs of the customer.
“So there’s not a particular price to quote,” she said.
Clovis based internet service company Plateau serves the Carlsbad area and had no comment on residential or business services.
Sanchez said he contacted TDS twice regarding his 600Mbps service.
“Then a supervisor called me back after the second time. Then told me I have have no choice but to get a business line,” he said.
Sanchez said TDS hasn’t contacted him since and he has not switched.
“No one else has the coverage speed I have and I am afraid to lose if I can’t log on right now. So I am stuck,” he said.
McCollum said more people working and attending school from home during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t attributed to higher bandwidth issues.
“The average household uses anywhere from 250 to 400 gigabytes per month. Customers who receive high bandwidth letters are using between 4 to nearly 10 terabytes of bandwidth. A terabyte is 1000 gigabytes, so 10 to 20 times more than the average household,” she said.
McCollum said streaming high-definition videos, online gaming, security cameras and video-sharing applications are some of the common uses for high bandwidth usage.
She said TDS calls customers once they receive a second letter encouraging them to switch and if no action is taken a third and final letter is sent by certified mail.
“So we know they have received the letter. We inform customers that we will discontinue their TDS internet service with us. We provide a discontinuation date and urge them to find another Internet provider,” she said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.